Patchouli Oil Extraction Methods, Process, Techniques

Patchouli oil extraction process

Today, we learn the topic of Patchouli Oil Extraction Process.

Patchouli oil comes from a species of plant with the genus Pogostemon by using extraction process. This bushy herb has rigid stems, reaching 2 or 3 feet in height, and produces small, pale pink flowers. The plant is native to tropical regions of Asia and is now widely cultivated in China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Mauritius, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Patchouli oil is resulting from a large evergreen perennial belonging to the Labiatae family, and a close relative of mint, lavender, and sage. How does Patchouli oil work? Patchouli oil can be inhaled, diffused in a vaporizer or use directly to the skin. Doing so helps transmit messages to the limbic system, a brain section that helps control emotions and influence the nervous system. However, using this oil in moderation because copious amounts can lead to a strong and overwhelming odor.

Cultivating and harvesting Patchouli oil:

The Patchouli plant thrives in the hot, humid temperatures of tropical countries and can be grown near rice paddies or in open fields. It is commonly found growing near Coconut, Pine, Rubber, and Peanut trees. The most common method of cultivating Patchouli is by planting cuttings from the mother plant after they are placed in water.

As long as the Patchouli plant receives adequate sunlight and water, it can produce on flat or sloped land. When exposed to high levels of sunlight, the Patchouli leaves grow thick and small but contain a high concentration of essential oils. Less exposure to sunlight results in Patchouli leaves that are bigger, but that yield a lower volume of essential oils. Sufficient water drainage is essential, as high water levels can cause the roots to decompose. The ideal soil for increasing the Patchouli plant is soft, not tightly packed, and is rich in nutrients and organic matters. It should have a pH level that is between 6 and 7. In this ideal environment, Patchouli plant can potentially grow to a height of 2 and 3 ft.

Patchouli Plant.
Patchouli Plant.

The area in which the Patchouli botanical grows must be free of all weeds and it should be maintained through fertilization and protection against insect infestations. Patchouli matures at the 6 to 7-month mark and can be harvested at this point. The seeds that are formed by the plant’s small, light pink, fragrant flowers, which bloom in late autumn, can be further harvested to grow more Patchouli plants. The setback of this secondary process of growing Patchouli from its flower seeds is that, due to their extreme fragility and small size, if the seeds are handled inaccurately or crushed in any manner, they become unusable.

Patchouli leaves could be harvested more than once a year. The leaves are collected by hand, bundled together, and allowed to partially dry in the shade. The leaves are then allowed to ferment for a few days, after which they are exported to the distillery.

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Extraction of patchouli essential oil:

Extraction of Patchouli essential oil is by steam distillation of the leaves; the cell walls should be broken with steam scalding, light fermentation or drying the leaves. Patchouli leaves could be harvested several times a year, and when they are dried, they can be exported for distillation.

The strong scent of Patchouli oil has been used for centuries in perfumes; more newly it’s been used in incense, insect repellents and alternative medicines. It’s commonly used for skin care because of its capability to help alleviate skin issues, and it’s considered one of the best home remedies for acne, as well as for eczema, inflammation, and chapped skin. Patchouli oil has cell-rejuvenating properties, which is why it’s often used in anti-aging skin care; it has the power to lessen the look of scars or marks on the skin.

How is patchouli oil extracted? The young Patchouli plant leaves are steam distilled from the Pogostemon cablin species. The top 3 to 4 pairs of Patchouli plant leaves are supposed to yield essential oils with the strongest aroma. Patchouli essential oil is generally thick and ranges in color from light yellow to a deep amber or brown. This is one of the factors that contribute to the oil’s very improvement with increasing age. Its scent is comparable to wet soil, with a musky, earthy, and slightly sweet fragrance that can additionally be described as smooth and rich.

There is a belief that steam distilling Patchouli plant leaves when they are still fresh and close to their harvesting area, rather than when they are dried, will yield the freshest, highest quality of the oil. There are mainly two types of Patchouli essential oil that are light and dark. Although they are both extracted from the same species, that is the Pogostemon cablin species, the containers in which they are distilled decide their colors; if the oil is distilled in a stainless-steel vat, it remains thin in viscosity and deep amber, or light, in color. When the Patchouli oil is distilled in a cast iron vat, the oil is thick in viscosity and deep brown color, or dark, in color. The scents remain similar.


The equipment used in Patchouli oil extraction process will be;

Steam Generator or Boiler, Electric Boiler, Heat Exchanger, separator, distillation Still, Gantry or Lifting Equipment, Coolers, Condenser, receiver, Dry cooler.

Extraction of patchouli oil:

Patchouli oil is extracted from the young leaves which are dried and fermented prior to steam distillation and yields 2 to 3 %. This Patchouli oil improves with age to have a fuller, better-rounded odor.

Steam distillation of Patchouli essential oil:

Patchouli is a farmer-friendly crop because it is simple to handle, unlike other aromatic plants. Moreover, the leaves once dried and accurately preserved can be used for distillation leisurely. The essential oil is originated in all parts of the Patchouli plant including the root, but experiments have shown that the top leaves and tender twigs contain the highest quality oil.

Generally, dry leaves stored for 4 to 6 months produce more oil with superior aroma. Steam distillation is the common process used for the extraction of essential oils from plants. Although there are other extraction methods (hydrodistillation, microwave distillation, supercritical fluid extraction, ultrasound extraction), from the consumer point of view steam distillation remains the preferred method for the extraction of essential oils from plant materials.

The steam distillation equipment consists of a boiler, distillation still, condenser and receiver. The distillation still is normally made up of mild steel with perforated bottom to support loaded herb for distillation. The herb should be evenly or tightly packed inside the still as otherwise, stream channels may form during the distillation resulting in poor yield of essential oils. The water level in the boiler must be well maintained by frequent checking.

Maintenance of high and low pressures, i.e. 1.4 to 3.5 kg/m2 produces better quality as more cell walls rupture in this procedure. The duration of the distillation varies from 6 to 8 h. The condenser will cool the vapors received from the distillation still. It consists of several tubes made up of copper or stainless steel and mounted inside a jacket. The condenser is provided with inlet and outlet for circulation of cooling water. The hot vapors consisting of steam and patchouli essential oil vapors are cooled in the condenser tubes and the condensate flows out into the receiver. The patchouli essential oil vapor and spent steam that comes out of the distillation still will be condensed back to the liquid phase in the water cooled condenser and the condensate will be collected in the receiver tank.

Steam distillation process results in two separate products they are the liquid distillate which contains the volatile, water-soluble parts of the Patchouli plant materials known as “hydrosol” and the volatile nonwater soluble part of the plant constituents known as the “essential oil”. The condensate in the receiver tank should be allowed to stand for sufficient time so that the patchouli oil separates out as far as possible from the water layer. After the reasonable separation in the receiver tank, the Patchouli essential oil should be further separated from the water phase using a separating Funnel. The Patchouli oil being lighter than water and insoluble floats on the top of the receiver and only water get drained out. The oil will be still turbid. All traces of moisture needs to be removed from the oil by adding anhydrous sodium sulfate at the rate of 20 to 30 g/L and keeping the distillate mixture for 4 to 5 h, after which the oil is filtered through a Whatman filter paper to get clear essential oil. Moisture can induce polymerization of Patchouli oil leading to a loss in quality.

The Patchouli essential oil thus obtained must be stored in air-tight aluminum containers or color glass bottles up to the brim and stored in a cool dry place, away from light. On average, 60 kg of essential oil/hm2 is obtained in a year.

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Microwave hydrodistillation method:

Patchouli plant leaves (40 g) were placed in a 1 L flask containing deionized water (400 mL). The flask was set up within the microwave oven cavity and a condenser was used on the top or outside the oven to collect the extracted essential oils.

The microwave oven was operated at various power levels (264, 400 and 600 W) for a time of 2 h. This time was sufficient to extract all the essential oils from the sample. The essential oils were separated by using a separating funnel. To remove water by separating funnel, the extracted oils were then dried over anhydrous sodium sulfate, stored in amber vials at 4°C temperature until they were used for analysis.

Special features of patchouli essential oil:

Patchouli oil is an important ingredient and used as a ‘base’ material in the perfumery industry. Patchouli essential oil is perfume by itself. There is no synthetic substitute or chemical for patchouli oil, which increases its value and demand in the perfumery market. Patchouli essential oil mixes well with many other essential oils including vetiver, rosemary, sandalwood, frankincense, bergamot, cedarwood, myrrh, jasmine, rose, citrus oils, lemongrass, geranium, and ginger, contributing a rich spicy aroma.

Patchouli oil enhances its unique value in the international market. Patchouli is one of the very few oils that, like fine wine, develop with age. As the Patchouli oil ages, it mellows considerably, becoming sweeter and more balsamic.

Patchouli oil uses:

Some of the uses of Patchouli oil will be explained below;

Antidepressant: Patchouli oil is normally used in aromatherapy because of its depressant remedying properties.

Prevents Infections: Patchouli essential oil is antiseptic, meaning it protects cuts or sores on the skin from becoming infected.

Astringent Property: This powerful Patchouli essential oil stimulates contraction of muscles, nerves, and skin. This oil helps strengthen the hold of gums on the teeth, prevent sagging skin, hair loss, and loosening of muscle tissue.

Speeds up Healing: Patchouli essential oil helps speed the healing procedure of cuts and wounds and also hastens the fading of scars. It is also effective in eliminating marks left by boils, acne, pox, and measles.

Patchouli oil storage:

The Patchouli oil has a naturally very long shelf life with many users preferring older oils, which tend to darken with age. This is based upon proper storage away from direct sunlight, air, and moisture.  We advise a 36-month initial shelf life from analysis date, with the capability to extend based upon annual checks for several decades.

When stored in cool, dark conditions in full containers Patchouli essential oil has an extremely long shelf life (several decades) with perfumers advising that Patchouli improves with age. The Patchouli essential oil thus obtained must be stored in air-tight aluminum containers or color glass bottles up to the brim and stored in a cool dry place, away from light.

That’s all folks about techniques of Patchouli Oil Extraction.

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