The Patchouli plant
I was in the mall the other day and my hands were very dry and in need of a sample of moisturizer. I had no clue that Lush had opened the day before, or else I would not have headed off to Body Shop. But off I headed.
There, front and centre with a large sign saying "BEST SELLER!" was some different varieties of hemp lotions and potions. One was Extreme Hand Protector. Ah yes, just what I needed. I squeezed and rubbed and suddenly realized the unlisted ingredient was patchouli oil. OMG!
Patchouli oil and incense underwent a surge in popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, mostly among devotees of the free love and hippie lifestyles, since the pungent smell of patchouli is known to cover the smell of burnt cannabis and body odor. During the Vietnam war, American soldiers used patchouli to mask the smell of the graves of enemy soldiers killed in combat. War protesters of the time used patchouli on themselves, to demonstrate that "we are all one race, we are the same as the enemy soldiers." Also, the Hare Krishna movement may have been partly responsible for this surge, as the god Krishna is said to "inhabit" patchouli. It can also be used as a hair conditioner for dreadlocks. One study suggests Patchouli oil may serve as an outdoor insect repellent.
I don't think I had body odour to disguise, and it's been quite a number of years since I have needed to mask the scent of burnt cannabis. (And quite frankly, burnt cannabis and unwashed bodies smell better.) I washed my hands and applied a variety of other products to mask the smell. But no luck. For the next two hours, every person I passed in the mall looked at me out of the corner of their eye and I could tell they were thinking, "Person who shares my air space, have you no idea what you smell like?"