Patchouli has developed quite a reputation over the years. Many associate its earthy, musky aroma with hippies and head shops. However, in recent years, patchouli has been experiencing a resurgence in popularity as people learn more about its intriguing history and potential benefits.
The Origins of Patchouli’s Stigma
Patchouli oil derives from the fragrant leaves of the patchouli plant, a bushy herb in the mint family. For centuries, it’s been used in traditional Asian medicine for treating headaches, nausea, and skin issues.
Patchouli became associated with counterculture movements in the 1960s. Hippies blending it with incense and using it to mask the scent of marijuana cemented its reputation as the smell of rebellion. The stigma has stuck for decades, but modern perfumers are revisiting this complex essential oil and revealing its more sophisticated side.
Growing up in the 80s and 90s, we had a saying - "dirty patchouli," whenever anyone would wear it. Most people wore it single note and you could always smell them coming from a mile away (much like the guys in my high school who bathed in Polo, but I digress.) My sister also used to burn patchouli incense in our shared bedroom, while I preferred scents like Exclamation Perfume in the 80s and Angel in the 90s.
Patchouli’s Allure – An Intriguing, Chameleonic Scent
So what gives patchouli its unmistakable scent? The oil’s rich chemical composition lends it a musky, earthy aroma. It also improves with age, taking on more nuanced notes.
Perfumers appreciate patchouli’s complexity. Its chameleonic nature makes it compatible with all sorts of ingredients. A touch of patchouli can add intrigue to fresh citrus scents. It also complements herbs, spices, and flowers.
Patchouli’s musky depth enhances sensual blends. Yet it also works well in men’s fragrances, like patchouli-based colognes. Whatever its accents, patchouli adds a sophisticated edge to perfumes today.
A Girl's Gotta Spa!'s Patchouli Perfumes
Today, many feel differently about patchouli fragrances and are willing to try them out when blended with other complementary notes. Of course, I still encounter plenty of people who immediately turn their noses up at the mention of patchouli oil. I do a dozen artisan fairs each year and quite honestly, I've kind of become obsessed with converting those that say, "I hate patchouli." I can successfully convert 8 out of 10 people once I convince them to smell our perfume.
My first toe in the waters of using patchouli was with our roll-on perfume, Manifest. It wasn't my intention to create a patchouli perfume, but I guess you can say I just kind of manifested it. I wanted something sensual, but earthy that bordered on the line of unisex. Manifest's notes are light amber, Indonesian patchouli, frankincense, and vanilla. It quickly became my best-selling perfume, accounting for the majority of my sales the year I launched it, much to my surprise.
Due to Manifest's success, I quickly got to work trying to find another way to express the scent of patchouli uniquely. It came to me when I began taking a Yin Yoga class to help with the pain management of my hip bursitis (highly, highly recommended if you suffer from this.) The yogi was burning palo santo. I found it mentally relaxing and how it brought about clarity. It was a sweet, musky fragrance that I knew had to be in my next perfume, and that's how Sanctify was born.
Sanctify is a blend of palo santo, notes of bergamot, white patchouli, and cedarwood. This fragrance, too, could be unisex due to its woody scent. When you first smell and roll on Sanctify, the sweet earthy wood of palo santo is what you notice most, but the dry down brings out the other scents as it plays with your body chemistry. The patchouli oil definitely helps Sanctify with its journey of warm notes.
Dispelling Myths: What Patchouli Essential Oil Is and Isn’t
Despite patchouli’s revival, some misconceptions still surround this controversial aromatic. Unraveling patchouli myths reveals why it deserves a second sniff.
❌ Myth: Patchouli oil is synthetic.
✔️ Fact: Natural patchouli oil is steam-distilled from the leaves of Pogostemon cablin. Synthetic patchouli exists, but perfumers largely prefer the real thing.
❌ Myth: Patchouli covers up body odor.
✔️ Fact: Patchouli’s musky aroma may seem to mask odors, but it doesn't eliminate them. Proper hygiene is still key.
❌ Myth: Patchouli smells cheap.
✔️ Fact: Genuine, aged patchouli essential oil is costly. It takes a ton of leaves to produce each precious ounce of oil.
❌ Myth: Patchouli is only for hippies.
✔️ Fact: From ancient Asia to modern runways, patchouli sophisticates all sorts of looks. It layers beautifully into both classic and cutting-edge perfumes.
Look beyond the myths, and you’ll discover why patchouli perseveres.
The Surprising Benefits of Earthy Patchouli for Mind and Body
Beyond its provocative scent, patchouli oil boasts some intriguing therapeutic benefits. Science is discovering what Eastern medicine has long known – this earthy aromatic uplifts mind and body.
Patchouli Promotes Relaxation:
The sweet, herbaceous aroma of patchouli is intrinsically calming. Inhaling patchouli essential oil is found to reduce heart rate and blood pressure, alleviating stress
Studies also indicate patchouli can ease depression and anxiety. Its soothing properties may promote restful sleep when diffused at bedtime. Patchouli’s mellowing fragrance brings a sense of peace.
Patchouli Soothes Skin:
Patchouli contains the anti-inflammatory triterpene oleanol. Studies show this compound reduces redness and speeds wound healing.
Historically, patchouli treated fungal and bacterial skin infections. Today, it makes a cleansing, soothing natural additive to face masks, lotions, balms, and bath salts.
The antiseptic properties of patchouli may also help heal acne, eczema, and irritation from shaving when applied topically. Its earthy scent leaves skin feeling fresh.
Patchouli Boosts Immunity:
Preliminary studies suggest patchouli oil may stimulate the immune system. The essential oil seems to increase white blood cell production and activity when inhaled regularly.
More research on human subjects is needed to determine patchouli’s full immune-enhancing benefits. However, incorporating a few drops into a diffuser may help give your immunity a lift.
Discover the True Spirit of Patchouli
On its surface, patchouli may seem like a polarizing smell from another era. But perfumers are revealing the true spirit of this complex essential oil.
Patchouli’s revival celebrates its intoxicating depth, its sensual warmth, and its herbal radiance. Beyond the myths lies an ancient aromatic with sacred roots and modern magic.
Let patchouli’s earthy incense lift your spirits and soothe your senses. Keep an open mind, and try A Girl's Gotta Spa!'s patchouli perfumes. You may just fall in love with this mesmerizing fragrance at last.