157. Pogostemon Patchouli, Pellet.—Pucha-Pat, or Patchouli.
Tribe II. Satureieae, Benth.
Stamens distant, straight, straggling, or converging under the upper lip, 4 or 2 (in that case the anthers 2-celled and the.connective not filiform). Lobes of the corolla flat.
Sex. Syst. Didynamia, Gymnospermia.
Patchouly, Virey, Journ. de Pharm. t. xii. p. 61, 1826.—Puchá Pát, Wallich, Trans. Med. and Phys. Soc. of Calcutta, 1835.—Pogostemon intermedius, Bentham, in Wall. Cat. n 2327.—Patchouli or Puchá Pat, Pereira, Pharm. Journ. vol. iv. p. 80, 1844.—Pogostemon Patchouly, Pelletier-Sante let, in Mém. de la Soc. Roy. des Sc. d'Orl. tom. v. p. 274, 1845 cum Ic.; also Pharm. Journ. vol. viii. p. 574; Benth. in De Cand. Prodr. t. xii. p. 153.—Pogostemon sauvis, Tenore.—Pogostemon Patchouli, Hooker, Journ. of Bot. and Kew Gard. Miscell. vol. i. p. 329 c. Ic.
A pubescent undershrub. Branches vague, decumbent or ascending. Leaves with stalks, opposite, rhomboid-ovate, somewhat obtuse; the lobes crenato-dentate. Spikes terminal and axillary, dense, pedunculated, interrupted at the base. Bracts ovate. Calyx hirsute, twice as long as the bracts, with lanceolate teeth. Corolla bilabiate, smooth and whitish. Stamens 4, didynamous, nearly equal in length; the filaments bearded with violet or bluish purple hairs; the anthers pale yellow, after flowering whitish. Style pale purplish, whitish at the lower part, at the apex deeply cleft. Ovaries 4, distinct.—A native of Silhet, Penang, and the Malayan peninsula.
The wild plant is collected at Penang and the Malayan peninsula, and dried in the sun. If too much dried, it becomes crisp and brittle, and is liable to crumble to dust in packing.
The dried tops (summitates patchouli) are imported into England in boxes of 110 lbs. each, and in half boxes. They are a foot or more in length. The large stems are round and woody, and, when cut transversely, show the pith surrounded with a thick layer of wood, which is remarkable for its distinct medullary rays; the smaller branches are obscurely 4-angled. The leaves are covered, especially on their inferior surface, with a soft pallid pubescence, which gives the plant a grayish appearance. The odour is strong, persistent, peculiar, and somewhat analogous to that of Chenopodium anthelminticum. It is said to smell more strongly in dry than in damp places. One writer describes the smell of it as being dry, mouldy, or earthy; and states that the Chinese or Indian ink owes its characteristic odour to it. The taste of the dried plant is very slight.
The plant, which has not been analyzed, contains volatile oil, green resin, extractive mailer, and tannin. By distillation it yields about 2 per cent, of volatile oil (essential oil of patchouli), which possesses the odour of the herb.
Patchouli is almost exclusively used as a perfume. To its excessive employment, ill effects have been ascribed. "Very recently," says a French writer, [Annuaire de Thérapeutique pour 1847, p. 75.] "a young lady was seized with a passion for patchouli. Her linen, her dresses, and her furniture, were saturated with it. In a short time she lost her appetite and sleep; her complexion got pale, and she became subject to nervous attacks. [For some remarks on the sensitiveness of some female constitutions to odorous emanations, see ante, vol. i. p. 66.] In India, patchouli is used as an ingredient in tobacco for smoking. The sachets de patchouli of the perfumers consist of a few grains of the coarsely-powdered herb mixed with cotton wool and folded in paper. Placed in drawers, they are said to drive away insects from linen, shawls, &c. Oil of patchouli is in common use in India for imparting the peculiar fragrance of the leaf to clothes among the superior classes of natives. Essence de patchouli is used by perfumers principally for mixing with other scents in the preparation of compounded perfumes, for which purpose it is considered very useful.