A Deeper Look Series: Vetiver Essential Oil

Vetiver is a grounding and relaxing essential oil used to alleviate the effects of depression, anxiety and insomnia. It is distilled from the roots of Vetiveria zizanioides, a grass plant used for its anti-inflammatory qualities in the Indian medicinal tradition, ayurveda.

Vetiver’s warming qualities are beneficial in rheumatism, arthritis and muscular pain. It also regulates the secretion of oestrogen and progesterone supplementing hormones during menopause and PMS.

Plant Description


Vetiver is a perennial grass that grows in dense clumps reaching up to 150 centimetres (5 ft). It has a large but not very deep root system and it is these roots that are used to produce the Vetiver Essential Oil. Native to India, vetiver is grown commercially at Java, the Seychelles, Réunion Island, Brazil, Haiti and Japan. Vetiver Essential Oil is also produced in India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. In these countries it is sourced from plants growing in the wild.

Vetiver Essential Oil is steam-distilled from the roots and rootlets of Vetiveria zizanioides. The process is slow and cumbersome as the roots will first have to be dug up from the ground, then soaked in water, dried and chopped up into small pieces. The resulting essential oil is thick and viscous. It has an amber-brown colour and an odour that has been described as sweet, subtle, heavy and smoky, with traces of roots and the wet soil from where it came from.

Vetiver belongs to the Gramineae or grass family of plants. Its name is derived from the Tamil word for root, ver, and it is related to other medicinal grasses used for essential oil production, such as lemongrass and citronella. It blends well with clary sage, jasmine, sandalwood, cedarwood and lavender essential oils.

Historical and Other Uses of Vetiver


The roots of the vetiver plant have been used in the Indian medical system, Ayurveda, for hundreds of years. It has helped people with rheumatoid arthritis, fever and headaches. It has also been used to ease joint and skin inflammations.

The grass, called kuskus in India, emits a pleasant fragrance when damp. For this reason, it has been traditionally used for weaving household items, including mats that are hung in doorways. These are then kept wet, which cools and deodorises the passing air.

In Sri Lanka, the vetiver oil is called “the oil of tranquility”, referring to its calming and sedative effects on the human mind.

In the current perfume industry, vetiver is used as a fixative and a basenote odour.

For Women’s Health


Vetiver Essential Oil is an antiseptic, a nervine, a sedative, a rubefacient and a tonic. Its chemical composition is complex, with vetiverol being the main component and making up 50-75% of the whole. The earthy odour present in vetiver is due to carbonyl compounds called α-vetivone, β-vetivone and khusimone.

In a 1996 study, Vetiver Essential Oil was shown to have an antimicrobial effect against Trichomonas vaginalis bacteria, the cause of trichomoniasis, an infectious, sexually transmitted disease.1

Vetiver Essential Oil is recommended for menopausal women suffering from low hormone levels and hot flashes.

Vetiver can also help with premenstrual syndrome as it boosts the body’s levels of progesterone and oestrogen hormones. The lack of progesterone may lead to low self-esteem. Deficiencies in oestrogen manifest as depression and a tendency to cry easily. This hormonal balancing of the female reproductive system has an encouraging effect on menstruation where it is scanty or non-existent.

Grounding and Relaxing


Vetiver Essential Oil has a marked calming effect on the mind. It can be used to treat depression, anxiety and insomnia. It is an excellent choice for those who have experienced a shock or are in a prolonged traumatic situation, such as a divorce.

In addition to possessing calming qualities, Vetiver Essential Oil is also grounding. It is suggested for individuals who tend to be vague and have their heads in the cloud. In the same vein, vetiver can be useful for overly intellectual people who live in their minds at the expense of the physical, whether it be exercise or just awareness of one’s body.

Finally, the relaxing and soothing properties of Vetiver Essential oil are useful for people in demanding jobs as it reduces the effects of burnout and makes it faster for the body and mind to recover from exhaustion.

To help with all types of mental agonies, add 1-2 drops of Vetiver Essential Oil into a carrier oil and use for a gentle massage. You can also add vetiver to your nightly bath. 1-2 drops is sufficient in this case also.

Vetiver in Skin Care


Vetiver Essential Oil has a firming effect on the extracellular matrix or the connective tissue of the skin. It can be used to tighten atrophic skin where the skin has become thinner and lost some of its subcutaneous fat. This can happen, for instance, as a result of prolonged use of topical corticosteroids.

As an antiseptic, Vetiver Essential Oil has a healing effect on acne and oily skin. It has a somewhat “dark” smell and may thus be appreciated by teenaged boys most often suffering from these skin conditions.

Personality and Energy


The vetiver personality is earthing and centering. It is also strong, intelligent and wise. It has a toughening effect on over-sensitive individuals who absorb other people’s energies, whether positive or negative.

Vetiver boosts the body’s female energy and has a positive effect on the immune system, stimulating the blood flow and the functioning of the liver and the pancreas. As a rubefacient or a warming oil, vetiver can be used to ease muscular pains as well as those caused by arthritis and rheumatism.

Vetiver Essential Oil is recommended for individuals who wish to build their immunity and feel that they have lost touch not only with the earth beneath their feet but also with their own roots and history. It can also be used to increase inadequate appetite that leads to weight loss and, possibly, anaemia.

Vetiver Essential Oil Applications

Use Vetiver Essential Oil topically in massages, compresses, baths and ointments. For skin care applications, mix Vetiver Essential Oil with a skin tonic or lotion.

Vetiver can also be inhaled directly from the bottle or vapourised in a diffuser or an oil vapouriser.

To take Vetiver Essential Oil internally, add one drop in a teaspoon of honey or coconut oil.

With all applications, use only a small amount of oil as a little goes a long way.


Vetiver Essential Oil is non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitising. It should not be used on children under six years old. With older children, very mild dilutions are recommended.

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