Updated: Aug 4, 2020

Patchouli, from Tamil paccuḷi, 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 in height and bearing small, pale pink-white flowers.

Patchouli is distinct enough to be recognized, yet it still retains a sense of mystery that keeps it unique. In addition to being an effective aromatic houseplant, there are many ways to take advantage of the herb’s signature scent. Today, it’s used in a variety of products for many different purposes:

Insect repellent: The ancient silk traders knew what they were doing. Today, patchouli continues to be used as a natural way to ward off pests. It’s a great substitute for poisonous mothballs in closets and dressers, but its real power is unleashed outside in the garden. The plant boasts powerful anti-fungal properties that help prevent bugs from attacking your flowers and vegetables.

  • Perfume: A pervasive aroma makes patchouli extract great for perfumes, soaps, lotions, shampoos, and more. The oil also serves as a great conditioner for hair and skin.

  • Industrial products: As in perfume, the aroma of the east is commonly used in modern air fresheners, laundry detergents, paper towels, and household cleaners. In 1985, toy manufacturer Mattel even used the plant’s oils to make the plastic used in a popular action figure.

  • Aromatherapy with essential oil: This is the most common way to enjoy the fragrant benefits of this woody perennial. The oil is extracted by steam-distilling the leaves through scalding, drying, or mild fermentation. Some distillation experts believe that the highest quality oil is sourced from fresh plants that are distilled close to where they originally grew. This oil also mixes well with ergamot, geranium, clary sage, myrrh, and lavender.

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