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  • Writer's pictureJackie Koenig, L.Ac.

Chinese Herb Essential Oil: Huo Xiang (Patchouli)- Free the Gut, Free the Mind

Learn how the herb Huo Xiang (Patchouli) has the power to break up congestion of the spirit & gut!

Image of live Huo Xiang Patchouli plant with leaves and purple flowers

Welcome to the first post in our Chinese Herb Essential Oils Series!

First up is Patchouli, known as Huo Xiang in Chinese Medicine, an herb known for its musky, woodsy scent. Each herb in the Chinese Materia Medica is assigned to a specific category based on a primary use or action. For Huo Xiang, we are in the "Aromatic Transforming Dampness" category, meaning its focus will be on the digestive system. Learn more about how this herb might help you on your healing journey!

What can Huo Xiang Essential Oil help with?

Digestive Issues

The essential oil of Huo Xiang is perfect to use whenever digestive issues occur, but especially in the Late Summer, the season of the Earth Element, when external humidity and internal dampness tend to exacerbate digestive complaints. These issues include bloating, sluggish digestion, nausea, reflux, and diarrhea.

Dampness is either a precursor to or a byproduct of a weak digestive system. Because of Huo Xiang's "aromatic" nature, it is able to "transform" dampness and break up sloggy, mucus-like accumulations or swelling which helps support the whole gut and allow it to work more effectively and smoothly.

A study using mice showed that using patchouli essential oil topically can act with prebiotic-like effects on the gut. This means the herb can promote the proliferation of "good bacteria" in the gut that can help with nutrient absorption and digestion, and also improves the surface layer of the stomach which helps combat inflammation and issues like colitis, food allergies, and IBS. Read more about this fascinating PubMed study here!

"Stuck" Patterns of Thinking

Let's get back to that powerful "aromatic" quality of Huo Xiang. Think of taking a big whiff of a mint plant in a garden or popping a menthol/mint throat lozenge in your mouth when you're sick. (Huo Xiang is actually a part of the mint family!) What do you notice? .....Usually a dramatic clearing of the nasal passages, throat, and mind! The aromatic nature of mint and Huo Xiang helps things open, release, and clear.

This "opening of the senses" can also affect certain blockages of emotions or pent-up feelings that have a hard time coming to the surface. Huo Xiang can be a great partner during a meditation session, when you feel down for no reason and want help shaking it off, or when you're stuck in the middle of a creative process and need to clear a new path, so to speak.


Huo Xiang is also an antifungal/antibacterial/antiviral. It can be used topically to treat conditions like athlete's foot or diffused into the air in the room where someone is sick or is recovering from an illness.

Where and How to Use Huo Xiang Essential Oil

Our favorite places to use properly diluted Huo Xiang Essential Oil for digestive complaints is at Ren12, Sp4 and Sp9, and the Stomach channel (especially St36 and St41).

For emotional stagnation, trying this oil at Lv3 and Ren17 can be beneficial as well.

Use a drop or two at your selected acupoints, a little often goes a long way. Make sure to breathe in and notice the scent of the oil as well. Aromatherapy may activate certain healing properties of the herb through the short, direct route from your nasal passages to your brain!

Learn more at your appointment at Hidden Root Acupuncture, where you can purchase a small bottle of diluted Huo Xiang to take home with you and experience the transformative powers of this herb yourself!

*The statements in this post have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you are pregnant or nursing or using pharmaceutical medications, please consult your doctor before using essential oils.

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