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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.