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Incense Ingredient

Patchouli - Patchouly
Japanese: Kakkoh

Pogostemon cablin (Blanco) Benth.


This is a favorite of many people, second only to cassia. Mixtures containing high quantities of both cassia and patchouli are the most popular of all.


There are about eighty species of Pogostemen in Southeast Asia. It became popular in the west beginning around 1844 when the first dried leaves arrived in London. Before that, it was a well-known fragrance in Indian textiles throughout Europe. It is used as an insect repellant and perfume. It is a base note in several famous perfume ingredients for both men and women. It was grown in china almost two thousand year ago and was used as a perfume for ink. (see Prosea v.19) Today, it is commonly used in cigarettes to compensate for a lack of taste due to reduced tar content. Good quality patchouli will retain its sweeter notes on a perfume blotter for months.

The leaves are partially dried, stacked and baled to allow minor fermentation, both for essential oils and use in incense.


Patchouli is considered to be antibacterial and a relaxant in some traditional medicine practices. It has been used in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) to balance Chi or Qi. It is approved by the FDA for food use under Para 172.510 and has been generally recognized as safe’ (GRAS No 2838). As a flavor ingredient, use levels of the oil are mostly less than 2 ppm.


Patchouli oil is commonly adulterated with Gurjun Balsam during distillation (Christopher McMahon) More common is the distillation and sale of an inferior species (P. heyneanus) Frequently this species is mislabeled in nurseries and sold as P. cablin.


© David Oller



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