Patchouli Oil Extraction Process, Techniques and More

The Patchouli essential oil is extracted from the young, dried leaves or shoots of an aromatic plant called Patchouli. This bushy herb is native to the regions of southeast Asia. Patchouli Oil has derived its name from the Hindi word ‘Pacholi’, meaning scent. This is because of its strong earthy scent, which is bound to fill the atmosphere with its mesmerizing fragrance. The Patchouli oil is somewhat related to other strong aromatic plants like Lavender, Sage, and Mint. 

It contains certain constituents like Norpatchoulenol, Caryophyllene, Patchoulol, Seychellene, Pogostol, β-Patchoulene, α-Bulnesene and α-Guaiene. These substances play a vital role in enriching the Patchouli oil with its musky, earthy odor. They also help in providing that soothing, calming feeling of tranquillity. Due to this, it is widely used in cosmetics, shampoos, oils, perfumes, creams, and many more. 

Extraction Process Of Patchouli Essential Oil

The Patchouli essential oil is extracted through the process of steam distillation of young, dried leaves obtained from the Patchouli plant. The only conditions for this include that the cell walls should be broken with Steam Scalding, Light Fermentation, or drying of leaves. One can harvest the Patchouli leaves numerous times during the year. Once they reach their dried form, they can easily be sent for distillation. The benefits of diffusing Patchouli are plenty; keep reading to find out more. 

The young Patchouli leaves of the Pogostemon Cablin undergo the process of steam distillation. One uses the first 3 to 4 pairs of its leaves to extract the essential oil with the most powerful and musky aroma. The essential oil extracted has a pretty thick texture, while its color varies from light Yellow to deep Amber. 

Most people believe that if you steam distill the Patchouli plant leaves when they are fresh and are nearing the harvesting area, you are bound to get the best quality of the oil. The oil quality of these leaves will be better than when they are dried. Though the oil is extracted from the same Pogostemon Cablin species, the color of the oil is determined by the containers in which they are distilled. If a cast-iron vat is used for the distillation of Patchouli oil, the oil turns deep or dark Brown in color while it is thick in viscosity. On the other hand, if a Stainless Steel vat is used for the distillation of Patchouli essential oil, the oil turns deep Amber or light in color while it is thin in viscosity. 

Types of Equipment Required:

The types of equipment required for the process of extraction of Patchouli essential oil are:

  1. Steam Generator or Boiler
  2. Heat Exchanger
  3. Electric Boiler
  4. Distillation Still
  5. Separator
  6. Gantry or Lifting Equipment
  7. Condenser
  8. Cooler
  9. Dry Cooler
  10. Receiver

Steam Distillation Process

Patchouli, a farmer-friendly herb, can be easily used for distillation once dried and preserved well. All parts of the plant, especially its top leaves and twigs, are known to contain the best and highest quality of Patchouli essential oil. If you store the dry leaves for about six months, you are bound to extract oil bearing the most powerful scent. Although there are other methods to produce this essential oil (Hydrodistillation, Supercritical Fluid Extraction, Microwave Distillation, Ultrasound Extraction), the Steam Distillation process is considered to be the most suitable from the consumer’s point of view.

All you need is a distillation still, a boiler, a condenser, and a receiver, and you are good to go. The herb needs to be strictly sealed inside the distillation, or else you are likely to get poor-quality essential oils due to the formation of stream channels. You must always keep an eye on the water level in the boiler.

Must Read: 5 Lesser-known Essential Oils You Need to Try Out Now

Always maintain high and low pressures (1.4 to 3.5 kg/m2) if you want to obtain a better quality essential oil. This is because the cell walls tend to rupture more during the process of Steam Distillation. It takes approximately 6 to 8 hours the completion of the distillation process. The vapors transmitted from the distillation will still cool down with a condenser’s help. The vapor of the essential oil which comes out from the distillation still will condense back to the liquid form with the help of this condenser. 

The process of Steam Distillation allows us to gather two separate products. One of them is the liquid distillate which consists of the volatile, water-soluble portions of the Patchouli plant called the Hydrosol. The other is the plant’s volatile, non-water-soluble portion known as the essential oil. The condensate remaining in the receiver tank should be left as it is for some time. This should be done to ensure that the oil has successfully separated from the water layer as much as possible. 

After the oil has separated in the receiver tank, you must use a separating funnel to further separate the oil from the water phase. Since the Patchouli essential oil is lighter in weight than water, it easily floats on the water surface while the water gets drained out. 

Now, the oil still remains thick. In order to separate every little trace of moisture from the oil, you have to add Anhydrous Sodium Sulphate at the rate of 20 to 30 g/L. Then, you must keep the distilled mixture just as it is for about 4 to 5 hours. Lastly, you must filter the oil using a Whatman filter paper to get the proper, clear essential oil. You must always remove any tiny trace of moisture as it can induce Polymerization of Patchouli oil, resulting in degrading of its quality. 

Always store the Patchouli essential oil obtained in air-tight Aluminum containers or colored glass containers up to the rim. The oil should be kept in a cool, dry, and dark place at all times. 

The Bottom Line

Patchouli oil is regarded as one of the most aromatic and beneficial essential oils to ever exist. Also, the benefits of diffusing Patchouli oil are numerous, and it is always advisable to diffuse this oil before using it.

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