Saturday, December 31, 2011

Essential oils: Patchouli

I admit, I'm not a fan of patchouli essential oil. I find the smell reminds me of concerts I attended as a teenager, some of which I had to leave early because the overpowering smell made me physically ill. I have banished from my workshop because even having the bottle in my fragrance cabinet made me feel just awful. I will try to be as unbiased as possible as I write this post. 

Patchouli essential oil is steam distilled from the Pogostemon cablin plant, generally found in the tropical parts of Asia. It is rectified to remove some of the darker colours in the oil. (Rectification means there's a re-distillation of the crude oils.) CO2 extraction was find to produce a higher yield of patchouli oil from the raw materials - generally the leaves, and it takes 100 kg to create 3.5 kg of oil, which explains why it's so expensive - and a "better quality" essential oil (Journal of Supercritical Fluids, Feb 2009, Vol 48, issue 1, p 15-20).

Click here for more processing technique information!

The main compound in patchouli essential oil is patchouli alcohol or patchoulol, which makes up about 32% of the oil. The other components include α-guaiene at 15.6%, Ϭ-guaiene at 16.7%, α-patchoulene at 5.5%, and seychellene at 5.3%. The main odour of patchouli comes from norpatchoulenol, which makes up 0.6% of the oil. (Journal of Essential Oil Research, issue 16, p 17 to 19, Jan/Feb 2004.)

Patchouli is generally used for its fragrance, although there are some claims made about this essential oil. It may be beneficial for skin, preventing chapping or wrinkling. It may help the digestive system. It may offer anti-inflammatory, anti-infectious, antiseptic, tissue regenerating, and itch relieving properties. (Tony Dweck, click here and scroll down. No page number given.) Please note that I have not been able to find any studies on any of these claims, so I can't provide you with any more information than this. I was able to find that patchouli essential oil is considered a potential contact allergen when used at more than 1%, so I'd suggest you keep your usage of this oil under 1% (p. 91, Handbook of Cosmetic Science & Technology).

As with most of our essential oils, it is suggested to use patchouli in the cool down phase of our products (below 45˚C/113˚F) and it sounds like using it at 1% or lower is a good idea.

If you can provide me with some studies on patchouli essential oil or any of the components, let me know! I've seen many claims made, but can't find a single study on patchouli, patchouli alcohol, and patchoulol in my texts, on Ebsco host, Google scholar, or Google books! 

Join me on Monday for more fun with essential oils!


Celine Blacow said...

Interesting post... I personally love patchouli in lots of things, it's definitely one of those "love it/hate it" fragrances though.

Interesting you say that it's a potential allergen so to use at 1%. As you probably know, in the EU, there are 26 different allergens that can be present in fragrances - either naturally occuring or in synthetic fragrance oils. As a seller, I would have to calculate the allergen levels (as stated on the MSDS or allergen declaration from my supplier) depending on the percentage of the fragrance used in my product. I just checked my supplier info for Patchouli essential oil and it has none of these 26 allergens stated ... it, in fact, could be marketed as "allergen free" (though that means free of the 26 known allergens rather than free from any allergens at all). I just thought it interesting that it's suggested to limit it's use due to allergen problems when, for the EU anyway, it's free from those 26 declarable allergens.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Celine! There are a few fragrances that fall into the love it/hate it category and patchouli's definitely one of them. At the Christmas craft fair last year, I couldn't go down one of the aisles because of the stinky patchouli soap at one of the booths! I researched this one because I wanted to know what made me hate it...but I couldn't find it!