Rooting for Vetiver
Updated: Jan 11, 2022
Thank you to Robin Lander, our Certified Professional Aromatherapist graduate, for sharing this information and research with us!
The oil of Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides, a.ka. Vetiveria zizanioides) is enjoyed as a soothing “oil of tranquility” the world over for its deeply relaxing qualities. The roots have been used for centuries to make aromatic and cooling sunshades, mats, and fans from India to Java. A valuable plant for water decontamination and preventing soil erosion, Vetiver is known as “miracle grass” in Thailand, alluding to its many uses. The tenacious and earthy fragrance from the precious, aromatic roots is widely used as a fragrance and fixative in perfumes, soaps, and cosmetics. The energy of Vetiver is cool and moist, and it is an ancient remedy within Ayurvedic medicine to help clear heat, nourish the body and the senses, and pacify the Vata dosha. The aroma is deep, sweet, woody, and earthy-rooty and helps increase our grounding and connection to the earth.
When it comes to natural perfumery, Vetiver is a beautiful and tenacious perfume all on its own. This is due to the complexity of its chemical makeup (well over 80 different constituents have been identified). Like most essential oils, the aroma of Vetiver will vary depending on the country it was grown in. True Vetiver connoisseurs will quickly come to appreciate the difference in aroma of Vetiver of different origins. Here are a few comparisons:
Vetiver from Java, Indonesia is deep and earthy with green notes and a woody cedar-like pungency. This oil has that distinctly smoky quality that many look for in Vetiver. It is typically dark amber-brown in color. Sweet, complex, full-bodied, and well-balanced, it wants to be the star of the show.
Vetiver from Madagascar is just as dark and earthy as the Javanese but is a bit smoother and more rounded, and slightly sweeter. The earth is wet, the smokiness is softer, and the green is more subtle. These rich and subtle qualities make this oil a favorite of perfumers.
Vetiver from India is quite different, with a cleaner, green-grass aroma. The oil is light amber in color and the aroma is intense, but more on the rooty-woody side and less sweet earth and smoke. While lovely in its own way, Vetiver lovers may find this oil lacks the depth they are used to in other Vetiver oils. This may be due to chemotype differences, as Indian Vetiver is said to be a fertile form, while Vetiver grown outside of India is typically non-seeding and sterile.
Vetiver from Haiti is a refreshing surprise, with its very light golden color, clean quality, and mouth-watering, sweet, resinous aroma. Vetiver’s classic earthy and rooty depth is there, but somehow everything is lighter and brighter without losing any complexity. The clean quality is reminiscent of citrus without it being citrusy. This is the Vetiver to wear every day, add to homemade body care products, and never tire of.
A classic and universal fixative and base note, Vetiver blends well with citrus, spice, florals, herbals, woods, roots, and resins alike. If stored in a cool dark place, Vetiver oil will improve with age, becoming deeper and more refined over time. It’s no surprise that Vetiver fans often find themselves building a precious and truly global collection.
Vetiver Materia Aromatica Profile
Family: Poaceae (Gramineae)
Origin: originating in tropical regions of northern India, the plant grows in the Himalayan mountains, southern India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Reunion Islands, Madagascar, Haiti, and Java.
Plant Description: densely tufted, tall perennial grass with long narrow leaves up to 6 feet high, and fine, spongy, fibrous, and fragrant rootlets that are light yellow to reddish-brown.
Part of Plant used for Essential Oil: washed, dried, and sliced rootlets
Extraction Method: steam distillation
Main Chemical Constituents: khusimol, vetiselinenol, a-vetivone, cyclocopancamphan-12-ol, a-cadinol, b-vetivenene, b-vetivone.
PRECAUTIONS: Non-toxic, non-irritating, non-sensitizing; the recommended dermal maximum is 15%; some Vetiver oils (from China, Java, Brazil, and Mexico) may contain isoeugenol, a known skin sensitizer. If isoeugenol content is unknown, use no more than 1 drop Vetiver in 20 ml of carrier oil or lotion. Vetiver sourced from Haiti, Reunion, India, El Salvador, and Madagascar are devoid of isoeugenol.
PROPERTIES: anti-anxiety, anti-infectious, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, anxiolytic, calmative, digestive stimulant, emmenagogue, hepatic stimulant, immune tonic, insecticidal, pancreatic stimulant, restorative, sedative, stimulates blood flow, vulnerary, general tonic, mild rubefacient, vermifuge.
Digestive: promotes digestive secretions, reduces congested liver or pancreas, supports anabolic functions, reduces poor appetite, malabsorption.
Circulation/Immune System: strengthens the immune system, coronary arteries, veins, lowers fevers, increases circulation.
Emotional/Nervous System: reduces stress, anxiety, fear, worry, obsessions, tension, insomnia, strengthens the nervous system. A protective shield, rooting and is grounding.
Muscular/Joints: reduces arthritis, aches, and pains, rheumatism, connective tissue restorative, spasms, joint injuries, and sprains.
Reproductive/Urinary: restorative, hormonal regulating, reduces PMS, cramps, hot flashes, impotence, amenorrhea, scanty periods, and menopausal symptoms.
Skin: useful for acne, cuts, infected wounds, dry and mature skin, eczema, allergic dermatitis, and is deeply nourishing.
Relaxing and Sensual Massage Oil Blend
Add the following essential oils to one ounce of carrier oil, such as jojoba oil (Simmondsia chinensis), or to unscented body lotion and shake to blend. This can also be added to a 10 ml rollerball bottle of jojoba oil to be worn as a perfume.
6 drops Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)
3 drops Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides)
3 drops Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata)
Here is another bath blend with vetiver.
REFERENCES: Vetiver photo purchased from Shutterstock: https://www.shutterstock.com/image-vector/vetiver-grass-khus-chrysopogon-zizanioides-roots-1118506517
Battaglia, Salvatore, The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy: VOL I – Foundations & Materia Medica, third edition, Zilmere, QLD, Black Pepper Creative, 2018, p. 586-591.
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Dechen, Shanti, Aromatherapy Certification Level 1 Text, Crestone, CO, 2021, p. 115-128.
Holmes, Peter, Clinical Aromatherapy, Cotati, CA, Tiger Lily Press, 2001, p. 130-134.
Mojay, Gabriel, Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit, Rochester, VT, Healing Arts Press, 1997, p. 124-125.
Purchon, Nerys and Cantele, Lora, The Complete Aromatherapy and Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness, Toronto, ON, Robert Rose Publisher, 2014, p. 115.
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https://www.aromaweb.com/essential-oils/vetiver-oil.asp; retrieved July 13, 2021
https://www.edenbotanicals.com/vetiver-haiti-organic.html; retrieved July 13, 2021
Robin Lander is a NAHA Certified Professional Aromatherapist®, herbalist, Intuition Medicine® practitioner, wellness educator, product formulator, and mother. A recent graduate of the Professional Program at Aroma Apothecary Healing Arts Academy, she lives in northern California where she has worked as a practitioner in integrative health clinics, served as a consultant and educator for nurses at a local hospital, and helped to create and teach a clinical herbalist training program. Robin spent 16 years within the natural products industry as an international sourcing specialist, formulator, and educator, bringing to market over 40 aromatherapy and skincare blends. She now provides consulting and custom blending services for individuals and body care companies. Dedicated to the healing message of the plants, she combines aromatherapy and intuitive energy work in her clinical practice, helping individuals restore harmony in mind, body, and spirit.