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(Pogosemon patchouly)


Description: Patchouli (also spelled "patchouly") is a tropical bush that grows up to three feet tall.  Native to Malaysia, it is cultivated in many parts of the world including the USA.  Although a fairly plain, unassuming plant, once its leaves have been fermented and dried the scent is distinctive and powerful.  Patchouli is a very heavy scent and is sometimes used as a fixative.  Patchouli is a very earthy scent that is both beloved and despised among incense users.

Use: Properly prepared leaves are easy to powder and can often be found in powdered form.  Even in its whole herb form, patchouli is very potent.  As an essential oil, patchouli is akin to an scent explosion and must be used with a stingy hand.  A little goes a very long way.  Powdered leaves can be added to any blend to add deeper and heavier notes to the scent.

Although patchouli can be grown as a house plant, growing patchouli for making your own incense isn't particularly practical.  The leaves must be fermented before use.  They are even fermented before the oil is extracted.  Without the fermentation process your patchouli will still be useable but will have a far stronger green herb scent and only the slightest hint of the classic patchouli scent.

General Information: Patchouli is often called the definitive scent of the hippie movement of the 1960s.  It was certainly popular at that time in the USA and England.  Perhaps as a result of that, there are those who despise the scent of patchouli.  It is an herb that usually elicits a strong response of either love or hate.  Its scent is also thought to be one of the best ways to mask the scent of body odor, so perhaps that had something to do with its popularity at that time.

Although it may be associated with the 1960s to many people, it is still in popular use today.  Its history extends far beyond the 20th century.  Patchouli was known to incense masters in India thousands of years before it was known in Europe or the Americas.

Because of its heavy, earthy scent, patchouli is obviously associated with the sign of Earth.  Its addition to incense brings a strong presence of Earth energies.  Although some traditions see it as an herb symbolizing separation, others teach it is an herb of love and unity.  

In either (or neither) case, patchouli is a powerful addition to any rolled or powdered incense.  Although it is powerful, and should be added sparingly, it is a good aromatic for beginning incense makers.  It is forgiving.  If you add too much to a blend, you'll simply end up with a batch of patchouli incense (since it will overwhelm everything else).  As long as you like the scent of the patchouli itself, keep some on hand at all times.

References used and recommended reading (click title for more information):

Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham (ISBN 0875421229)

The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Aromatherapy by Chrissie Wildwood (ISBN 0747550557)

The Complete Book of Herbs: A practical guide to growing & using herbs by Lesley Bremness (ISBN 0670854506)

The Complete Incense Book by Susanne Fischer-Rizzi (ISBN 080699987X)

Copyright 2004 Carl Neal. Used by Mother's Hearth with permission.

All information and text on these pages is copyright Little Pagans 2004, except where otherwise stated.
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