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Pogostemon cablin (P. cablin), more commonly known as Patchouli, is a member of the mint family originating from Southeast Asia. Patchouli’s signature scent is easily recognizable by its deep, musky, earthy aroma that only gets better with age. Patchouli oil is considered one of the more important natural essential oils in the fragrance industry due to its long lasting effect post application. Aside from perfumery, Patchouli is known for its medicinal properties that are not limited to anti-inflammatory, aphrodisiac, anti-depressive, diuretic, and antimicrobial activity. From a more spiritual standpoint, Patchouli essential oil is used as an aid to stimulate the conscious mind and stabilizes the etheric mind.
Pujiarti et al performed an experiment in which they evaluated physiological responses from 10 volunteers in order to learn Patchouli’s effect on humans (in addition to two other essential oils that will be reviewed at a later date). The study’s participants were composed of five males and five females between the ages of 22 and 35. The physiological parameters of interest included blood pressure, pulse rate (heart rate), stress index (measured via saliva), and brain wave intensities. Each participant had physiological measurements before and after inhalation of any controls or essential oils in order to establish a baseline.
The results of the study found that blood pressure increased after smelling patchouli essential oil. This is an indication that patchouli has a stimulating effect, rather than a sedative effect.
Next, the study looked at heart rate, heart rate can be an indicator of stress, with higher heart rates being an indicator of stress states. Post sniffing Patchouli essential oil, heart rate was decreased. Its hypothesized that sedative odors have the ability to decrease heart rate via the olfactory system. So although Patchouli is stimulating (as concluded via blood pressure test), it still has a relaxing effect. This is further confirmed when performing salivary stress tests, as results indicated patchouli decreased stress levels from a high level to a medium level.
Finally, the study looked at brain waves in order to examine the physiological effects. Alpha brain waves are known to increase when a person is relaxed, therefore the higher ratios of alpha brain waves indicate stress level decrease. The results of inhaling Patchouli essential oil showed the tendency for alpha brain waves to increase while still having a stimulating effect that improves brain activity. This may be why people have found it to be an excellent aid in stimulating their conscious mind for meditations.
Overall, it was concluded that Patchouli has a stimulatory effect that is likely due to its strong odor. This should be no surprise as Patchouli contains a high sesquiterpene content (heavy compounds) making it a very complex oil. The effects of Patchouli could also be due to the placebo effect as sniffing odor strips dipped in water also produced a decrease in blood pressures, pulse rate, stress index, and showed brain wave changes.
What do we like about this study?
When delving into scientific literature, one must take caution to the efficacy of the study and its results. No study is perfect but there are several parameters one can look for that can be indicators for how credible the results are. What we like most about this study is that they were performed on actual people. Many scientific studies are typically in vitro, meaning in lab studies on animals or cell cultures from human or animal cell lines.
This study was also a great introductory experiment to physiological parameters that are easily measured. They used hydro-distilled essential oils from plant matter and verified their chemical analysis via GC/MS, allowing the reader to see all volatiles in each oil presented. Additionally, the study had several tables and graphs that made all of the results easy to read and comprehend in a visual manner.
What did we not like about the study?
One of the main flaws of this study is the small sample size, 10 individuals with no inclusion or exclusion criteria doesn’t make for a great representation of a larger population. There is also no indication of the health status of the individuals in the study.
Additionally the study did not do a great job in explaining the brain wave results. There was no discussion with regards to Patchouli Oil to improve brain activity, this explanation would have been most useful in proving this fact. Furthermore, their discussion of why Patchouli exhibits the effects it has physiologically was not backed up by other literature or gave an explanation as to which compounds found in Patchouli could be the reason why Patchouli exhibits the physiological responses it does. This should not be surprising as a lot of literature available on Patchouli essential oil is limited and there is still a lot relatively unknown about the olfactory system in general.
That being said, this article over all includes information that is helpful and does carry merit. Although the effects may be due to placebo effect, they do not pose any negative effect or harm, and more research is needed in this area.
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