Patchouli[note 1] (/pəˈli/; Pogostemon cablin) is a species of plant from the family Lamiaceae, commonly called the "mint" or "deadnettle" family. The plant grows as a bushy herb, with erect stems reaching around 75 centimetres (2.5 ft) in height and bearing small, pale pink-white flowers. It is native to tropical regions of Asia , and is now extensively cultivated in China, Indonesia, Japan, Cambodia, Myanmar, India, Maldives, Malaysia, Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar, Taiwan, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, South America and the Caribbean.

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Pogostemon
P. cablin
Binomial name
Pogostemon cablin
(Blanco) Benth.


The heavy and strong scent of patchouli has been used for centuries in perfumes and, more recently, in incense, insect repellents, and alternative medicines. The word derives from the Tamil patchai (Tamil: பச்சை) (green), ellai (Tamil: இலை) (leaf).[1] In Assamese it is known as xukloti. In Kannada it is known as Pachhethene.

Pogostemon cablin, P. commosum, P. hortensis, P. heyneasus and P. plectranthoides are all cultivated for their essential oil, known as patchouli oil.


Patchouli grows well in warm to tropical climates. It thrives in hot weather but not direct sunlight. If the plant withers due to lack of water, it will recover well and quickly after rain or watering. The seed-producing flowers are very fragrant and blossom in late fall. The tiny seeds may be harvested for planting, but they are very delicate and easily crushed. Cuttings from the mother plant can also be rooted in water to produce additional plants.

Essential oil


Extraction of patchouli's essential oil is by steam distillation of the dried leaves,[2] requiring rupture of its cell walls by steam scalding, light fermentation, or drying. The main chemical component of patchouli oil is patchoulol, a sesquiterpene alcohol.

Leaves may be harvested several times a year and, when dried, may be exported for distillation. Some sources say the highest quality oil is produced from fresh leaves distilled close to where they are harvested;[3] others that boiling the dried leaves and fermenting them for a period of time is best.[4]




Patchouli is used widely in modern perfumery,[9] by individuals who create their own scents [10] and in modern scented industrial products such as paper towels, laundry detergents and air fresheners. Two important components of its essential oil are patchoulol and norpatchoulenol.[10]

Insect repellent

One study suggests that patchouli oil may serve as an all-purpose insect repellent.[11] More specifically, the patchouli plant is claimed to be a potent repellent against the Formosan subterranean termite.[12]


Patchouli is an important ingredient in East Asian incense. Both patchouli oil and incense underwent a surge in popularity in the 1960s and 1970s in the US and Europe, mainly as a result of the hippie movement of those decades.[13]


Patchouli leaves have been used to make a herbal tea. In some cultures, patchouli leaves are eaten as a vegetable or used as a seasoning.


In 1985 Mattel used patchouli oil in the plastic used to produce the action figure Stinkor in the Masters of the Universe line of toys.[14]


  1. "Patchouli". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  2. "Extraction of Patchouli Essential Oil by Steam Distillation Process". Sumatrans Patchouli Essential Oil. Archived from the original on 2 October 2016.
  3. Grieve, Maude (1995) A Modern Herbal . 2007
  4. Leung A, Foster S Encyclopedia of common natural ingredients used in food, drugs and cosmetics John Wiley and Sons 1996
  5. Hasegawa, Yoshihiro; Tajima, Katsuhiko; Toi, Nao; Sugimura, Yukio (1992). "An additional constituent occurring in the oil from a patchouli cultivar". Flavour and Fragrance Journal. 7 (6): 333–335. doi:10.1002/ffj.2730070608. ISSN 0882-5734.
  6. Weyerstahl, Peter; Gansau, Christian; Marschall, Helga (1993). "Structure–odour correlation. Part XVIII.1 Partial structures of patchoulol with bicyclo[2.2.2]octane skeleton". Flavour and Fragrance Journal. 8 (6): 297–306. doi:10.1002/ffj.2730080603. ISSN 0882-5734.
  7. Hybertson, Brooks M. (2007). "Solubility of the sesquiterpene alcohol patchoulol in supercritical carbon dioxide". Journal of Chemical & Engineering Data. 52 (1): 235–238. doi:10.1021/je060358w. PMC 2677825. PMID 19424449.
  8. Nikiforov, Alexej; Jirovetz, Leopold; Buchbauer, Gerhard; Raverdino, Vittorio; et al. (1988). "GC-FTIR and GC-MS in odour analysis of essential oils". Microchimica Acta. 95 (1–6): 193–198. doi:10.1007/BF01349751.
  9. Ballentine, Sandra (5 November 2010). "Vain Glorious | Sex in a Bottle". Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  10. "What is Patchouli?".
  11. Trongtokit, Yuwadee; Rongsriyam, Yupha; Komalamisra, Narumon; Apiwathnasorn, Chamnarn (2005). "Comparative repellency of 38 essential oils against mosquito bites". Phytotherapy Research. 19 (4): 303–309. doi:10.1002/ptr.1637. PMID 16041723.
  12. Zhu, Betty C.-R.; Henderson, Gregg; Yu, Ying; Laine, Roger A. (2003). "Toxicity and Repellency of Patchouli Oil and Patchouli Alcohol against Formosan Subterranean TermitesCoptotermes formosanusShiraki (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae)". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 51 (16): 4585–4588. doi:10.1021/jf0301495. ISSN 0021-8561. PMID 14705881.
  13. Foster, Steven; Johnson, Rebecca L. (2006). Desk Reference to Nature's Medicine. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society. p. 282. ISBN 978-0-7922-3666-5.
  14. Stinkor: Masters of the Universe


  1. also spelled "patchouly" or "pachouli"

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