Far Eastern Magic

Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) is one of those oils that everybody has heard about. Maybe you’ve gotten a smell of it and thought that’s not for me. I was the same. Until I realised just how versatile the oil was.

It’s has a very distinctive smell, earthy, arid and sweet all at once. I find the aroma ‘intoxicating’ on its own but blended it can add an earthy deep tone to an essential oil blend. In fact it’s the earthy base note you can smell in our Nappy Balm.

At Honestly we strongly believe that what we put on our baby’s skin is just as important as what we put in our baby’s bodies.

Grown in tropical climes the patchouli plant is actually native to the Philippines. It was first grown in China in the 11th Century. In India Indian Patchouli (Pogostemon heyneanus) was used until P. cablin was introduced in 1846. At around the same time, Patchouli also found its way to the West via trade in Far Eastern silks and fabrics.

It was trading of fabrics that made Patchouli well-known in the West. As it is recognised to protect fabric from moths, a few leaves of Patchouli would be put in every shipment of fabrics. Thus imported textiles from India would arrive in Europe smelling of Patchouli.

It was because of the Patchouli that fabric buyers could authenticate Far Eastern silks – from the smell! Patchouli became such a commodity that it would be traded pound for pound with gold. And at that time it became a symbol of wealth – to have imported fabric and the exotic fragrance of patchouli on your clothes meant you could afford the finer things in life. Fancy.

Drawing of Patchouli Pogostemon cablin Essential Oil amazing for nappy rash and dermatitis

And now to the Hippies…

Of course in the 1960’s that all changed when Patchouli became synonymous with hippies and travellers to India. More of circumstance, the hippies couldn’t avoid Patchouli as it is so widely used as an insecticide in fabrics and in incense as a prophylactic (preventing spread of disease).

Yet I’m sure they also discovered its strong qualities as an aphrodisiac during the era of free love. Yes! Patchouli is an insecticide and has great qualities for preventing infection but it’s also wonderful for increasing libido and as an aphrodisiac. Oh la la!

A versatile oil for all the family

So what properties does Patchouli have? What can it be used for?

Against Infections: Patchouli is prophylactic, preventing infections. It is also antimicrobial, antitoxin, antiseptic, antiviral, bactericidal and fungicidal. It also helps wounds heal, brings down fevers and reduces nausea.

Skin Care: Anti-inflammatory, astringent, tonic for the body and heal skin breaks. Renowned for its abilities to heal eczema.

Digestive: Brings down fevers, prevents vomiting, calms the digestive system, decreases flatulence, is a tonic for the body and fights infections.

Emotionally: Anti-depressant, grounding, meditative, calms and strengthens the nerves.

When I was developing Honestly Store’s Nappy Balm I knew I needed to create a blend that packed a good punch for keeping skin clean and infection free. Especially when baby’s skin is easily irritated. Patchouli helps keep the nappy area clean and infection free. Without using harsh medicines that can affect baby’s immune system or help microbes develop resistance.

I also wanted an essential oil that would work against fungi as Candida skin infections are common, especially if you use cloth nappies. Patchouli is not only anti-microbial its fungicidal meaning it kills fungi and their spores, preventing re-infection. If you’ve ever had to get rid of Candida infection from your baby and cloth nappies, you will definitely appreciate a nappy balm that prevents re-infection!

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Patchouli is a base oil, meaning it is a thick oil that evaporates slowly, it is also grounding and calming. This is ideal for helping baby to feel calm and relaxed when having their nappy changed. Particularly if they are suffering from a bad nappy rash that has caused them discomfort. Having an essential oil to help them calm down and feel less stressed is essential for any Nappy Balm blend!

Chemical Profile

The chemical profile of Patchouli is an important reference to ensure you are purchasing a pure essential oil (EO) and not one adulterated with fragrances or other cheaper EOs. It can also be a way to ensure that the EO you want to use is safe for you.

Patchouli EO is composed of the following main components:

Patchouli alcohol                   17–32%

a-Bulnesene (d-guaiene)       9–21%

a-Guaiene                              9–15%

Seychellene                           0–10%

b-Patchoulene                       5–9%

a-Patchoulene                       5–9%

g-Patchoulene                       0–7%

( )-allo-Aromadendrene         0–5%

1(10)-Aromadendrene           0–4%

Pogostone                              0–4%

b-Caryophyllene                    2–3%

Pogostol                                 0–2%

b-Elemene                              0–1%

Taken from Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young, Essential Oil Safety (Second Edition. United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2014), pg.382.

Steam Distilled

Like all essential oils Patchouli is steam distilled and it’s the leaves that give us the essential oil. The uppermost leaves are found to give the freshest smelling oil, and it’s the smaller leaves that have the most potent oil for extraction.

Unlike other essential oils which remain active only 2-3 years, Patchouli oil gets better with age. Patchouli oil can be kept for 4-8 years so there’s no rush to use up that bottle of Patchouli you just bought!

Patchouli oil is safe to use on babies, children, pregnant and lactating women. As with all essential oils, always dilute essential oils before use with a suitable carrier oil.

At the moment I’m experimenting with Patchouli oil personally and how we can use it as mums. Do you think you need a little something to help relax you in the evenings, maybe something to help you get in the mood after running around after the kids all day?

Or even a face mask to help brighten the skin, moisturize rough and chapped skin, and reduce the appearance of blemishes and scars?

Oh and don’t forget to pick up a jar of Nappy Balm to keep those little cheeks sweet!