What's So Special About Vetiver?

by Sarah Villafranco, MD /

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INGREDIENT: Vetiver Essential Oil

FANCY LATIN NAME: Vetiveria zizanoides

WHERE IT COMES FROM: Vetiver is grown in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Java, India, and Haiti. It is a tall grass (up to six feet) with very deep roots. The grass is used for erosion control in rainy countries, as the deep roots prevent the soil from washing away in wet conditions. It is called the Oil of Tranquility due to its calming action on the mind when inhaled. The essential oil is steam-distilled from the washed roots of the grass, and it is dark brown and quite thick. The aroma of vetiver is sweet, heavy, and reminiscent of sweet, wet soil. It lasts hours on the skin or a scent strip due to its low volatility (it evaporates very slowly).

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AROMATHERAPY USES: Vetiver is used to treat stress and tension, both mental and muscular. Psychologically, it has a soothing effect on the nervous system, and can help produce a feeling of stability and wellness. It is excellent for use after a traumatic event, helping to fortify the spirit after a period of challenge. Physically, it can strengthen the action of the immune system, helping fend off illness, and it has a mild pain relief effect on joints and muscles when applied topically to the affected areas.

SKINCARE USES: Vetiver is helpful in oily or acneic skin conditions, helping tone the skin and decrease breakouts. It can also be useful in wound healing applications. It is quite safe for use on the skin, and is not phototoxic in the sun.

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THINGS TO KNOW: Vetiver has been used as a perfume in India for thousands of years, and it is now widely used in natural perfumery as a fixative and a base note. It blends well with sandalwood, patchouli, jasmine, cedarwood, and grapefruit, but should be used judiciously in perfume blends as it’s fairly potent and long-lasting.

RANDOM SNIPPETS: Vetiver is sometimes used in hot countries to weave mats, awnings, or window shades: when sprinkled with water, the material emits the beautiful scent of the plant. It is botanically related to citronella and lemongrass. It has been used to preserve vegetables, especially asparagus! Also, it’s referred to as vetivert and khus-khus (but not the kind you serve as part of a Moroccan meal).

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