Producing Pitiful Patchouli Essential Oil

Young Living Patchouli Essential Oil

Sumatran Natives Hauling Bales of Patchoulì
Source: Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures

Below is a great little video summarizing the quality chasm between Young Living and one of the most popular retail brands.

As you watch the other company’s presentation, keep in mind that it is putting the best foot forward. At one point you see a used plastic water bottle full of a tea-colored concoction the street vendors call patchouli oil. THAT bottle of patchouli oil is barely enough to cover the volume needed by a few stores let alone the thousands of storefronts through which the company retails.

Judging by standard practice in the industry with essential oils like lavender where French records show that 12.5 times more volume is exported than what is actually distilled (see Faking Lavender), it would not be at all surprising if that one plastic water bottle of patchouli is poured into a 55 gallon drum of petrochemicals to “stretch” the oil which is then put into thousands of little 15 ml bottles with nice labels that bare the meaningless marketing line “100% PURE PATCHOULI.”

Note that the video was made in 2013 and says that Young Living has six farms. As of 2015, there are actually over a dozen Young Living farms all over the world.

Also note that Young Living understands the difference between a partnership that supports and builds-up a small farm community in a way that promotes ever-improving oil quality verses pitting a bunch of subsistence farmers against each other competing on price in the open market.

What’s the difference?

The other company shows footage of a mountain-side patchouli farm it finds after 12 hours of driving in the rain. Is there anything special about this particular farm? We don’t know. But apparently there is no specific relationship to the farm other than it makes a nice backdrop to give the impression of authenticity and to provide credibility as to the expertise of the narrator and the brand.  For all we know, the patchouli crop in the background may be reserved for another company. Or it may be sprayed with Round-up. And what are the soil conditions? Does the farmer continually add compost to build the soil or is he simply exploiting the mountainside and sucking as much life as possible out of the soil while it lasts? None of this seems to matter to the “expert.” He simply wants viewers to THINK it matters because he traveled 12 hours to get the footage.

What we DO know is that the expert goes back down the mountain to the city and seems content to get a concoction in a used plastic water bottle from just about anyone on the street. And he takes their word that it is actually what they say it is. This creates a competitive environment among the small farmers were the lowest price is the driving priority. So the farmers are encouraged to cut whatever corners possible to fill plastic water bottles with ANY cheap, tea-colored substance that smells similar to and mixes well with patchouli oil.

Compare to farms with which Young Living has partnered. A synergistic relationship is developed with one farmer that continually demonstrates his integrity. Young Living will bring finances to help turn the facility and distillery into a world-class operation. And it will bring expertise and best-practices to help the farmer continually improve the quality of the seeds, soil, plants, and, ultimately, the essential oil produced. It will bring 20 years of records on the best weather, barometric pressures, times of month, times of day, and Brix levels to determine the optimal harvest time for producing oil with the most therapeutic compounds. Young Living will work with the farmer to discover the ideal time to allow the harvested plant material to “breath” before putting it in the distiller. And the farmer will always strive for optimum distilling times, pressures, and temperatures that create the most therapeutic value, NOT THE HIGHEST VOLUME. The farmer will be taught how to constantly test for this optimum therapeutic value so he can continually improve the system on-the-fly with every distillation.

Ultimately, a sample from each batch of oil will be sent to the Young Living testing laboratory to see if it meets their standards. If so, samples may be sent to third-party labs for verification. If the batch of oil meets Young Living standards—the highest in the industry—Young Living will reward that farmer with a handsome sum for that batch. Young Living does this because it understands the value and rarity of that oil and its sharp customers place a premium on quality rather than price and marketing hype.

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6 comments to “Producing Pitiful Patchouli Essential Oil”
  1. Where Does Scent Come From?

    This article helps us understand how big the business is for fooling our senses of taste and smell with cheap petrochemical counterfeits of the natural originals. Note the quotes like this one…

    “It’s from these natural specimens that Patel and her team begin the work of creating an artificial smell or flavor.”

    The following quote is interesting from another perpective. Skeptics have rolled their eyes at Young Living distributors for two decades when we’ve said the exact same thing. But when a producer of “artificial smells” says it, the same skeptics think it’s profound…

    “Creating a fragrance, I learn, is more than hard science: It’s also about psychological and emotional manipulation. Your sense of smell is different from the other physical senses. While the eyes and ears take information and route it through the thalamus before it goes to the parts of the brain that process and interpret it, the nose sends signals directly to the olfactory receptors, which lie in the limbic system, the part of the brain that processes emotions and memory. This is why the faintest whiff of a fragrance can teleport you instantly back to a specific time or place and trigger powerful emotions—like that indelible memory of my childhood crush.”

    At the end of the article the author asked several questions like this one…
    “Should I be skeptical the next time I put on a freshly laundered shirt and remember my childhood?”

    My gut feeling: Yes, indeed, you should. The more obvious issue has to do with the toxic side effects. There has been an alarming increase of people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity…they seem to be the canaries in the mine shaft, the early warning signals of what happens to a body on toxic overload. But the less obvious issue is more interesting to me: What happens to a person when the to a person when a large portion of their emotions are triggered by counterfeit smells? Does it lead to a counterfeit/fake lifestyle. What of a whole society? Can this help explain the receptiveness of counterfeit news?

  2. Here is a press release from “the global leader in the creation of fragrances and flavours.” This may be the broker from which many other essential oil brands get their patchouli oil. Since its primary market is the “fragrance and flavor” industry, obviously, the broker’s top concern isn’t the therapeutic quality of the oil. On the other hand, Young Living, rather than going through a broker like this, has developed its own direct relationships with patchouli farmers and can work with them to maximize the therapeutic compounds in the oil produced.

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