Patchouli Oil: Uses, Benefits, and Side Effects

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What’s patchouli oil?

Patchouli oil is an essential oil derived from the leaves of the patchouli plant, a type of aromatic herb.

In order to produce patchouli oil, the leaves and stems of the plant are harvested and allowed to dry out. They then undergo a distillation process to extract the essential oil.

Read on to learn about patchouli oil, its benefits, and how to use it.

Patchouli oil uses

Patchouli oil has a characteristic scent that might be described as woody, sweet, and spicy. Because of this, it’s often used as a scent additive in products like perfumes, cosmetics, and incense.

Patchouli oil has a variety of additional uses throughout the world. Some of these include:

  • treating skin conditions such as dermatitis, acne, or dry, cracked skin
  • easing symptoms of conditions like colds, headaches, and stomach upset
  • relieving depression
  • providing feelings of relaxation and helping to ease stress or anxiety
  • helping with oily hair or dandruff
  • controlling appetite
  • using as an insecticide, antifungal, or antibacterial agent
  • using as an additive in low concentrations to flavor foods like candies, baked goods, and beverages

Patchouli oil benefits

Much of the evidence for the benefits of patchouli oil is anecdotal. This means that it’s derived from personal experience or testimony.

In recent years, researchers have been actively investigating many of the uses and benefits of patchouli oil. Below, we’ll explore what their research tells us so far.

Anti-inflammatory properties

Several studies have demonstrated that patchouli oil has an anti-inflammatory effect:

  • Swelling is a large part of your body’s inflammatory response. A recent study in mice found that one component of patchouli oil decreased chemically induced swelling in their paws and ears.
  • Immune cells produce a variety of chemicals associated with inflammation. A 2011 study reported that pretreating immune cells called macrophages with patchouli alcohol lowered the levels of these molecules produced by the cells when they were stimulated.
  • Immune cells must also migrate to the site of inflammation. A 2016 study in cultured cells found that patchouli oil reduced migration of immune cells called neutrophils.

These findings are promising for the use of patchouli oil or its components in treating inflammatory conditions.

In fact, a recent study administered patchouli oil to rats with chemically induced inflammatory bowel disease. They found that rats treated with patchouli oil had less damage and immune cell accumulation in their colon.

Pain relief

A 2011 study assessed the pain-relieving effects of patchouli extract in mice. The researchers found that giving the extract orally to the mice reduced their response to pain in a variety of tests.

They noted that this pain-relieving effect may be associated with patchouli’s anti-inflammatory effects.

Skin application

A 2014 study treated mice with patchouli oil for two hours and then exposed them to ultraviolet radiation, which can age and damage skin. Using a variety of tests, they assessed the potential protective effects of patchouli oil.

The researchers found that mice treated with patchouli oil had less wrinkle formation and an increase in collagen content. Further research will need to be performed to see if the same benefit can be observed in people.

For weight loss

Patchouli oil is sometimes listed as a good essential oil for weight loss. While no studies in humans have been performed to evaluate this, a small 2006 study in rats looked at the effect that inhaling patchouli oil had on factors like body weight and amount of food eaten.

The researchers found no significant difference in body weight or amount of food consumed between the rats that had inhaled patchouli oil and those that didn’t.

Antibacterial activity

Disease-causing bacteria use things like biofilms and virulence factors to effectively colonize a host and overcome its defenses. A recent study observed that patchouli oil was able to disrupt biofilms and some virulence factors of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains.

Another recent study looked at a blend of several essential oils, including patchouli oil. The investigators assessed if the blend inhibited the growth of bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, and Streptococcus pneumoniae.

The inhibition observed for the blend was overall similar to that observed for a liquid soap. Patchouli oil by itself inhibited the growth of P. aeruginosa similarly to the blend, and it inhibited the growth of S. pneumoniae better than the blend.

Antifungal activity

A recent study looked at the antifungal activity of 60 essential oils against three species of disease-causing fungus: Aspergillus niger, Cryptococcus neoformans, and Candida albicans. It was found that patchouli oil had noteworthy antifungal activity against C. neoformans.

Antifungal activity was also observed for A. niger. However, the researchers noted that previous studies haven’t demonstrated the same results.

As an insecticide

Patchouli oil has insecticidal properties, and several studies have assessed its effect on different species of insects. Discovering natural insecticides could be very beneficial, as many man-made insecticides are damaging to the environment.

One 2008 study found that, when compared to several other essential oils, patchouli oil was the most efficient at killing house flies when applied topically. Another study found that patchouli oil was toxic to three species of urban ants.

Lastly, a study from 2015 tested the toxicity of several commercially available essential oils on two species of mosquitoes. Patchouli oil was found to be the most toxic. However, the authors noted that it’s still significantly less toxic than man-made pesticides.

Side effects and who’s most at risk

Patchouli oil doesn’t often elicit irritation or an allergic response when applied to the skin. But you should still be careful when initially applying it in case a reaction occurs. Never apply undiluted patchouli essential oil to the skin.

Because patchouli oil can affect blood clotting, the following people should avoid using patchouli oil:

  • those taking blood-thinning medication
  • individuals who have recently had or will be undergoing major surgery.
  • those with bleeding disorders, such as hemophilia

As always, it’s important to remember that essential oils are very concentrated and should be properly diluted before using on the skin or for aromatherapy.

Never eat or drink any essential oil without first consulting a qualified medical professional.

How to use patchouli oil

Patchouli oil can be applied topically and also used for aromatherapy.

On your skin

It’s important to always follow proper dilution guidelines when using essential oils like patchouli oil. According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, most essential oil blends for skin application should contain between 1 and 5 percent essential oil.

Essential oils used for topical application should be diluted in a carrier oil. There are a wide variety of carrier oils available, including jojoba oil, grapeseed oil, and avocado oil.

If you’re concerned about having a skin reaction, conduct a patch test before using patchouli oil on your skin. To do this, follow these three simple steps.


Patchouli oil can also be used for aromatherapy via methods like steam inhalation or a diffuser. Like with topical applications, it’s important to dilute essential oils appropriately.

When inhaling essential oils, do so in a well-ventilated area, taking a break every 30 minutes. Prolonging your exposure without a break could lead to headache, nausea, or dizziness. Don’t expose pets, children, or the general public to diffused essential oils.


Patchouli oil mixes well with many other essential oils, where it contributes its rich, spicy aroma. Some examples of good oils to blend patchouli with include:

  • cedarwood
  • frankincense
  • jasmine
  • myrrh
  • rose
  • sandalwood

The takeaway

Patchouli oil is an essential oil that comes from the leaves of the patchouli plant. It’s often used for things such as skin conditions, relieving stress, or controlling appetite. You can apply the diluted oil to your skin or use it for aromatherapy.

While much of the evidence for the benefits of patchouli oil is anecdotal, research is beginning to show that it does have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and pain-relieving properties.

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