The patchouli is a widely commercialized angiosperm (flowering plant) species that hails from the Lamiaceae genus, commonly generalized by many as the mint or the deadnettle. Fun fact: Do you know that the myriad of health benefits provided by the patchouli doesn’t discount the note’s fragrance in the field of perfumery?
The name patchouli is of Indian origin, derived from the Tamil words patchai (green) and ellai (leaf).
The patchouli sees wide cultivation in parts of Asia, Madagascar, Caribbean, and South America due to its herbal properties; and has been used as ingredients in the making of products of the therapeutic hobby side, such as herbal tea, incense, perfume, and essential oils; to the common household items such as cosmetics, seasoning, scented wipes, and bug repellants.
Interestingly, the patchouli is once considered the forefront of the hippie culture, having seen wide popularization in the 60’s. It was even hailed “the scent of the 60’s”, as the scent is often adorned as an accessory for the music; party; and sometimes drug-loving hippie youth.
While 90% of the circulating patchouli oil supply comes from Indonesia, the harsh requirements of the patchouli leaf, including its inherent perennial and fragile nature makes production difficult, leaving only a few highly professional distilleries capable of proving the highest quality extracts. Available for yearly harvest for several times, the leaves are stripped and often flipped to preserve its freshness, which would be then left for light fermentation for weeks on end, and ultimately steam-distilled to produce the purest oil extract.
While a love-it-or-hate it ingredient when utilized as a scent, the patchouli is considered one of the most powerful plant derived essence, as its dark, earthy, and intoxicating scent is appreciated by perfume connoisseurs of both genders. In a mix as a base note, the spicy and sweet patchouli swirls with a powerful smoky and cedary that retains even after hours.
The patchouli works best with powdery fragrances, such as rose, lavender, sandalwood, bergamot, and vetiver. Woody and floral notes generally have good synergy with patchouli.
The patchouli contains natural chemical components that reduce chemicals in the body that are responsible for swelling. Likewise, studies commonly associate such quality to its capabilities as pain relief.
Patchouli oil is used in a test of UV radiation against mice, and provided positive results. While there are no results of its effects in this regard towards the human body, it is capable of promoting increased collagen activity, maintaining skin elasticity, promoting smooth complexion, and reducing wrinkle formations.
The patchouli is effective in calming the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), the nervous system in the human body responsible for fight-or-flight reactions, which is associated with stress, insomnia, and anxiety.
While not necessarily what you want in a perfume, patchouli is harmful to ants, flies and mosquitoes.
Antimicrobial & Antifungal
Being a quintessential ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for centuries, patchouli interferes with the inhibiting of various bacteria, fungi, and yeasts. Hence, some use patchouli perfumes to deodorize body odor.
Pogostemon cablin- The most popular variant. Widely desired for its pleasant and opulent scent, but fluctuation of quality by dilution methods is predominant.
Pogostemon plectranthoides- An inferior variant, which oil is particularly more unpleasant than the others. Can grow in seasonally dry environments. Used in apiculture.
Pogostemon heyneanus- An inferior variant by the name “Indian patchouli”, which has a more strong and pungent odor.
Synthetic vs Natural
Due to the hoo hahs surrounding trade secrets, perfume manufacturers are not obligated to disclose every single ingredient used in their products. Likewise, notes represent what the product should resemble in scent, not necessarily in content.
The patchouli comes as a rather odd case. It is tied to high economic demands, having a yearly demand of 2000 tons or more per year, hence there are generally no synthetic variants circulating around the essential oil market.
Here, we present to you the S.L.A.P.- Pinpointers when it comes to identifying if a perfume containing patchouli is synthetic or authentic. Do keep in mind that these pointers are applicable only when identifying for perfumes marketed as “natural”.
While there is no easy way to tell, having an experienced sense of smell is quintessential in identifying synthetics, or watered down bottles. The disparity between a pure natural extract, and the more alcoholic or artificial extracts is more than often obvious. Depending on composition, perfumes that use patchouli as a base note generally get better with age, thus should retain longer scents and have a longer shelf life.
If a perfume is marketed with “using natural ingredients”, it should always have the scientific name of the element listed, and should be traced online with ease. If the name of the ingredient is not in Latin/ is in English instead (ex: Cedarwood instead of Cedrus Dedora); this is your cue to look elsewhere. Likewise, although a hassle, always cross check the list of ingredients contained online to tell if it contains toxic or harmful chemicals.
Please purchase your natural perfumes from trusted sellers or fragrance houses.
As essential oils from natural ingredients are more labor intensive to source, it is expected for products of this nature to be more expensive. If your gut feeling or research makes it clear that the deal is too good to be true, it probably is.
At Precision Perfume, we aim to deliver extravagance with the utmost care to our customers. We source only the finest materials; and share those stories with you.