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Patchouli

An Introduction
A member of the mint family, Lamiaceae, the Patchouli is an aromatic plant which grows to heights of over two to three feet and is bushy in appearance. Derived from the Tamil word patchai, meaning 'green leaf', the patchouli has been used in perfumes and fragrances since the earliest times. This evergreen herb has an erect stem and produces delicate, clustered small pinkish white flowers. Its leaves are ovate-eliptic shaped supported by woody and rounded branches. The leaves, flowers and seeds all bear the strong scent of the patchouli. Its scent is described as sweet and spicy with clear hints of musk.

The patchouli is known to have a stimulating effect on the pituitary gland and the nervous system. This

thick heavily scented herb is used, largely, in perfumes due to its strong fixative properties. Several species are exclusively cultivated for their oils. P. cablin is the species that yields the best type of oil. Patchoulol and norpatchoulenol are two important components of the patchouli. The origin of the patchouli is said to be the Philippines and Indonesia. The patchouli plant is native to tropical Asia and is cultivated in the Caribbean countries, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Philippines, West Africa and Vietnam.
 
Uses
The scent of the patchouli is associated with increased relaxation and in the 1950s and 1960s, it was immensely popular as a part of the Hippie culture. Chinese medicine used the patchouli for treating headaches, nausea, colds and stomach disorders like diarrhea and pains. Modern medicine is wary of the medicinal properties of the patchouli as it is said to cause loss of appetite and sleep. The strongly scented oil is used widely in aromatherapy. It was revered as a sacred incense and used as a daily fragrance. It is the patchouli oil and the incense that have been highly popular for long time.

The strong scented patchouli is used in incense, especially in the East Asian regions. Other uses of the patchouli include paper towels, potpourri detergents, and room fresheners. The popularity of the patchouli has revived again due to perfumers' preference for its fragrance. The patchouli serves as a great beauty aid when used in hair conditioners. It is considered an effective outdoor insect repellent. In the East Asian countries, it is a time tested antidote for fatal snakebites. In the West, the patchouli was always regarded as an exotic and rich scent. Traders would pack the patchouli leaves in their bags to prevent any harm to their silk wares. The leaves of the patchouli are used for seasoning purposes in foods. Alcoholic beverages are flavored with the dried leaves. Some species of the patchouli are even used to make the Indian ink.

 

Cultivation
This fast growing plant flourishes in tropical climates and warm weather conditions. Excess sunlight can be detrimental to the plant growth and it grows well in partially shaded areas. The soils should be well drained and rich in humus. Regions with moist conditions and temperatures ranging from 24 to 28 degree celsius are ideal for cultivation of the patchouli. The small seeds are harvested for planting and plant cuttings can also be rooted in the water to propagate the species. For proper growth, it requires regular access to water but in case it is deprived, it will revive again, provided the supply is restored. The seeds are highly fragile in nature. The scented flowers of the patchouli bloom during the autumn season.

 

Essential Oil
The oil is extracted through a process of steam distillation and is derived from the leaves of the patchouli plant. Here, the cell walls of the leaves are broken through a process of steam scalding, light fermentation, or by a drying process. Harvesting takes place at multiple times during the year and the best oil is said to be produced from the fresh leaves of the plant. The patchouli oil is dense and brownish yellow, containing the component coerulein, With a pronounced earthy scent, the oil is a relaxant and an aphrodisiac. It is useful in skincare, especially in countering the effects of aging skin and also aids in general hair care.

The patchouli oil is useful in dealing with various conditions like athlete's foot, eczema, fatigue and stress. It is utilized in flavoring chewing gum, baked goods, and candy. It has known antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties which enables its effective usage in the treatment of dry skin, acne, burns and cuts. It is an adaptogen and an efficient astringent. Frankincense, rose, jasmine, orange, sandalwood and the ylang ylang oils are some essential oils that it blends well with.
 
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