Oil with Rhodiola rosea on board
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Patchouli oil is an essential oil with a distinctive earthy scent. It is found in a number of fragrances, hair care and bath products because of its aroma. It is also used in aromatherapy as practitioners believe that the oil can have several positive effects on people, though there is no medical evidence to back these claims up. Patchouli oil has few side effects, but users of the pure oil should be aware of potential hazards.


The Material Safety Data Sheet, or MSDS, for patchouli oil indicates it is hazardous if ingested. If the oil is swallowed, contact Poison Control immediately. As with any oil-based material, do not induce vomiting as the oil could enter the victim's lungs during vomiting.

Skin and Eye Irritation

Many essential oils can irritate skin because they are highly concentrated. Patchouli oil should not be applied to the skin at full strength. It should be mixed with a non-petroleum based carrier oil at a concentration of 15 drops of patchouli oil to 1 oz. of carrier oil. If full-strength oil contacts the skin, wash it off with soap and water immediately. There may be mild skin irritation, but a severe reaction could indicate an allergic response and require medical attention.

If the oil gets into the eyes, do not rub the affected area. Flush the eyes with lukewarm water for 15 minutes. An eye flush should begin at the bridge of the nose so the water flows from the inner corner to the outer corner of the eye and does not risk contaminating the other eye.


The strong odor of patchouli oil can be overwhelming to some people. If you begin coughing or become dizzy or sick when exposed to the oil, move to a well-ventilated area away from the odor. The long-term effects of inhalation are unknown.


Patchouli oil can pick up pesticides used during plant growth and transfer those toxins to people during use. Although the amount of pesticide is small, opt to use oils from organic sources.


Patchouli oil may be combustible at high temperatures, so it should be stored away from heat or ignition sources. In the event of a fire, do not use water as it will cause the burning oil to float and spread the fire; use a fire extinguisher instead.

Special Cases

The effects of patchouli oil have not been studied in relation to babies and pregnant women. Since infants are often oversensitive to many toxins, essential oils should not be used on babies or pregnant women even as part of an aromatherapy program.

Patchouli oil should be kept out of the reach of children. The appealing odor may entice children to drink the full-strength oil.