Herbs That Really Work: Vetiver, Fragrance of The Soil

herbs that really work Nov 03, 2023


“All creatures are born of the earth, and nourished by her rich flavors. “I am the fragrance of the soil,” Lord Krishna proclaims in the Bhagavad Gita, reminding us of God’s life-giving presence within the most humble of the elements.

Every plant absorbs the prana (life force) and ojas (nutritive essence) of the soil into its body, transforming them into foods, medicines, and oils for the benefit of other beings. Yet none capture the subtle complexities of the earth’s mysterious fragrances as completely as vetiver grass, known in India as khus.”

- excerpted from Vetiver: I Am the Fragrance of The Soil by David Crow, L.Ac.


The History and Cultivation of Vetiver

The essential oil of vetiver is distilled from the roots of Vetiveria zizaniodes, also known as Khus grass in India.

Vetiver grows primarily in Indonesia, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Caribbean countries and India. In India the grass grows wild in many areas, and it is often harvested as a cash crop by nomadic tribal people. The roots are woven into sweet-smelling sleeping mats, and hung as curtains in desert homes; when the fierce hot winds blow people sprinkle water on these curtains, which then release their cooling vapor into the air.

Vetiver’s deeply penetrating roots and thousands of tiny fibrous rootlets reach through the soil to drink in its aromatic molecules, which in turn become the multi-layered perfume notes of its amber oil. Sweet and heavy, with rich undertones reminiscent of precious woods and marshlands, the oil has widely varied olfactory characteristics depending on the type of earth it grows in. Because of the diversity of compounds present in different soils, vetiver oil is one of the most biochemically complex of all essential oils.

Vetiver has been known and therapeutically used in Indian culture since ancient times to treat various ailments and as a perfume base. Vetiver is beloved to perfumers, esteemed by traditional physicians, and appreciated by people who benefit from its healing virtues. It is also a great friend to farmers, who use it as mulch for improving the fertility of the soil; animals, too, are pleased with finding the sweet grass in their meal. It gives livelihood to harvesters, and is an aromatic treasure to those who distill its rich essence.



Vetiver Oil in Perfumery

Vetiver oil is a key component in the perfume and cosmetic industry, used as a scenting agent and fixative.

Khus oil, Indian vetiver, has been used in the perfume trade for centuries. One of the most unusual, rare, and unique of the vetiver oils is distilled from the wild roots that grow in the blazing expanses of Rajasthan’s deserts. After the roots are carefully dried, they are slowly reconstituted while immersed in water during hydro-distillation. Another beloved vetiver preparation is khus attar, which is created by repeatedly distilling the fragrant steam of vetiver roots into sandalwood oil. The preparation of these aromatic treasures is a vanishing art and science.

The aroma of vetiver is one of the strongest base notes and can easily overtake other oils. For perfumery/fixative purposes, it is recommended to limit vetiver to 5% total essential oil content when combining with oils. The oil is also extremely tenacious; one drop of vetiver can linger on the skin for many days.

Like sandalwood and patchouli, vetiver oil improves with age.


How to Use Vetiver Oil

Though vetiver can be diffused, it is not recommended for some diffusers due to its syrupy, sticky consistency, which can cause clogging. However, vetiver can be premixed with thinner oils and then diffused.

Vetiver oil can be diluted in a carrier oil and used for massage. The oil is very safe on the skin, and can be used in concentrations up to 20 drops in an ounce of carrier oil.

Vetiver oil can be added to baths. Put up to 5 drops essential oil on the water immediately before entering bath, disperse. Alternately, it can be mixed with mineral salt before putting in bath. In this form it is good for respiratory symptoms, skin problems, circulatory problems, stress and nervous tension, insomnia, musculoskeletal and menstrual symptoms.



The Healing Properties of Vetiver

Used for therapeutic purposes, meditation and perfumery, vetiver is a deeply relaxing oil with a sweet, earthy scent evoking fields, riverbanks and marshlands; its overall effect is grounding and supportive to the nervous system.

In aromatherapy, vetiver oil has nervine, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, astringent and sedative effects.

Musculoskeletal System
Vetiver is an excellent oil for alleviating muscular aches and pains, relieving stiff joints, and aiding in arthritis and rheumatism. It is used in liniments and massage oils to support healthy muscle and joint function.

For these purposes, vetiver oil can be used on a compress: put 5 - 10 drops essential oil in 4 oz hot water, soak a cloth in the mixture and apply over sore areas. Alternately, sprinkle 5 – 10 drops directly on wet compress. This method is good for chest applications for respiratory symptoms, for bruises, wounds, muscular aches and pains, on the abdomen for relieving dysmenorrhea, and for skin problems.

Nervous System Benefits
In aromatherapy vetiver is used therapeutically as a nervine and a grounding essence that supports the nervous system. It is relaxing, neuro-tonic, and regenerating. Through its strengthening, balancing and regenerating effects, it supports and stabilizes the nervous system, making it a good choice for reducing stress and comforting body and mind. Vetiver promotes emotional equilibrium, enhances concentration, facilitates creativity and cools emotional intensity. Its aroma gives deeper and more restorative sleep and rejuvenation, enhances a sense of security, reduces anxiety, supports mental clarity, balances emotions, and boosts confidence.

Rest and Rejuvenation Blend
Blend: 8 drops vetiver, 8 drops clary sage, 8 drops lavender in ½ oz carrier oil such as jojoba or rosehip seed oils. Use directly on skin as a perfume, in a bath, or diffuse the essential oil blend only, when exhausted, stressed, anxious, or with insomnia.

Skin Benefits
Vetiver oil promotes skin health, supports skin rejuvenation, helps reduce acne, enhances skin elasticity, balances sebaceous activity, and fights fungal infections. It is used in cosmetic preparations for its skin-regenerating powers, enhancing skin health and radiance and preventing stretch marks after pregnancy.

To sooth and support irritated or dehydrated skin, add a drop of vetiver oil to unscented, chemical-free face or body cream.

Endocrine Benefits
Vetiver used both in massage and diffuser can reduce menopausal symptoms, alleviate PMS, and
help with postnatal depression. It is regarded as having an overall hormonal balancing effect.

To reduce the effects of hot weather, add two drops of vetiver oil to cool bath water, or apply diluted onto skin for a cool, grounding effect.

Circulatory Benefits
Used in massage and compresses, vetiver can reduce varicose veins, and improve peripheral circulation.

Immune Benefits
Vetiver oil supports immunity and strengthens the immune response in stressful situations.


The Use of Vetiver in Ayurveda

Ayurvedic medicine describes vetiver oil as cooling to pitta (anti-inflammatory), yet pacifying to vata, meaning calming and comforting to the mind. A traditional method of using the root is to apply it as a paste, which reduces fevers and cools the body. Used in massage oils, its relaxing effects spread through the skin and muscles into the deeper levels of the nervous system, helping to counteract nervousness, stress, and exhaustion. The relaxing fragrance of the roots stabilizes concentration and works as a rejuvenating tonic. Vetiver oil is used in Ayurvedic cosmetic products for its skin-regenerating powers, which make it helpful for counteracting aging of the skin and preventing stretch marks after pregnancy. It is an ingredient in liniments used for rheumatic pains and arthritis, and a soothing remedy for enthusiastic yogis who strain their muscles and joints with excessive asana practice.



The Ecological Importance of Vetiver

Through purification and regeneration, plants cure diseases of the earth's ecological terrain in the same way that they cure diseases of the body's inner terrain. Vetiver grass is one of the world's most important botanical solutions for a wide range of environmental problems. Its deep roots hold the topsoil and prevent its erosion by wind and water. These roots also capture the rain and percolate it into the soil, preventing runoff, recharging depleted groundwater, and bringing springs back to life. Like many other plants, vetiver has amazing metabolic powers that allow it to thrive in polluted environments and digest the endless stream of man-made poisons that we dump everywhere. Because the grass has a special appetite for pesticides and agricultural toxins, it is now used in over a hundred countries for phytoremediation purposes, helping to cleanse the environment in the same way that medicinal plants detoxify the organs of the body.


Vetiver Essential Oil is now in stock at Anima Mundi Herbals!  This is the same superior quality Hatian Vetiver that you know and love from Floracopeia.  After a long wait, it's back in stock, so be sure to grab yours while it lasts!

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