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Library at Thebes, inscription over the door
Vetiver has been used in the Far East since ancient times; today, vetiver essential oil is used in modern day aromatherapy.

Traditional Use of Vetiver

Vetiver (Vetiveria zizaniodes) is sometimes known by the synonyms of vetivert and khus khus.  Since ancient times, vetiver has been used in the Far East in a number of ways, including use in fragrant mats and protection for crops and animals.  In India, vetiver was an ingredient of ancient perfumes and was referred to as “the oil of tranquility”; it was also a common ingredient of incense powders in India and Sri Lanka. 

Plant Profile of Vetiver

Vetiver (Vetiveria zizaniodes) belongs to the same botanical family, Poaceae (Gramineae), as lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) and citronella (Cymbopogon nardus).  It is one of the scented grasses and is a perennial plant that grows up to 3 feet in height.  Vetiver has a large, inter-linked root system.  It is native to southern India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia but is today cultivated in the Caribbean, the Philippines, Japan, the Comoro Islands, Reunion, South America and West Africa for its essential oil.

Distillation of Vetiver Essential Oil

Vetiver essential oil is steam distilled from the roots of the plant; the distillation of vetiver is lengthly and complex, as the roots of the plant have to be dug up and dried before distillation can take place.  Vetiver essential oil is dark brown in color; it has a smoky, earthy fragrance, reminiscent of patchouli essential oil.

Use of Vetiver Essential Oil in Aromatherapy

Vetiver essential oil is antiseptic, sedative, an immuno- stimulant, a tonic, antispasmodic and ruberfacient; it is used in the treatment of wounds, oily skin, acne, depression, insomnia, arthritis, rheumatism and muscle pain.  Vetiver is an extremely relaxing, base note oil and is an excellent aid for stress, anxiety and to treat shock.

Use of Vetiver in Perfumery

Vetiver has long been an ancient perfume ingredient in the Far East; today, it is a fragrance ingredient of cosmetics, soaps and perfumes too.  The fragrance of Vetiver relates to that of strong, oriental perfumes (not flowery) and, because of this, it is a fragrance that is popular with men.

Cautions for Using Vetiver Essential Oil

Vetiver essential oil is non-sensitizing, non-irritating and non-toxic, due to its large chemical make-up of gentle alcohols.  However, consult a qualified and experienced aromatherapist before using vetiver essential oil if you have a particular problem or concern.

References:

–Davis, Patricia 1999 Aromatherapy An A-Z UK: Vermilion
–Harding, Jennie 2005 Aromatherapy Massage for You UK: Duncan Baird Publishers
–Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils UK: Thorsons

This article was written by Sharon Falsetto and appeared in its original format on Suite101 as Vetiver Essential Oil

It is expressively prohibited to copy or use this article in any way unless written permission is given by the author Sharon Falsetto.  If it is discovered that copyright laws have not been complied with, legal action will be pursued by the author Sharon Falsetto.


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