Patchouli, a perfume, the name of which is said to be from patchey elley, the East Indian name for the leaves of patchey. About the year 1825 there appeared in commerce the dried and broken leaves of a plant from the East Indies, which had a very powerful odor; these were recognized as belonging to some labiate plant, but it was not till 1844, when the patchouli plant flowered in France, that its proper genus was known, and it was described by Pelletier as pogostemon patchouly. The genus pogostemon consists of herbs and somewhat shrubby plants, and is entirely Asiatic; the plants have the general aspect of coarse labiates, and their flowers are borne in dense axillary and terminal spikes; the patchouli grows in Penang, the Malay peninsula, and Silhet; it is a shrubby herb about 2 ft. high, with broadly ovate, petioled leaves 4 in. long, slightly lobed and scallop-toothed on the margins; the flowers are white, tinged with purple. The plant is prepared for commerce by cutting and drying in the sun, taking care not to dry it so much as to crumble; the dried tops, which are about a foot long, are packed for exportation in boxes containing 110 lbs. each.
The odor of the leaves is to some persons quite insupportable, while others are passionately fond of it; the perfume has long been popular in India, and soon became common after its introduction into Europe and this country. It is due to a volatile oil, of which the plant by distillation yields about 2 per cent.; this, as essence de patchouly, is also found in commerce. The odor is peculiar and remarkably persistent. Sachets of patchouli are small Dags filled with cotton and the broken leaves, and used to perfume drawers and to put away with woollen clothing and furs to keep out moths; the essence is sometimes used alone, but more frequently employed in combination with other essences to make compound perfumes. India ink and India shawls owe their peculiar odor to this perfume, and in India it is used to scent smoking tobacco. Accounts are given of injurious effects resulting from an excessive use of patchouli as a perfume, such as nervous debility and loss of appetite and sleep.
Patchouli (Fogostemon patchouly).