Patchouli is a bushy herb belonging to the mint family. It is known by various names such as “patchai ellai” (green leaf) in Tamil, “xukloti” in Assam, “tamala pattra” in Sanskrit and “guang huo xiang” in Chinese. The botanical name of this plant is Pogostemon cablin. P.commosum, P.hortensis, P.heyneasus and P.plectranthoides are the different species. The plant is cultivated for its essential oil, known as patchouli oil. The oil has a heavy and strong fragrance, which makes it quite useful in soap perfumery and fragrances.
Patchouli is an erect branched herb that grows up to a height of 1 to 1.2 meter. The plant is deep golden brown in color and grows well in shade. It has a short life and it flowers occasionally. Patchouli flowers are small and appear in the form of spikes. Patchouli is a common crop in the tropical regions of Asia. Today it is cultivated in the Caribbean countries, China, Vietnam, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, South America, Taiwan, Mauritius, Vietnam, Thailand and West Africa. Patchouli oil consumption in the world is 2000 tonnes per annum, because of its superior quality. This oil is used in soaps, cosmetics, after-shave lotions and detergents. Limited quantity is used to flavor foods, beverages, candy, baked products etc. The most useful characteristic of patchouli oil is that it blends well with other oils. It is used in preparation of incense sticks in a mixture of sandal wood and tobacco.
Humid climate and a lot of sunlight is the major requirement for this crop. The crop is grown in partial shade and at a temperature in range from 250 to 350 degrees Celsius. It is grown in all months except April, May and October. Soils with good drainage are suitable for the growth of the crop. The land needs to be ploughed 4 times and farmyard manure is to be mixed well with the soil. For controlling soil borne pathogens and nematode, neem or pongamia cake is mixed with FYM. It can be maintained upto three years. It is important to avoid water logged soils. For superior grade, use rooted cuttings and hardened tissue culture material. In both conventional and drip irrigation 30cm x 30cm is the recommended spacing, whereas, for inter cropping 45cmx45cm is the norm.
Patchouli oil is extracted using mainly two methods. In steam distillation method, patchouli leaves are dried, partially fermented and distilled. Fresh patchouli oil is green with a sharp fragrance and gives an earthier aroma than aged oil. Upon aging the color of oil deepens from light yellowish and pale red to dark amber. Patchouli oil can also be produced using a new technique, CO2 extraction method. CO2 is used as a solvent and no water or steam is used. The CO2 is used under high pressure to extract the aromatic constituents of patchouli. The CO2 is removed and resulting extract is refined and filtered. The odor and the color of the patchouli oil extracted using this method is different from the kind that is extracted using steam.
Patchouli is used for treating acne, athlete’s foot, chapped skin, dermatitis, eczema, fatigue, frigidity, hair care, insect repellant, premature wrinkles, headache, abdominal pain, diarrhea, cold and nausea, stress, psoriasis and dandruff. Patchouli is used in the preparation of herbal tinctures, diffuser blends, sensual blends and fragrances. It also acts as an aphrodisiac. Organic patchouli oil has varied applications. It is used in medicine, perfumery, rituals and cosmetics. It is also used to scent clothes and textiles. Moreover, it is a popular ingredient in love potions. It is known as cell rejuvenator. It is quite useful in healing wounds and scars. The usage of patchouli oil reduces insomnia, tension, anxiety etc. It is also used in paper towels, laundry detergents, air fresheners and as an antidote for snakebites.