“Deeply sedative and serenely relaxing, it (Vetiver) has an important role to play in treating the effects of our 21st century disease, stress (Ashley, 2015).” In another blog I wrote recently about stress, I didn’t realize just how important following my own intuition could be.
Sitting down to write the introduction to this article I am seeing an even deeper connection to Vetiver as I have taken the time to really sit with it given my recent stresses. While we explore this Vetiver spotlight, I hope you have your bottle nearby.
From the Botanical to the Bottle
I am often reminded by Ann Harman’s words when discussing aromatherapy and our sometimes-forgotten connection to plants. In this section, I hope to help you get reacquainted with the plant the oil is obtained from.
Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides) has several common names that include Ruh Khus, Khus Khus grass, and more depending on where you are from. It is part of the Poacea family and is a cousin to lemongrass. Similar to Lemongrass, the blades of grass look thin, sharp and long.
Most of us just use the common name Vetiver, but it is still important to take note of the botanical name as there is a second type of Vetiver with a different botanical name of Vetiveria lawsonni.
Vetiver is a grass that is often utilized on islands and low lying areas as a means to slow and/or deter soil erosion. It is used in this manner because of how long its roots can grow. The roots can grow up to almost 10 feet vertically in the ground in about a year. I have actually seen photos of roots that are about six feet long and they are a sight to see!
With hurricanes constantly threatening islands like Hawaii, Haiti, and others, Vetiver offers those islands a means of protecting their lands. Even countries like India heavily utilize Vetiver for this purpose during their monsoon seasons.
Vetiver also offers the opportunity to affect their socioeconomic status by means of growing, harvesting, and selling the roots of the grass to distillers. In Haiti, this is especially important.
In Haiti, growers will harvest the roots of the vetiver once a year. Once harvested, they are cleaned, dried and placed in large carts. The carts described to me by a distiller once were described like the old wooden carts that looked like wheelbarrows but much larger. Some growers utilize donkeys to pull the carts while others will push them to the distillery. With the roots being very porous, they are heavy but not as heavy when freshly harvested because they are dried.
There are several distillation methods for distilling, although there are really only two that are widely used for distilling Vetiver. The first and most common method is by hydro distillation. If you have ever seen my copper still patience, I often use hydro distillation.
This method requires that the plant materials sit in the pot with water covering it completely. With Vetiver, it would require some soaking in order to use the water as a means of breaking down the plant material prior to distillation (think of water as a solvent prior to distillation).
In large stills, during distillation water will be feed into the still on or very near the bottom in order to make sure the plant materials do not burn. With small copper stills that do not “feed in water,” we just make sure we have plenty of water already in our still. The heat is then turned on to a very high setting in order to pull as much oil as possible.
Hydro diffusion is a second method that is very similar to hydo distillation, but here there is one key difference. This process feeds water into the still from the top in order to more efficiently saturate the plant material. This method also tends to take less time than traditional hydro distillation which can take up to 12 hours to obtain the range of volatiles desired for Vetiver.
The oil produced from both types of distillation is very thick. Even with our largest orifice reducer, sometimes you may need to remove the reducer and use a pipette to utilize it. Just remember to put the orifice reducer back when you are finished so no additional air will cause further oxidation.
The complexity of this aroma is amazing! It is a very rich, warm, sensual, exotic, and wonderfully sweet aroma upon the first smell. I find it to also have a subtle earthy and smoky aspect that rounds out the rich smell from the roots it is distilled from. It is aromatically pleasing for any masculine blend, but soft enough for even the most sensitive of noses.
The dry down of Vetiver can be described as “long lasting, intense, sweet, precious wood and earthy (Burfield, 2016).”
An Oil to Support You
When considering emotional support, this oil tends to be very nurturing. I love oil on its own - it has an amazing ability to ground and soothe my nerves when I have pushed myself a little too far. This makes it a perfect oil to use during busier times as it really helps me in destressing a bit.
It is considered to a be a wonderful restorative oil for soothing supporting the body’s ability to balance hormonal concerns. Holmes mentions utilizing Vetiver and Geranium to support the body during PMS (Holmes, 2016).
There has also been some interesting research that supports it being used as an insect repellent towards mosquitos (Tisgratog, Sukkanon, Grieco, etc., 2017). I know earlier this year I made a lovely blend with it using a recipe the Tisserand Institute has online and it worked incredibly well (Tisserand, 2017)!
Interestingly enough, Vetiver is considered cooling for a masculine oil. Mojay writes that “In terms of Oriental medicine, vetiver oi is cool and moist in energy. It clears heat, nourishes, calms, and uplifts (Mojay, 1197).” It is no wonder that this oil can be so soothing, nourishing, and calming mentally when we have pushed ourselves to the point of exhaustion where our minds cannot shut down.
Also important to note, this oil may be useful in supporting the body during PMS and menopausal symptoms. Homes mentions hot flashes specifically in his book Aromatica (Holmes, 2016).
Chemistry and Safety Information
The dermal maximum rate for this particular oil will vary from batch to batch depending on the amount of isoeugenol content IF it has any. Tisserand & Young recommend a daily dermal max of fifteen percent based on 1.3% isoeugenol content (Tisserand, Young, 2014).
Should the amount of isoeugenol be higher than 1.3% in our analysis we provide from the chemist, please adjust your dilution rate accordingly. Our current batch has 0.71% isoeugenol content so it is possible to use more than fifteen percent topically with this batch (Christensen, 2019).
What does it blend well with?
You might be asking yourself now, “But what does it blend well with?” I’ll make that easy and just give you a list to try below. But first, a few hints to help you blend!
Try smelling the aromas of the sweet orange essential oil with each oil as a pair from the caps. So, holding the sweet orange and the bergamot cap side by side, inhale sweeping both from side to side under each nostril so you can identify if you like the to blended together. Also, you might consider whether each oil you are using is a top note, middle note or base note (I consider Vetiver a base note).
I know you will love it like I do, so below are a few recipes for you to try.
Diffuser Blend for Soothing An Overactive Mind:
Topical Blend for your own relaxing or romantic massage blend:
A Few Books to Explore Vetiver In
As I began writing this article, I realized there is so much more to the amazing plant as well as the oil that I could not possibly cover in this article. For that reason, I am encouraging you to take a look at the sources below as well as provide you with a list of books to help provide even more detail for Vetiver.
The energetics of this oil are interwoven between the emotional, physiological, and other supportive actions this oil can be used for. This section alone could be expanded to be another 500 plus words. So if you are interested in the energetics of this oil and others, I highly recommend that you read the two below books.
Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit: Restoring Emotional and Mental Balance with Essential Oils by Gabriel Mojay
The Blossoming Heart by Robbi Zeck
Ashley, E. (2015). Vetiver An Ayurvedic Medicine. The Secret Healer.
Christensen, A. (2019). Vetiver GC-MS of Be Kind Botanicals. Retrieved from https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0309/1449/files/VZH1807.pdf?17
Tisserand, R., & Young, R. (2014). Essential oil safety (2nd ed.). Churchill Livingstone.
Burfield, T. (2016). Natural Aromatic Materials: Odours & Origins(2nd ed., Vol. 2). Tampa, FL: The Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy.
Holmes, P. (2016). Aromatica: A clinical guide to essential oil therapeutics(Vol. 1). London, UK: Singing Dragon, an imprint of Jessica Kingsley.
Tisgratog, R., Sukkanon, C., Grieco, J. P., Sanguanpong, U., Chauhan, K. R., Coats, J. R., & Chareonviriyaphap, T. (2017). Evaluation of the Constituents of Vetiver Oil Against Anopheles minimus (Diptera: Culicidae), a Malaria Vector in Thailand. Journal of Medical Entomology, 55(1), 193–199. doi: 10.1093/jme/tjx188
Tisserand, R. (2017). Tick Repellent - a research-based formulation key. Retrieved from https://tisserandinstitute.org/learn-more/tick-repellent-research-based/
Mojay, G. (1997). Aromatherapy for healing the spirit: a guide to restoring emotional and mental balance through essential oils. London: Gaia.