Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides) is a fragrant grass belonging to the Poaceae family and is similar to other fragrant grasses like Lemongrass and Citronella. The plant grows in large bunches and usually reaches around five feet in height. Vetiver has long, narrow, and rigid blade leaves that are bright to light green in color. The leaves can reach up to ten feet long in ideal growing conditions and are around a third of an inch wide. The flowers of the Vetiver plant are a brownish-purple color with three stamens and can be found growing in pairs. Unlike the spreading, carpet-like root structure of many other types of grass, vetiver roots grow deep into the soil. They can reach depths of over ten feet in the first year of growth and help the plant be more resistant to drought. This drought-resistance, along with its height and density, makes Vetiver widely cultivated for uses as borders between fields and properties and along roadsides. Vetiver is native to Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.
Over time, Vetiver essential oil has earned the moniker “Oil of Tranquility” and “The Fragrance of the Soil” in India and Sri Lanka, because of its grounding and calming aroma. Since ancient times, almost every part of the Vetiver plant has been used for a variety of applications. In cultures in both India and areas of Africa, Vetiver leaves were weaved to form baskets, window coverings, roofs, and awnings. In tropical countries, the roots of the Vetiver plant were traditionally used to create homemade evaporative coolers, a way to cool interior spaces before electricity. Their cooling ability also made the roots useful in making grass mats to help keep homes comfortable. The roots were weaved together with rope and soaked in water before being hung in windows and doorways to cool hot hair in the home. This had the added benefit of spreading a beautiful earthy fragrance throughout the space as well.
Vetiver essential oil has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for many years to help treat issues with dry skin, energize the body and mind, and balance and uplift emotions. Informed by ancient Chinese beliefs, Vetiver was often suggested to patients who were believed to have issues with their “Yin”. This is associated with problems of the mind and using Vetiver during meditation was a common solution. In Ayurvedic medicine, Vetiver essential oil was highly regarded for its spiritual and physical healing properties. It was used to help correct emotional imbalances, soothe joint pain and arthritis, as well as combat fevers and fatigue. Due to its cooling properties, vetiver was also used to help lower body temperature and avoid overheating in Ayurvedic practices. It became an integral part of the practice after the discovery of its ability to strengthen the nervous system and reduce stress. It is said that brides were given a purifying massage with Vetiver essential oil before their marriage took place. Vetiver essential oil has been widely used for its aroma since the Middle Ages. Considered by some to have a more masculine scent, it is a common ingredient in men’s cologne.
Vetiver is generally harvested in winter, between December and February. The plant is often harvested by hand, with the grass tufts being dug up completely to harvest the roots. In cases where mechanical harvesting is used, a tractor-drawn plow also uproots the plants. Vetiver that is cultivated for essential oil production is most often harvested around eighteen to twenty-four months after planting. This timing is important for the optimal balance of essential oil yield and quality. Plants older than two years may contain essential oil of a higher quality but the yield will be much lower. After harvesting, the roots are separated from the plant, cleaned, and dried. Vetiver essential oil is extracted from the roots of the plant through steam distillation. The oil is often allowed to age for several weeks after distillation. Similar to some other essential oils, such as sandalwood and patchouli, the aroma of Vetiver continues to develop and improve as it ages. The resulting essential oil is very viscous and amber to dark brown. It has a deep, earthy aroma with sweet and balsamic notes.
Benefits and Uses
When used in aromatherapy, Vetiver essential oil is well known for its tranquil effects and cool, earthy aroma. Its profound mind-calming properties allow it to help relieve nervousness and anxiety and combat negative emotions. Vetiver oil works to ground us and restore a sense of serenity and balance in the mind, body, and spirit. By calming stress and negativity that cloud thought, Vetiver helps to clear the mind, enhance focus, and improve sleep quality. The benefits combine to make Vetiver useful for meditation and mindfulness practices. When diffused, Vetiver essential oil can help to clear nasal congestion and promote easier breathing. It can also stimulate the immune system to help prevent the onset of illness.
Used topically, Vetiver essential oil is deeply hydrating and nourishing for the skin. It helps to tighten pores, firm the skin, and reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging. Vetiver also works to promote the growth of new skin which accelerates wound healing as well as diminishes scars and stretch marks. Its antiseptic and antibacterial properties also help to heal wounds by eliminating bacteria and preventing its growth. Vetiver essential oil can help to stimulate circulation and enhance digestion when massaged into the skin. It has also been found to reduce inflammation, helping to soothe joint pain and muscle aches. Vetiver oil can help to boost hair growth and overall hair health when massaged into the scalp. It helps by relieving scalp inflammation caused by dandruff and dryness and strengthening hair strands for longer, fuller hair. Vetiver essential oil is an ideal ingredient for use in perfumery due to its alcohol solubility and low evaporation rate. Its unique woodsy aroma is especially prized in men’s fragrances for its masculine leaning and versatility.
Here are some recipes using Vetiver Essential Oil that we love...
Mental Tranquility Diffuser Blend
- 3 drops of Vetiver Essential Oil
- 3 drops of Lavender Essential Oil
- 2 drops of Bergamot Essential Oil
- 2 drops of Ylang Ylang Essential Oil
Add water to your diffuser up to the fill line. Add drops of the essential oil blend. This diffuser blend recipe is formulated for a 200ml ultrasonic diffuser. Adjust the amount according to the size and directions of your diffuser.
Grounding Meditation Room Spray
- 4 oz Amber Glass Bottle with Spray Top
- 2 oz of High Percentage Alcohol
- 2 oz of Witch Hazel Extract
- 15 drops of Vetiver Essential Oil
- 10 drops of Patchouli Essential Oil
- 10 drops of Lavender Essential Oil
Add high percentage alcohol to the bottle. Add the essential oils and fill the remainder of the bottle with witch hazel, leaving a little space at the top. Shake well before each use.
Forest Fresh Roll-On Cologne
- 10 ml Amber Glass Roll-On Bottle
- 10 ml of Fractionated Coconut oil
- 10 drops of Vetiver Essential Oil
- 5 drops of Cedarwood Essential Oil
- 3 drops of Fir Needle Essential Oil
Add the essential oils to the bottle. Fill the rest of the bottle to the top with fractionated coconut oil. Replace the rollerball and cap and gently shake. and roll across your skin.
Skin Renewing Body Balm
- 1 oz of Cocoa Butter
- 1 oz of Shea Butter
- ½ oz of Sweet Almond Oil
- ½ oz of Jojoba Oil
- 30 drops of Vetiver Essential Oil
- 20 drops of Rosemary Essential Oil
- 20 drops of Lavender Essential Oil
Add cocoa butter and shea butter to a double boiler and heat on low to medium heat until fully melted. Remove from heat and stir in sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, and essential oils. Pour into a jar or tin and allow to cool and harden for several hours.
Soothe and Heal Massage Oil
- 2 oz Amber Bottle with dropper top
- 2 oz of Fractionated Coconut Oil
- 15 drops of Vetiver Essential Oil
- 10 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil
- 5 drops of Cinnamon Essential Oil
Add ingredients to the bottle and shake to combine. Add a few drops to the affected area and gently massage in circular motions.