Vetiveria zizanioides is a densely tufted perennial grass growing to a height of up to 3 meters belongs to the Gramineae family, is a densely tufted perennial grass growing to a height of up to 3 meters belongs to the Gramineae family. It is native to India and is a grass of the wet tropics. In India it usually grows below 300 meters but altitude appears to be less important than climate as it is also planted up to 700 meters in other countries, which include Java and Reunion. The main rootstock is a stout, branching rhizome developing an extensive but not deeply penetrating fibrous mat of aromatic roots. The plant and rhizome have been prized in India for their aromatic properties and are mentioned in the Hindu Atharvaveda. In India it is known as ‘khas-khas’ or ‘khus-khus’, it is also known in India and Sri Lanka as the ‘oil of tranquility’. The grass has to be at least two years old before the roots can be dried in the hot sun, then they are cut up very finely and steam distilled. In India and other Asian countries aromatic fans, mats and screens are made out of the plants and rhizome. Rhizomes are used a lot to scent the air in rooms and house, the Rhizomes can be hung up in the house, sometimes bags of wet rhizomes are placed in front of electric fans to cool and scent rooms, or they can be added to sachets to perfume clothes.
The essential oil is found in the rhizomes and the oil content can vary quite considerably depending on where the plant is grown and how old the roots are. Roots less than 15 months old generally have low oil content and the oil has a harsher, grassy or earthy odor. Roots over 24 months old have a high oil content, a lower proportion of fibrous material, yield high quality oil, but distilling time is prolonged. The average oil content of Indian material seldom exceeds 2% and the oil content collected from wild plants is below 1% averaging around 0.15%. According to E. A. Weiss it is only the very low cost of collection and distilling that allows this system to continue. Oils collected from the wild (mainly in the north) is differentiated from oils collected from the cultivated vetiver (mainly in the south) by calling the oil from wild plants khus oil and the oil from cultivated plants vetiver. The essential oil is a dark amber viscous liquid with a strong, sweet, woody, earth odor. Its odor is very tenacious. Over-distilled oils have a poor, less persistent odor. The main component is vetiverol, a sesquiterpenol, normally less than 75% and often around 50%. This oil has a very complex chemical structure. The highest quality oil is often believed to come from Reunion, while Indian oil is of good quality it is seldom available owing to the strong domestic demand. Vetiver blends well with clary sage, cedarwood, citrus, jasmine, lavender, patchouli, petitgrain, neroli, oakmoss, rose, sandalwood and ylang ylang.
Psychologically, vetiver has calming, sedative and tonic properties. It can help be helpful for depression, insomnia, nervous tension, stress related disorders, mental and physical exhaustion. It is very grounding. Useful with feelings of lightheadedness as it is very grounding and grounds one back to the earth.
On the physiological level it can be used for acne, cuts, oily skin, irritated wounds, infections & inflammations as well as arthritis, muscle aches, pains, sprains & stiffness, rheumatism. It is thought to aid impotence & frigidity.
Contraindications: Generally considered Non-toxic, non-irritant, non-sensitizing and non-phototoxic.
E.A. Weiss, Essential Oil Crops, CAB International, Oxon, UK & New York, NY, 1997
Beverley Hawkins, Aromatherapy 101 Course 1999 revised 2000, 2001,2002,2005,2006