Because the scent is developed by oxidation, the succulent leaves of this pretty East Indian bush carry little indication of their potential. The leaves are aged before being distilled, which takes up to 24 hours. Even then, the oil is harsh. As it ages, the translucent yellow oil turns syrupy brown as it develops patchouli’s distinctive fragrance, so popular in the 1960s. Patchouli continues to get better with age. Many people have never smelled the high-quality oil, which is used in famous perfumes such as Tabu and Shocking. The oil comes from Indonesia, India and especially China. An effective pest deterrent, it is used to keep wool moths out of woolen shawls and rugs imported from India. Europeans wouldn’t buy the imitation rugs because they didn’t smell “authentic” (i.e., of patchouli).

Family: Lamiaceae (Labiatae)

Extraction: Distilled from fermented leaves. The fragrance is heavy, earthy, woody, musty, vanilla-like and most distinctive. Resinoid.

Medicinal Action: It helps reduce appetite, water retention, exhaustion and inflammation.

Cosmetic/Skin Use: As a cell rejuvenator and antiseptic, the oil treats acne, eczema, inflamed, cracked or mature skin, and dandruff. As an antifungal, it treats athlete’s foot.

Emotional Attribute: Patchouli counters nervousness and depression by putting problems into perspective and releasing pent-up emotions. Though an aphrodisiac, it helps insomnia.

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Written by Kathi Keville

Explore Wellness in 2021