Evidence Based

13 Uses & Benefits of Patchouli Essential Oil

Written by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology) | Written by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:

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Patchouli oil has an amazing scent and has been traditionally used in Chinese medicine for over a thousand years. Its benefits include treating digestive problems, relieving depression and anxiety, and more. It’s also largely used in combination with other essential oils during aromatherapy. Read on to learn about the components and health benefits of patchouli oil.

What Is Patchouli Oil?

Also known as Pogostemon cablin, the patchouli plant is a widely-used traditional Chinese medicine that has been cultivated for over a thousand years. In South-East Asia, its largely utilized for digestive issues, as well as household uses [1, 2].

The main product derived from the patchouli plant is patchouli oil, made from the dry stems and leaves, which contains several beneficial active compounds. Patchouli oil aromatherapy is used to relieve depression and stress, control appetite, and increase sexual function [1, 2].

Patchouli oil has a number of health benefits and is commonly used in cosmetics, deodorants, and insecticides. It has antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidative, and many more properties [1, 2].


The main components of patchouli oil are patchouli alcohol (32%), guaiene (17%), patchoulene (15%), seychellene (10%), and pogostone (4%). Additional compounds are patchoulene derivatives, terpenoids, flavones, flavonoids, glycosides and many more (in smaller amounts). Patchouli alcoholic is largely responsible for the odor in patchouli oil [1, 2].

Mechanisms of Action

The antibacterial activity of patchouli oil is attributed to the action of pogostone and patchoulol (patchouli alcohol). Pogostone also exhibits antifungal activity, whereas patchoulol has antiviral activity. The exact mechanisms of the antimicrobial activity of the components in patchouli oil are still unknown [2, 1].

Patchouli oil is thought to stimulate prostaglandins (PGE2) through the COX pathway and boost mucus production in the stomach, which plays a protective role in that organ [2].

Patchoulol blocks the action of certain enzymes (histone deacetylase), which activates cell death (NF-kB) pathway in cancer cell lines [2].

Patchouli Oil Uses and Benefits

1) Aromatherapy

In aromatherapy, patchouli oil is used to reduce tension, anxiety, and insomnia. Its aroma is thought to function as an aphrodisiac and improve intelligence and concentration. It is used in incense sticks to generate a relaxing atmosphere [2].

Stress and Anxiety Relief

A review study concluded that patchouli oil is calming, sedative, and uplifting. Patchouli oil aroma improves mood and has curative effects when inhaled by people [3].

Fragrances can affect the fight-or-flight response, which when activated, increases blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle stimulation. Inhalation of patchouli oil caused a 40% decrease in this response, having a relaxing effect in a study of 43 women [4].

Additionally, vaporized mixtures of essential oils containing patchouli reduced disturbed behavior in 10 cases of people with dementia [2].

Improved Brain Function

A mixture containing patchouli oil massaged on the bodies of 56 people with dementia reduced dementia-related behaviors and possibly caused increased mental alertness and awareness [2].

2) Benefits the Skin

An essential oil containing 12% patchouli oil, amongst other oils, cured all of the skin infections treated and also reduced the healing time of skin abrasions and ulcers in a study of 100 people [2].

Animal and Cell Studies

The following studies were conducted only on animal models or cell lines.

3) An Antioxidant

Patchouli oil treatment prevented aging and helped maintain skin integrity through antioxidation in UV-damaged mice. A similar outcome was achieved with the treatment of patchoulol [2, 1].

In different cell experiments, patchouli oil was efficient at scavenging reactive oxidative species (ROS), giving it potential use as an antioxidant in the body [2, 1].

4) May Help With Digestive Problems

In a mouse study, patchouli oil aromatherapy relieved symptoms of constipation and increased the number and mass of bowel movements [2].

5) May Help With Ulcers

A study on mice treated with patchouli oil concluded that it protects the stomach against ulcers [2].

6) May Reduce Nausea

Chickens treated with patchoulol experienced reduced nausea and vomiting and shows that patchouli oil may have anti-nausea activity [2].

7) May Help Reduce Coughing

Patchouli oil reduced the frequency of induced coughing in mice, which show it may serve as a potential cough suppressant [1].

8) Has Antibacterial Properties

A review study determined that patchouli oil had powerful antibacterial properties [2].

Among 10 essential oils, patchouli oil was the most effective at stopping the growth of different bacteria [2]:

  • Acinetobacter baumannii (common hospital-acquired infection)
  • Aeromonas veronii (causes various types of infections)
  • Enterococcus faecalis (commonly causes urinary tract infections)
  • E. coli (found in the gut but can cause various types of infections)
  • H. pylori(causes stomach ulcers and heartburn)
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae (common hospital-acquired infection)
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa (common hospital-acquired infection)
  • Salmonella enteric (causes food poisoning)
  • Staphylococcus aureus (causes many life-threatening infections)

9) Has Antifungal Effects

A review study found that patchouli oil had antifungal activity [2].

Patchouli oil effectively inhibited the growth of:

  • Aspergillus species (can cause infections)
  • Candida albicans (causes yeast infections, nail infections, and oral thrush)

10) May Protect Against Viruses

Methanol-extract of patchouli leaves blocked the growth of the influenza virus up to 99.8%. Another study suggested that patchoulol is also a potent anti-influenza agent. In a study with mice, patchoulol enhanced the immune response, providing protection against the influenza virus [2].

11) Patchouli Oil and Anti-inflammation

In cells, patchoulol effectively regulated the production of a number of inflammatory markers (NF-α, IL-1β, IL-6, iNOS, and COX-2) in cells with induced inflammation. Additionally, patchouli oil exhibited strong anti-inflammatory properties in cells [2, 1].

12) Patchouli Oil and Cancer

Patchoulol reduced the production and increased the cell death of human colon cancer cell lines (HCT116 and SW480) [2].

13) Patchouli Oil is a Pesticide

Patchouli oil seems to be an effective pesticide, and had insecticidal activity against [2]:

  • Cigar beetle (Lasioderma serricorne)
  • Rice/maize weevil (Sitophilus zeamais)
  • Flour beetle (Tribolium confusum)
  • A beetle species (Falsogastrallus sauteri)
  • Formosan subterranean termite (Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki)

Limitations and Caveats

Clinical studies involving patchouli oil are strongly lacking. Asides from its use in aromatherapy, there are basically no human studies treating humans with patchouli oil. Most of the studies mentioned are based on animals or cells, so the effects may not directly translate to humans.

Side Effects

There have been no reports of adverse side effects with patchouli oil but more human studies need to be conducted [2, 3].


Natural Sources

Patchouli is available as an essential oil or in perfumes

User Reviews

In regards to an essential oil containing patchouli oil, users reported:

One user said it helped them with anxiety, headaches, and withdrawal from their prescription anxiety medication.

Several users said it enhanced focus.

One person said it was costly and found the scent unpleasant.

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About the Author

Ana Aleksic

MSc (Pharmacy)
Ana received her MS in Pharmacy from the University of Belgrade.
Ana has many years of experience in clinical research and health advising. She loves communicating science and empowering people to achieve their optimal health. Ana spent years working with patients who suffer from various mental health issues and chronic health problems. She is a strong advocate of integrating scientific knowledge and holistic medicine.

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