Derived from the aromatic roots of the Vetiveria zizanioides (Linn) Nash. botanical, Vetiver Essential Oil has come to be known as both the “Oil of Tranquility” and “The Fragrance of the Soil” in India and Sri Lanka, due to its grounding, sensuous, and deeply calming scent. Vetiver belongs to the Grass family, and is sometimes referred to as Vetivert and Khus.
Since ancient times, almost the entire Vetiver plant has been used for various applications including the making of perfumes, soaps, and cosmetics. Used in foods and drinks, Vetiver made a cooling beverage and sorbet flavoring. In tropical countries, Vetiver roots were traditionally used in the production of homemade evaporative coolers, which functioned as air conditioners before the inception of electricity. Due to their coolness, the roots were ideal for use in making grass mats. The process involved weaving the dried roots together with coir rope to make curtains, which were soaked in water before being hung in windows and doorways. As hot air passed through the cold, wet roots, the Vetiver curtains contributed not only cool air but they also exuded a comforting, alluring, earthy fragrance to the interiors of homes and functioned as insect repellants. Similarly, Vetiver grass mats were draped over cars to keep them cool as well. In India and Africa, Vetiver grass was thatched together to construct awnings, roofs, rugs, baskets, blinds, animal fodder and bedding, and other necessities for the home. To maintain cool temperatures for drinking water and to benefit from Vetiver’s health-enhancing properties, the roots were placed in Muslin sachets and kept inside clay water pots.
Since the Middle Ages, Vetiver Oil was most commonly used in scents. Its deep and woody aroma has come to be associated with masculine colognes, and it has come to be a main ingredient in a large percentage of men’s fragrances. As early as the 12th century, the Vetiver herb and the essential oil obtained from its roots have been used around the world for their soothing, protective, and uplifting properties:
In Ayurvedic practices, Vetiver Oil was respected for its spiritually inspiring aroma and for its remedial qualities. Accordingly, it was used to address countless health concerns including imbalances in psychosomatic temperament, arthritis and other joint disorders, muscular aches, headaches, fevers, loss of energy, heat strokes, and skin problems. During periods of high environmental temperatures, Vetiver Essential Oil’s refreshing properties made it ideal for cooling high body temperatures. Vetiver Oil became an integral part of Ayurvedic massages for its additional abilities to strengthen the nervous system by sedating the senses and thereby reducing the stress and physical exhaustion linked to low immunity. Before marriages took place, brides were given a purifying massage with Vetiver Oil.
Inspired by Ancient Chinese beliefs, Vetiver Essential Oil was used in traditional medicine to soothe and replenish dry skin, to balance the emotions, to ease negative feelings, to stimulate focus and energize the body, and to calm and cool the body. When patients suffered from a deficiency in their “Yin,” which often resulted in problems associated with the mind such as a dissociative state of depression, they were prescribed Vetiver Oil to use in meditation. Although similar applications of Vetiver Essential Oil exist today, there are several other natural applications that will be highlighted in this article.
With over 100 sesquiterpene compounds and their derivatives, Vetiver Essential Oil’s composition is known to be intricate and thus somewhat complicated. The main chemical constituents of Vetiver Essential Oil are: Sesquiterpene Hydrocarbons (Cadinene), Sesquiterpene Alcohol derivatives, (Vetiverol, Khusimol), Sesquiterpene Carbonyl derivatives (Vetivone, Khusimone), and Sesquiterpene Ester derivatives (Khusinol Acetate). The main constituents that are known to influence the aroma are α-Vetivone, β-Vetivone, and Khusinol.
It is believed that this scent – known for its fresh, warm yet cooling, woody, earthy, and balsamic notes – can encourage feelings of confidence, stillness, and tranquility. Its sedative properties have made it ideal for use in relieving nervousness and restoring a sense of serenity, and it is reputed to effectively diminish feelings of anger, irritability, panic and restlessness. The strengthening properties of Vetiver Oil have made it an ideal tonic that eases problems of the mind to promote restful sleep and stimulate or enhance libido. By balancing emotions to promote positive moods, it also boosts immunity. Its scent can freshen a room while deodorizing any lingering stale odors, such as those that remain after cooking or smoking.
Used cosmetically or topically in general, Vetiver Essential Oil is known to be a deeply hydrating moisturizer that firms, tightens, and protects skin against the harsh effects of environmental stressors, thereby reducing the appearance of wrinkles and exhibiting anti-aging properties. By conditioning and nourishing the skin, Vetiver Oil promotes the growth of new skin. Its regenerative properties facilitate the healing of wounds as well as the disappearance of scars, stretch marks, and acne, among other skin ailments.
Vetiver Essential Oil’s low evaporation rate and its solubility in alcohol makes it an ideal ingredient for use in perfumery. Accordingly, it has become a significant component in several perfumes offered by prominent brands. Some prevalent fragrances that incorporate Vetiver include Vetiver by Guerlain, Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel, Miss Dior by Dior, Opium by Yves Saint Laurent, and Ysatis by Givenchy.
Used medicinally, Vetiver Essential Oil works as a natural anti-oxidant that promotes relief from various types of inflammation such as that of the joints or inflammation caused by sunstroke or dehydration. “Vetiver Oil is known to relieve the body of aches and pains while easing mental and physical exhaustion as well as insomnia. Its tonic properties are reputed to have regenerative and immune-enhancing effects.”With its strengthening and grounding properties along with its comforting scent, Vetiver Oil is reputed to balance and preserve emotional well-being while enhancing concentration. This profoundly calming and relaxing effect has the added benefit of enhancing sensual moods and promoting restful sleep. When used in a therapeutic massage, the tonic properties of this oil enhance circulation and boost the metabolism as well as digestion. Its anti-septic properties are known to facilitate the healing of wounds by eliminating and preventing the growth of harmful bacteria.
As illustrated, Vetiver Essential Oil is reputed to have many therapeutic properties. The following highlights its many benefits and the kinds of activity it is believed to show:
Vetiver is a tall, erect, rigid, fragrant perennial grass that belongs to the Poaceae (formerly called Gramineae) grass family. It shares many similarities in form and structure with other fragrant grasses such as Citronella, Lemongrass, and Palmarosa. It is also related to cereal crops such as Barley, Sorghum, Millet, Rye, Wheat, Maize, and Rice. Like other true grasses, the Vetiver plant has long, narrow blades that grow in tufts or bunches, and it is widely cultivated for the purpose of offering a protective border along roads, gardens, and between adjoining fields. Vetiver is indigenous to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Malaysia but is also cultivated in other tropical regions around the world, including Guatemala, Honduras, Brazil, Argentina, Haiti, Jamaica, Belgian Congo, Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, India, China, and Australia.
Although Vetiver prefers sandy loam or clay loam soil and climates that are tropical, sub-tropical, or Mediterranean, it can be established in various other soil types and climates. Vetiver can tolerate alkaline, highly acidic, or saline soil types as well as those with high levels of heavy metals, manganese, and aluminum. Vetiver is drought-tolerant and frost-resistant with an ability to endure temperatures as high as 50°C (122 °F) and as low as -10°C (14 °F); however, temperatures below 5 °C (41 °F) cause the roots to become dormant while frost causes the shoots to become dormant or to die. The underground parts of the plant can endure the low temperatures and the plant may regrow with improving weather conditions. Vetiver can also thrive in regions that may have a minimum annual rainfall of 450 mm. With a sensitivity to full shade, Vetiver will experience slower growth if kept out of the sun. This is especially true of young plants. Vetiver grass may grow to be 5 ft.
With a strong, complex, fibrous, and strongly scented root system that grows deep into the ground – deeper than some tree roots – Vetiver is reputed for its ability to hold topsoil in place, to restore damaged topsoil, to protect soil from erosion and infertility, and for its ability to conserve water. By drawing water into the soil, it enhances the soil’s properties by stabilizing it, controlling weeds, acting as a natural insect repellant, sustaining soil moisture, replenishing depleted groundwater, reviving springs, and absorbing chemical toxins such as those found in pesticides and fertilizers.
For various environmental problems around the world, Vetiver is an ideal solution: the depth of Vetiver roots means the plant is not easily extricated from the earth, and this strength has made Vetiver an ideal stabilizer for railway cuttings, due to its ability to prevent rockfalls and mudslides; in more than 100 countries, Vetiver is used to detoxify the environment with its phytoremediation properties; Vetiver is often found near embankments for its ability to slow the flow of water, block surface water runoff, and absorb pollutants and toxins in both the soil and the water.
During propagation, Vetiver grass is planted by its root divisions or ‘slips.’ They are each planted into wet soil at a specific distance from each other in order to ensure that they will form a hedge in their first year of growth. If the soil is not wet at the time of planting, it is irrigated immediately after the slips have been planted. Vetiver produces flowers that are brownish-purple and that resemble young wheat heads. Generally, Vetiver is harvested between December and February, with the tufts often being manually dug up by their roots. For mechanical harvesting, a tractor-drawn mouldboard plough may be used to pull up the roots. Compared to manual harvesting, with this method the roots have a 15% higher recovery rate.
Vetiver roots that are intended for essential oil production are harvested between 18 months to 2 years after the plant is cultivated. The timing of the harvest is significant, as the yield of the roots and the oil percentage varies, depending on environmental conditions; an early harvest yields a higher volume of essential oil, but this oil will be of low specific gravity, which also lacks the valuable high boiling constituents. If the roots are harvested after more than 2 years after being planted, the quality of the essential oil improves, but the oil yield will be substantially reduced.
Vetiver Essential Oil is steam-distilled from the roots and rootlets or “rhizomes” of the Vetiver plant. The processing method involves first separating the harvested roots from the aerial parts of the plant, then washing the roots thoroughly. Next, they are sliced to a shorter length to facilitate drying. They are dried in the shade for 1-2 days in order for the final oil to have an enhanced aroma. Drying the roots in sunlight results in a lower oil yield. Next, the roots are steam- or hydro-distilled to extract their oil.
Once the distillate separates into an essential oil and a hydrosol, the oil is skimmed off and filtered. Similar to Patchouli and Sandalwood, Vetiver Essential Oil also improves with age, hence the decanted oil is allowed to age for several months – usually 6 – to allow the oil’s green and earthy scent to become deeper, sweeter, and fuller.
The resulting Vetiver Oil is thick and ranges in color from golden-brown to amber-brown to olive. It exudes a strong aroma that smells earthy, woody, and rich. Depending on its region of cultivation, Vetiver Oil may also have a sweet, smoky, or floral note. Its aroma has been described as being suggestive of the scent of Patchouli with a note of Lemon, and it has also been said to have the scent of woods and wetlands.
The uses of Vetiver Oil are abundant, ranging from medicinal and odorous to cosmetic. Its many forms include oils, gels, lotions, soaps, shampoos, sprays, perfumes, and candles.
Used in aromatherapy applications, the scent of Vetiver functions as a natural aphrodisiac, stimulating sensual desire. To ease a stressed mind, which is known to consequently relax the body and thereby boost libido, simply dilute and diffuse Vetiver Essential Oil. For a Vetiver blend that involves more essential oils with aphrodisiac properties, blend and diffuse 3 drops of Vetiver Essential Oil, and 1 drop each of Rose Absolute, Sandalwood Essential Oil, and Patchouli Essential Oil.
For a Vetiver blend that can be applied in a massage, diffused in a nebulizer, or added to a bath, mix together 3 drops Vetiver Essential Oil, 1 drop Lavender Essential Oil, 1 drop Lemon Essential Oil, and 1 drop Clary Sage Essential Oil. The scent of this blend is believed to stimulate and strengthen the reproductive system, address the discomfort associated with menstruation, and balance hormones. Diffusing 5 drops of Vetiver Essential Oil for 30-60 minutes and deeply inhaling the scent can be beneficial for relieving or reducing stress as well as the symptoms of a headache. The same effect may be achieved by blending 2-3 drops each of Vetiver Essential Oil, Peppermint Essential Oil, and Lavender Essential Oil.
For an uplifting Vetiver blend that reduces the feeling of being distracted and promotes concentration, especially while studying or focusing on a task, diffuse a mixture of 3 drops of Vetiver Essential Oil, 2 drops of Frankincense Essential Oil, and 2 drops of Cedarwood Essential Oil. For a sedative Vetiver blend that is beneficial for creating a calming, restful environment, addressing sleep disorders, and easing restlessness, anxiety, and emotional outbursts, blend and diffuse 5 drops of Vetiver Essential Oil, 3 drops of Lavender Essential Oil, and 2 drops of Ylang Ylang Essential Oil.
Used in cosmetic applications, Vetiver Oil can be diluted in a regular lotion or cream before being applied to the skin. This enhances the moisturizer’s ability to nourish and hydrate dry, irritated skin while reducing the appearance of wrinkles, stretch marks, scars, wounds, and uneven skin tone. Its anti-septic properties make Vetiver Oil an ideal cleanser or moisturizing toner when 3-4 drops are added to Virgin Coconut Carrier Oil. A small amount of this blend can be poured onto a cotton pad and wiped gently across the face to purge the pores of impurities and to stimulate collagen production.
The cicatrizing properties of Vetiver Oil are known to encourage the growth of new skin and thereby facilitate the fading of scars or unwanted marks, such as those left by acne, burns, diseases, and cuts. For a tonic that accelerates the disappearance of such blemishes,blend 6 drops Vetiver Essential Oil, 6 drops Grapefruit Essential Oil, 2 oz. (60 ml) Rose water, and 1 tsp. Lemon juice. With a cotton pad, apply the blend to affected areas of the skin. For a body oil that nourishes and strengthens skin while keeping it hydrated, first add 8 drops of Vetiver Essential Oil to a small dish and add to this 3 tsp. of a carrier oil. It is suggested that this blend be massaged into the skin after a shower while skin is still plump with moisture.
Vetiver can be applied to the hair and scalp to soothe inflammation associated with dandruff, psoriasis, or eczema. To create a hair mask that will revitalize the strands and reduce irritation, warm 3 tsp. of a carrier oil such as Grapeseed, Olive, or Jojoba then mix in 2 drops Vetiver Essential Oil, 2 drops Orange Essential Oil, 2 drops Lavender Essential Oil, and 2 drops Rosemary Essential Oil. Massage this blend into the hair by starting from the tips of the strands and moving up to the scalp gradually. Wrap the hair first in plastic wrap then in a towel, and allow the mask to remain on the hair for 1 hour or overnight before washing it out with a shampoo and conditioner.
Used in medicinal applications, Vetiver is reputed to have a stimulating and soothing effect on the body. For a bath that will promote the relaxation of muscles, address aches, stiffness, and inflammation, boost circulation, and promote restful sleep, 3-4 drops of Vetiver Essential Oil can be added to a warm bath. The cooling effects of Vetiver are known to be advantageous for soothing skin that has been overexposed to the sun. For a calming bath blend with even higher effectiveness, blend together 4 drops Vetiver Essential Oil, 2 drops Lavender Essential Oil, and 2 drops Rose Absolute. Add this blend to 2 tsp. of Sweet Almond Carrier Oil. Pour the mixture under running water in a bath tub to allow for better dispersion of the blend in the water. Soak in this bath blend for a minimum of 10 minutes.
In a massage, Vetiver Oil is known to ease physical and mental exhaustion, accelerate the relief of aches, and have an invigorating, regenerative effect on skin. For a massage blend that addresses injuries, dilute 4 drops Vetiver Essential Oil, 3 drops Lavender Essential Oil, and 2 drops Bergamot Essential Oil in 1 oz. (30 ml) carrier oil. Massage this blend into sites of injury. For a massage blend that addresses the discomfort of arthritis, dilute 4 drops Vetiver Essential Oil, 3 drops Marjoram Essential Oil, 2 drops Frankincense Essential Oil, and 2 drops Rosemary Essential Oil in 1 oz. (30 ml) carrier oil. Massage this blend into the affected areas. For a massage blend that relaxes the body and mind, 3 drops Vetiver Essential Oil can be blended with 6 drops Roman Chamomile Essential Oil and 6 drops Bergamot Essential Oil before being added to a massage oil of personal preference.
To use Vetiver Oil in a natural salve that encourages relaxation and restful sleep, first combine ½ cup Coconut Carrier Oil and ¼ cup Beeswax in a pot on the stove and thoroughly melt them together over medium heat. Remove this mixture from the heat and allow it to cool. Next, thoroughly mix in 10 drops Vetiver Essential Oil and 10 drops Lavender Essential Oil. Transfer the blend to a glass jar and allow it to cool once more. Apply this salve to the bottoms of the feet before bed.
VETIVER ESSENTIAL OIL
Botanical Name:Vetiveria zizanoides
Country of Origin:Indonesia
As with all other New Directions Aromatics essential oils, Vetiver Essential Oil should never be ingested due to its toxicity. It is imperative to consult a medical practitioner before using Vetiver Oil for therapeutic purposes. Pregnant and nursing women and those taking prescription drugs are especially advised not to use Vetiver Essential Oil without the medical advice of a physician. The oil should always be stored in an area that is inaccessible to children, especially those under the age of 7.
Prior to using Vetiver Oil, a skin test is recommended. This can be done by diluting the essential oil in a carrier oil and applying a small amount to a small area of skin that is not sensitive. Vetiver Oil must never be used near the eyes, inner nose and ears, or on any other particularly sensitive areas of skin.
Vetiver Oil is known to be a non-toxic, non-irritating, and non-sensitizing oil and the only known potential side effect of Vetiver Oil is its ability to induce miscarriages when used by pregnant women. In the event of an allergic reaction, discontinue use of the product and see a doctor, pharmacist, or allergist immediately for a health assessment and appropriate remedial action. To prevent side effects, consult with a medical professional prior to use. Those with health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, liver damage or skin disorders are especially recommended to be advised.
Those seeking medical care to manage moods, behaviors, or disorders should treat this essential oil as a complementary remedy rather than a replacement for any medicinal treatments or prescriptions.