Vetiver Essential Oil
Vetiveria zizaniodes, more commonly known as vetiver, is a perennial grass that belongs to the Poaceae family. It was originally discovered in India, although its existence was spread through trading worldwide and can now be found in the other areas like Southern United States, Haiti and Indonesia.1
Vetiver essential oil is obtained through steam distillation of the plant’s thick and fibrous roots, rendering a light to dark brown viscous oil.1 Color and chemical properties will vary according to the geographic area of origin of the plants, and the chemical properties of them. In India, oil that originates from the north is commonly used in the perfume industry. Its southern counterpart has less sophisticated notes although it’s still widely used for aromatherapy and natural remedies.1
Vetiver essential oil contains several bioactive compounds, which are responsible for the aromatic properties of the essential oil as well as other therapeutic uses. Among the main benefits associated with vetiver oil are remedies for acne, arthritis, cuts, depression, exhaustion, insomnia, muscular aches, oily skin, rheumatism, sores and stress.1,2
With many common uses, including health related ones, vetiver essential oil occupies a central position as one of the most important essential oils widely used industrially, as well as in natural remedies.
Vetiver Essential Oil Uses
Used in traditional medicine in India for centuries, the potent properties and therapeutic advantages of vetiver essential oil quickly spread to all continents. Today this oil is extensively employed for variety of purposes, the most important ones listed below.
The high quality and powerful notes of vetiver essential oil makes it an ideal candidate for the perfume industry, and has been a preferred base note for commercial fragrance producers worldwide.2
To create a natural, homemade perfume, combine 2 to 3 drops of vetiver essential oil with 1 Tbsp. of carrier oil (preferably jojoba, coconut or almond) and mix well. Apply to the sides of the neck or onto your wrists for a pleasant, earthy aroma.
When used in aromatherapy, vetiver essential oil has been reported to improve mood, and have a relaxing effect.
Add 2-3 drops of vetiver essential oil to a diffuser and allow the aroma to spread throughout the room. For a homemade diffuser, boil 1-2 cups of water and add 2-3 drops of essential oil.
An alternative method for aromatherapy is to rub 2 or 3 drops of essential oil between the palms and then inhale the fragrance from your cup-shaped hands.
Vetiver essential oil has been shown to be a potent insect repellent. To naturally ward off insects, apply several drops of essential oil near the entrance of a room or corridor that insects normally use to go into the house.
To obtain similar results with flying insects, add 2 drops of essential oil into a diffuser and let if diffuse in the room. Always make sure to use essential oils sparingly as the fragrance can become very strong and unpleasant if used in excess.
The relaxing properties of vetiver essential oil make it the perfect candidate for adding to a comforting bathing session. Simply add 1 to 2 drops of oil into the running water of a hot bath before getting in.
Vetiver essential oil can be massaged into the skin to help improve blood circulation. Dilute 1 or 2 drops of pure essential oil in 1 Tbsp. of carrier oil and massage over the skin.
Closely related to the use in aromatherapy, the powerful soothing effect of vetiver essential oil puts it on top of the list as a sleep enhancing agent. The sedative effects may help relieve tension from aching muscles and improve sleep quality.
To promote a restful sleep, add 1 drop of vetiver essential oil to the corner of your pillowcase.
To help relax and combat stress, make a natural balm that can be applied to the skin. Start by mixing together ½ cup coconut oil with ¼ cup of beeswax. Heat them together until well mixed. Then add 10 drops of vetiver and lavender essential oils each. Let it cool down until solidified. Apply close to your nostrils when you are in need of relaxation.
Create a natural, homemade deodorant using vetiver essential oil. Simply mix together 1 cup of water with 1 Tbsp. of white vinegar and 1 Tbsp. of baking soda. Mix thoroughly, then add 10 drops of vetiver and wild orange essential oils each. Pour into a spray bottle and apply over neck, wrists and armpits.
Benefits of Vetiver Essential Oil
The bioactive components found in vetiver essential oil have long been employed in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), particularly in India where the two geographically diverse vetiver oils render different therapeutic properties.2 Some of the most relevant benefits can be found below.
Insect Repelling Properties
In laboratory settings, vetiver essential oil has been observed to contain properties that help naturally ward off ants, termites, ticks, and cockroaches.1,3 In a study where essential oils from different plant species – clove, cassia leaf, cedarwood, eucalyptus, lemongrass and geranium – were tried against the invasive termite species Coptotermes formosanus, vetiver essential oil required the lowest concentration among all others to act as an active repellent for the insects.3 This effect is believed to be based on the two most abundant bioactive compounds in the oil.
Interestingly, vetiver is one of the essential oils that contains the least number of volatile components, meaning that its effect is based more on contact rather than by air diffusion.3 To create a more potent repellant, vetiver can be combined with other essential oils such as clove, which has been shown to effectively repel ants.
Once hypothesized to be a natural weed control agent, vetiver essential oil was recently confirmed to be a natural weed killer in a laboratory experiment. Vetiver essential oil was shown to inhibit the growth of six different common varieties of weeds when applied onto the surrounding soil. In some cases, growth stopped at the germination level.1
Effect of plant-plant interaction was also shown on commercially important species such as common peas and citrus trees, where growth was reduced in the presence of vetiver in the nearby space. The active compound nootkatone in the oil is believed to be the responsible agent for this phenomenon.1 This is a good example of how environmentally damaging chemicals such as glyphosate, could be potentially be substituted by a natural option.
The antibiotic effect of vetiver essential oil has been shown to be help eliminate a wide number of bacterial species, some of which are disease-causing in humans. Bioactive compounds present in pure vetiver essential oil may be able to eradicate infections originating from common species like S. aureus, E. choli, S. pyogenes and C. ovis.1
In fact, the effect of vetiver essential oil was 70% stronger than that of the famous antibiotic penicillin, demonstrating incredible potential in naturally reducing infections and skin conditions commonly caused by these species.1
In a widespread study investigating antimicrobial activity of several plant essential oils, it was found that vetiver was one of the most potent essential oils in eliminating the growth of S. aureus, the bacteria responsible for human skin infections in lumps, acne, abscesses and other ailments.4
The antifungal effects of vetiver essential oil have been tested against a wide variety of plant and animal fungi-infecting species. In particular, vetiver oil was observed to completely eliminate A. alternate and F. oxysporium, which cause blight – a common plant disease that causes lesions on leaves and fruits – and wilting of tomato plants.1
At the same time, growth inhibition was observed when vetiver essential oil was applied to the common human pathogen C. albicans, potentially making it a natural, therapeutic remedy for infections caused by this fungus. Southern vetiver essential oil also showed potent results on R. solani and A. niger (black mold) species.1
Vetiver essential oil demonstrated notable antioxidant activity when evaluated against common oxidants in laboratory tests. It was found to have deep free radical scavenging power, acting over reactive oxygen species like superoxide, peroxide and hydroxyl anions. This renders it a potential anti-aging substance when applied over skin.1
At the same time, since free radicals derived from oxygen-reactive species are presumably linked to the formation of tumors, it may be possible for the bioactive components present in vetiver essential oil to help fight such damaging chemicals.5 While further research is still necessary, this activity makes vetiver essential oil a strong, potential candidate for cancer research.
Vetiver Essential Oil Side Effects
Vetiver essential oil is considered safe for inhalation and topical use when diluted appropriately. Essential oils are highly concentrated and may be harmful or toxic if ingested. Do not consume vetiver essential oil unless under the direct supervision of a health care provider.
Vetiver essential oil is not recommended for pregnant women in their first trimester. Lactating women should also be careful with the use of this essential oil. Always consult with a physician before using vetiver essential oil on a child.1
Where to Buy Vetiver Essential Oil
Previously, high quality essential oils could only be bought at specialty health stores, or through
expensive multi-level marketing companies. Now, due to advancements in technology, extremely high grade essential oils can be purchased over the internet at very reasonable prices.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Chahal, K.K., Bhardwaj, U., Kaushal, U., & Sandhu, A.K. (2015) Chemical composition and biological properties of Chrysopogon zizanioides (L) Roberty Syn. Vetiveria zizanioides (L) Nash – A Review. Indian Journal of Natural Products and Resources. 6(4):251-60. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2lyLHkQ
- Lavania, U. C. (2003) Other uses of vetiver: Part II. Vetiver oil. Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Vetiver and Exhibition, Guangzhou, China. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2lEPaiF
- Zhu, B. C. R, Henderson, G., Chen, F., Fei, H. & Laine, R. A. (2001) Evaluation of Vetiver Oil and Seven Insect-Active Essential Oils Against the Formosan Subterranean Termite. Journal of Chemical Ecology. 27(8): 1617–1625. DOI: 1023/A:1010410325174
- Hammer, K. A., Carson, C. F. & Riley, T. V. (1999) Antimicrobial activity of essential oils and other plant extracts. Journal of Applied Microbiology. 86(6): 985–990. DOI: 1046/j.1365-2672.1999.00780.x
- Sabharwal, S.S. & Schumacker P.T. (2014) Mitochondrial ROS in cancer: initiators, amplifiers or an Achilles’ heel? Nature Reviews Cancer. 14: 709–721. DOI:1038/nrc3803