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Scientific classification Edit this 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.

Nilam, Patchouly

Patchouli (also spelled patchouly or pachouli) (/pəˈli/; Pogostemon cablin) is a species of flowering plant in the family Lamiaceae, commonly called the mint or deadnettle family. The plant grows as a bushy perennial herb, with erect stems reaching up to 75 centimetres (2.5 ft) in height and bearing small, pale, pink-white flowers.

It is native to the island region of Southeast Asia, including Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Malay Peninsula, New Guinea, and the Philippines. It is also found in many parts of North East India.[1] Noted for its fragrant essential oil, it has many commercial uses and is now extensively cultivated in tropical climates around the world, especially in Asia, Madagascar, South America, and the Caribbean. Indonesia currently produces over 90% of the global volume of patchouli oil (~1,600 metric tons).


The word derives from the Tamil patchai (Tamil: பச்சை) or paccuḷi, meaning "green", and ellai (Tamil: இலை), meaning "leaf".[2][3]


Patchouli grows well in warm to tropical climates. It thrives in hot, humid weather but not extended periods of direct sunlight. If the plant withers due to lack of water, it tends to recover quickly after rain or watering. Although rare, the seed-producing flowers are very fragrant and blossom in late autumn. The tiny seeds may be harvested for planting, but they are very delicate and easily crushed. Cuttings and grafts from the mother plant and subsequent rooting in loamy soil are the most common methods for propagation.

Essential oil[edit]

Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) essential oil


Extraction of patchouli's essential oil is by steam distillation of the dried leaves[4] and twigs,[5] 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.[6]

Leaves and twigs may be harvested several times a year. Some sources say the highest quality oil is produced from fresh, share dried biomass distilled close to where they are harvested;[7] others say that boiling the dried leaves and fermenting them for a period of time is best.[8]



The heavy, strong, woody, and earthy scent of patchouli has been used for centuries in perfumes, and more recently in incense, insect repellents, chewing tobacco, and many alternative medicines.

Pogostemon cablin, P. heyneanus and P. plectranthoides are all cultivated for their essential oil, known as patchouli oil. Although there are some sub-varieties, the most common commercial varieties are native to the islands of Sumatra and Sulawesi in Indonesia.


Patchouli oil is used widely in modern perfumery[13] by individuals who create their own scents, [14] as well as in modern scented personal products, such as Bay Rum, and industrial products, too, such as paper towels, laundry detergents, and air fresheners. Two important components of its essential oil are patchoulol and norpatchoulenol.[14]

Insect repellent[edit]

One study suggests that patchouli oil may serve as an all-purpose insect repellent.[15] More specifically, the patchouli plant has been found to be a potent repellent against the Formosan subterranean termite.[16]


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.[17]


Patchouli leaves have been used to make a herbal tea. In some cultures, the leaves are eaten as a vegetable or used as a seasoning. There are also several herbal medicines, both in Indonesia and in China (TCM), that include dry, ground patchouli leaves as one of the key ingredients.


In 1985, American toy manufacturer Mattel used patchouli oil in the plastic used to produce the action figure Stinkor in the Masters of the Universe line of toys.[18]



  1. ^ "Pogostemon cablin (Blanco) Benth". Plants Of the World Online.
  2. ^ "Patchouli". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  3. ^ "patchouli". Merriam Webster Dictionary. 17 February 2024.
  4. ^ "PATCHOULI OIL: Overview, Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, Interactions, Dosing and Reviews". www.webmd.com. Retrieved 15 November 2022.
  5. ^ "Extraction of Patchouli Essential Oil by Steam Distillation Process". Sumatrans Patchouli Essential Oil. Archived from the original on 2 October 2016.
  6. ^ "22 Amazing Benefits of Patchouli Essential Oil : Uses, How to Use, Side Effects, DIY (2022)". gyalabs.com. Retrieved 26 April 2022.
  7. ^ Grieve, Maude (1995) A Modern Herbal [1]. 2007
  8. ^ Leung A, Foster S Encyclopedia of common natural ingredients used in food, drugs and cosmetics John Wiley and Sons 1996
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ a b 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. Bibcode:1988AcMik...2..193N. doi:10.1007/BF01349751. S2CID 94104732.
  13. ^ Ballentine, Sandra (5 November 2010). "Vain Glorious | Sex in a Bottle". Tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  14. ^ a b "What is Patchouli?". wisegeek.com. 18 February 2024.
  15. ^ 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. S2CID 23425671.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ Stinkor: Masters of the Universe