Lavender & Patchouli

What kind of hippie are you? Do you live out hippie aesthetics and practices in every breath, or are you an ordinary hippie who embraces aspects of this style and movement, incorporating it in different ways to their everyday life?

I am the latter, a hippie of the ordinary kind. Part of that hippie identity comes with a comfort in the “natural.” Walking through untouched lands, eating simple and pure flavors, and resting comfortably in scents and plants that heal, if not our body, at least our spirit.

My love for lavender and patchouli betray my hidden identity as an ordinary hippie.


I was first introduced to lavender when I was about 11 – I was at a summer sleepaway camp and one of the girls in my cabin gave me a small sachet of dried lavender and told me to put it by my pillow at night to help me sleep. I used that sachet until it no longer had any scent, and from that day forward, lavender has stuck around.

Lavender, or Lavandula, is a genus made up of 47 species of plants that, surprisingly, is a member of the mint family. Depending on the species, lavender plants are used in home or community gardens. In additional to their fragrancy, they also attract environmental heroes helping to attract pollinators. Lavender is also used for many purposes such as fragrance (dried or from their oil), herbal medicine, and can even be used in cooking; there are a multitude of recipes for lavender infused lattes, cookies, and spirits.

These plants are native to the countries bordering the Mediterranean, but there are several types, such as the commonly known English Lavender and French Lavender that can easily be planted and thrive in our climates.


I would argue that the one scent that religiously comes to mind when we think of “hippie” is patchouli. Interestingly, patchouli, like lavender, is a perennial and a member of the mint family, native to the lands of Southeast Asia. Indonesia currently produces 90% of the world’s supply of Patchouli.

Patchouli is utilized primarily for its’ oil, which is mainly used in perfumes and to scent a variety products such as lotions as well as some less common uses in herbal medicine.

While researching the patchouli plant, I was amused to find an article titled “Why do hippies smell like patchouli?” But a quick read proves that there is a strong rationale for the correlation of hippies and patchouli.

Patchouli oil has been in use for thousands of years, but it gained tremendous popularity because of its use by the hippies in the 1960s. Experts suggest that regular use of patchouli oil by hippies is because of the raw, earthy and natural nature of this oil. Hippies preferred using products that were not artificially manufactured and were cruelty free. Those are characteristics of patchouli oil. . . . Some experts suggest that strong-smelling patchouli oil was used by hippies to mask the smell of marijuana that they have used. It was also effective in masking the smell of alcohol. The hippie culture emphasized unbounded love and inclusiveness. Patchouli oil is known for its calming and libido-enhancing effect, which made it popular among the hippies.

Why Do Hippies Smell Like Patchouli?

Essential Oils

Both lavender and patchouli are widely used in their oil forms, from aromatherapy, adding fragrancy, and herbal medicines. I have found that applying lotion with lavender oils on my joints does provide some relief to my autoimmune diseased body, however, this is my own experience, and my use of those essential oils is in conjunction with medication and other treatments. Currently, for both lavender and patchouli, there is lacking scientific evidence that they provide any specific health benefits. (My disclaimer: if essential oils impact your life and health positively, then go ahead and use them, I am not here to argue for or against their use or make any claims.)

The Cultural Impact

As much as I encourage education and conversation about different cultures around the world, so that together we can respect and celebrate the richness of our shared humanity, I am constantly reminded of how little I know.

Lavender and patchouli have histories of cultivations, and traditions far from the United States that are rooted in centuries of sacred practice. We are in an era where it is very trendy to see essential oils or to plant these perennials to enhance our own gardens, we don’t stop to think where they came from, or the richness of their history.

This awareness does not prohibit us from embracing their use, but ethical living calls us to educate ourselves and to honor the legacies of hands that have cared for and cultivated these plants that are so easily present in our lives. These are just small pieces of the sacred in our everyday lives.

What aspects of your life make you an ordinary hippie?

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