An Eco-sustainable World
HerbaceousSpecies Plant

Pogostemon cablin

Pogostemon cablin

Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin (Blanco) Benth., 1848) is a herbaceous species belonging to the Lamiaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Magnoliophyta division,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Subclass Asteridae,
Lamiales Order,
family Lamiaceae,
Genus Pogostemon,
Species P. cablin.
The term is bayonim:
– Mentha cablin Blanco.
The terms are synonyms:
– Mentha auricularia Blanco;
– Mentha cablin Blanco;
– Pogostemon battakianus Ridl.;
– Pogostemon comosus Miq.;
– Pogostemon heyneanus var. patchouly (Pellet.) Kuntze;
– Pogostemon hortensis Backer;
– Pogostemon hortensis Backer ex K.Heyne;
– Pogostemon javanicus Backer;
– Pogostemon javanicus Backer ex Adelb.;
– Pogostemon mollis Hassk.;
– Pogostemon nepetoides Stapf;
– Pogostemon nepetoides var. glandulosus Merr.;
– Pogostemon patchouly Pellet.;
– Pogostemon patchouly var. suavis (Ten.) Hook.f.;
– Pogostemon suavis Ten.;
– Pogostemon tomentosus Hassk..

Etymology –
The term Pogostemon of the genus comes from two Greek words: “pogon” (beard, hair) and “stemon” (stamen, filament) with reference to the hairy and bearded stem filaments towards the middle of their length.
The specific cablin epithet is not clear.
As for the common name of the plant, it is thought that it derives from the Tamil language, more precisely from the term patchai ellai (பச்சை இலை), literally “green leaf”.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Pogostemon cablin is a plant native to the tropical regions of Asia and cultivated extensively in India and Malaysia, where it is known as puchaput, but also in China, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Mauritius, the Philippines, Africa Western, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Maldives, Madagascar, Taiwan, South America, the Caribbean and New Guinea.
Its natural habitat is not known, however in its places of origin it is an undergrowth plant, which enjoys semi-shaded exposure, since it would not survive constant exposure to direct sunlight.

Description –
Pogostemon cablin is a perennial plant with leaves and habit very similar to the genus mint.
It is recognized by its bushy appearance.
The stem has a purple color and a thin hair; this can reach a height of 50 – 150 cm.
The leaves are oval in shape and very broad, up to 12 centimeters long; they are soft and velvety to the touch and have a light green colour, and also give off an intense and characteristic scent.
The flowers are produced in small groups, are small in size, with a lilac-white color and a bilabiate structure; in the corolla there is an upper lip formed by two welded petals and a lower lip composed of three petals, of which the central one has a very wide shape compared to the two lateral ones; the symmetry of the structure is of the bilateral type.

Cultivation –
Patchouli is an aromatic plant due to its well-known, highly valued and very fragrant essential oil, which also has medicinal applications. The plant is widely grown for this oil in the tropics and especially in India.
The plant grows well in tropical climates, where the seasons are mostly warm.
For its growth it needs temperatures generally higher than 10 °C.
As a plant of humid tropical climates, where it is found at altitudes of between 1,000 and 2,000 metres, it grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are between 23 and 28°C, but can tolerate 16-32°C. The plant can survive temperatures down to about 5°C.
It prefers an average annual rainfall between 2,200 and 2,600 mm, but tolerates 2,000 – 2,800 mm.
In places characterized by a temperate climate, it grows well even if exposed to full sun, provided the soil is always well watered and fresh and that, especially during the vegetative season, the temperature of the leaves is gradually rearranged in order to avoid foliar burns.
If cultivated in regions with a Mediterranean-type climate, it is preferable to recreate a semi-shaded environment.
From a pedological point of view, the substrate must be fertile, soft and deep, very well drained even with a clayey texture and prefers a pH in the range of 6 – 6.5, tolerating 5.5 – 7.
Furthermore, the specimens grown in pots must be repotted every 2-3 years, to allow a balanced development of the root system. Furthermore, in order for the roots of the plant to develop well, it is necessary to prune it regularly.
In any case, the substratum must always be well drained, creating suitable draining layers in the pots, arranging gravel or clay, and for the rest it is necessary to mix equal parts of soil with clayey field earth, to which a small quantity of sand.
These plants need regular watering, especially in the summer months, to ensure that the soil is always well moist; during the cold months, then, it is appropriate to reduce the frequency of irrigation, which is sufficient if done sporadically. To facilitate the growth of the plant and favor its sustenance, it is advisable to fertilize the soil every 10-15 days in the months from March to October.
In case of wilting due to lack of water, the plant can recover quickly after rain or with careful and constant watering. During the vegetative period this plant needs abundant watering, as well as a well hydrated soil, but not too much. On the other hand, during the flowering period, in late autumn, it is noted how the seeds produced by the flowers are very fragrant: furthermore, the small seeds can be collected for sowing, but, being very delicate, they shatter easily.
From the point of view of pathologies, Pogostemon cablin is a sufficiently resistant plant; however some pests can attack them, in particular if they are grown in artificial environments such as in greenhouses. It can be subject to mites and phytophagous caterpillars, which attack the leaves and marrow of the plant.
The crop cycle of the plant is short-lived; gives a first harvest 180 – 210 days after sowing and can be harvested every 120 – 180 days thereafter.
The yields from the first cut are around 1 ton of dried leaves per hectare. Subsequent cuts give 0.5 – 1 ton.
The plant has an economic life of 2-3 years.
As far as the propagation is concerned, it reproduces both by cutting and by seed.
In agamic propagation, semi-woody cuttings are used which are rooted in water to produce additional plants. This technique is faster than the one that takes place by seed.
In propagation by seed, there is obviously a genetic variability of the daughter plants for which the plants born from this type of multiplication are not equal to the mother plant, since genetic variability takes over. This technique requires quite a long time, as well as precise steps to follow.

Customs and Traditions –
Pogostemon cablin, as mentioned, is a plant cultivated in a particular way since an essential oil with multiple beneficial properties and an intense aroma is extracted from its components, very famous and valuable in cosmetics.
Patchouli essential oil has been known since ancient times. Even the Romans knew it in ancient times for its presumed aphrodisiac property; in fact they used it as a stimulating ingredient; patchouli, in fact, would increase the levels of both male (testosterone) and female (estrogen) steroid hormones. Some naturopathic theories believe patchouli oil is a natural remedy to combat ailments such as impotence or erectile dysfunction.
However patchouli’s popularity is more recent. This begins both in America and in Europe in the late 1960s, coinciding with the birth of the pacifist movement and the hippie current. The generation of “flower children” made patchouli an important olfactory symbol of their belief in peace, free love and their oriental leanings. The patchouli aroma soon became the aromatic manifesto of the sexual revolution; hippies wore it as a perfume oil, given its supposed aphrodisiac properties, in order to stimulate or awaken sexual desire.
Later, patchouli became the symbolic aroma of the most transgressive parties in the film and music industry, given its dark-bohemian scent.
Patchouli essential oil is composed of the following chemical components:
– Patchoulol: sesquiterpenic chain alcohol, also called “patchouli alcohol”, which makes the characteristic essence;
– Patchoulene: substance that performs healing properties if diluted in a fat matrix; similar to the azulene found in chamomile;
– Benzaldehyde and cinnamon aldehydes: active components in the phytocomplex used in the medical field to defeat mycotic infections
– Norpatchoulenol, bulnesol and pogostol: other active components in the phytocomplex.
The essential oil of this plant has various beneficial functions for other plants and for their survival in nature: this oil, through its smell, performs a protective function of other plants from parasitic insects and therefore safeguards them from infections and diseases carried by other fungi or bacteria, but can also drive away herbivorous animals.
Furthermore, the oil can facilitate the reproduction of the species of plant concerned, as the aroma of patchouli attracts the insects responsible for transporting the pollen; it can also avoid the propagation of species antagonistic to the plants since, by means of the rain, the odor spreads through the surrounding soil.
Due to its particular properties, patchouli essential oil finds application in various sectors, from medicines to cosmetics.
This oil is widely used in naturopathy, given its alleged beneficial properties for the benefit of body and mind. However, the effectiveness of the means used in the field of alternative medicine has not yet been scientifically proven, which is why traditional medicine is critical of naturopathic practices.
The contraindications to the use of patchouli essential oil for any benefits arise in particular cases of internal use and in cases of pregnancy, breastfeeding, allergies, epilepsy, kidney failure, severe liver disease and in the presence of children.
In natural medicine, the use of patchouli is recommended in small doses, even better if diluted with other oils, creams or lotions. The use is usually external, with the exception of specific cases in which the naturopath may recommend taking small quantities of the extract in drops diluted in herbal teas, in order to obtain certain benefits.
Patchouli essential oil is used for the natural treatment of fungal infections affecting the skin and mucous membranes through the preparation of compresses to be applied over infections such as candidiasis (vaginal fungus), thrush and multiple cases of mycosis.
Due to its beneficial properties on human cellular tissues, it can be used as an ingredient in cosmetic products that promote healing, as it would help speed up the healing process of dermatitis, wounds and grazes, as well as the marks left by acne, chickenpox or burns.
Furthermore, the application of patchouli essential oil on the skin is recommended to prevent the appearance of stretch marks and wrinkles, as well as being considered useful for stimulating cellular regeneration of dry, asphyxiated and aged skin.
Furthermore, due to its alleged astringent properties on the circulatory system, patchouli oil is used to relieve ailments such as water retention or cellulite.
Patchouli essential oil is a tonic, and in alternative medicine it is used as a metabolism booster: when inhaled through a diffuser, it would help to tone the liver, stomach and intestines, stimulating the ability to break down food and absorb nutrients optimally. By helping the metabolism, patchouli oil gives more energy.
Furthermore, patchouli essential oil would have a diuretic effect: in natural treatments, its intake in diluted form is recommended to increase the frequency of urination and therefore favor the expulsion of toxins from the body. For these same properties, the ability of patchouli to lower blood pressure and reduce the level of cholesterol is supported in naturopathy.
The use of patchouli essential oil has also spread in the aesthetic field. In this sense it is used for its supposed invigorating tissue properties, therefore it is an ingredient in oils and creams used for therapeutic massages and relaxing baths.
Also added to the conditioner or massaged in small quantities on the scalp, it is also used on the hair, for a possible prevention of loss as well as excessive hair loss, but also the formation of dandruff.
Some uses of patchouli essential oil are aimed, in alternative medicine, due to its beneficial properties also for the psyche. In this sense it is used by inhaling the aroma and therefore in aromatherapy. In this practice it is used to treat psychiatric disorders such as depression: its inhalation, in fact, would work on hormones, favoring the release of serotonin (essential for mood regulation) and dopamine, consequently acting on feelings such as anger, agitation and mental states such as anxiety.
Pogostemon cablin is also used in the food sector.
In Asian countries the patchouli aroma is used to give flavor and smell to sweets, especially candies, but also to drinks.
Furthermore, patchouli leaves are used as an ingredient to produce herbal teas; in some cultures the leaves are eaten as a vegetable or used as a condiment.
Among other uses, as mentioned, it should be remembered that the substances that are extracted from the leaves of this plant are widely used as an insecticide, in particular against underground termites.
It is especially during the summer that patchouli essential oil is used as a repellent to keep insects such as mosquitoes, flies, lice, fleas and moths away from linen and environments.
A widespread practice in the Middle East by silk traders is to wrap shawls and fine fabrics in packages containing patchouli leaves, in order to repel insects and moths.
This essential oil is also used to perfume rooms and clothes. Furthermore, in the form of dried leaves, patchouli is present in potpourri compositions together with other essences such as sage or lavender.
Patchouli essential oil is used as an essence in perfumery and specifically in men’s perfumes, given its musky and pungent notes. More generally, however, this aroma almost always serves as a base note for perfumes, because it helps to fix the fragrance on the skin. For this reason, today this aroma is used in the preparation of a third of the perfumes produced. In perfumery, patchouli can be used as the main ingredient, but it is often present in combination with vetiver, a perennial herbaceous plant from which a very fragrant essential oil is extracted.

Method of Preparation –
Patchouli is a plant typically used in Asian countries even if it has recently spread globally.
Historically, the dried leaves had presumed beneficial properties which, in the countries of origin of the plant, are still taken advantage of: in oriental medicine, for example, the leaves are used for the treatment of rheumatism, nausea, headaches and abdominal pains. In Japanese medicine, however, the dried leaves of Pogostemon cablin are known for their supposed properties as an antidote for snake venom.
The leaves are harvested 2 – 3 times a year and are usually dried for oil distillation.
The essential oil is present in small quantities in the fresh leaves, and develops only through a sort of fermentation of the cut leaves packed in bunches – the yields of the dried leaves can be around 3.5 – 4%.
The extraction of patchouli essential oil takes place with the method of fractional steam distillation of its green components (stem, leaves and flowers), a process that requires the breaking of their cell walls by steam scalding, light fermentation or drying. Through this process, an oil with a thick consistency and a typical dark amber color is obtained.
However, the olfactory profile of the oil is not always the same: in fact, this depends on the techniques used by the distillery during cultivation, harvesting and processing, as well as on the ability of the producer who, with his sense of smell, controls the level of fermentation in order to to obtain the typical pungent smell typical of wood, earth and undergrowth.
The leaves, which are the component part needed to extract the essential oil, can be harvested about two or three times over the course of a year, especially in the spring and summer months. Once harvested, the leaves are dried in the country of origin of the plant and then eventually exported to foreign countries to continue processing the essential oil. It seems that the oil distilled near the plantation, therefore in case the dried leaves are not exported, has a higher quality and stronger active ingredients than the one distilled abroad using imported leaves.
Both the leaves and the essential oil obtained from them are used in medicine and are considered in various local medicines: antiseptic, aphrodisiac, astringent, diuretic, febrifuge, digestive, sedative, stomachic and tonic
The herb is used internally in the treatment of colds, headaches, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea.
An infusion is used to take a bath which is useful in case of convalescence.
Externally, it is used to treat bad breath, a number of skin problems, snake bites, etc.
The leaves and buds are added to baths and are said to have an anti-rheumatic effect.
The leaves are used in potpourri.
The dried leaves, very fragrant, are sometimes used to perfume wardrobes to prevent clothes from being attacked by moths.
Patchouli essential oil is also used as a flavoring in various items, such as chewing gum, baked goods, and candy.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

Attention: The pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; we therefore decline all responsibility for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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