Vetiver essential oil: The essential oil collection

Our sense of smell is strongly connected to our emotions and memories as our scent receptors are located next to the emotional centres in our brain, the amygdala and hippocampus. That is one of the reasons why aromatherapy is so powerful – using oils can trigger the body’s own healing process to begin, as well as soothe and calm your mind to actually allow the process to take place.  Essential oils can also interact with certain hormones, neurotransmitters, or enzymes, resulting in a specific change to our bodies’ chemistry. Oils are powerful, and they have little or no side effects.

Vetiver oil, one of the lesser known oils. In fact, in India and Sri Lanka it’s known as the “oil of tranquility.” I only recently discovered it and can attest to this! Also known as khus oil, it has a heavy, earthy fragrance that can remind you of patchouli, with a touch of lemon. Similar to patchouli oil and sandalwood essential oil, the odor of vetiver develops and improves with aging, and the scent varies depending on the plant’s location.

The tranquil oil

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Although it is a lesser known oil to us, Vetiver is widely used all over the Indian subcontinent. Referred to by its local name Khus or Khus-Khus, it is extensively used in perfumes, food, and even beverages. The botanical name of vetiver is Vetiveria zizanoides or Andropogon muricatus and it is a grass not unlike lemongrass or citronella, but unlike other grasses, vetiver’s roots grow down, making it ideal for helping to prevent erosion and providing soil stabilization. It has a pleasant earthy or musky smell which has a cooling effect on both the body and the mind. In India and neighbouring countries, the dried grass and roots are used for the side panels of their “air” coolers, not only cooling the houses but adding a lovely fragrance to the moist air. It is also used to thatch their houses and even used in their mattresses. Further decorative uses include use as curtains and door coverings, where it not only cools and scents the rooms but also keep insects away.

The oil is obtained from the roots using steam distillation, and the main components are khusimene, delta-selinene, beta-vetivenene, cyclocopacamphan-12-ol (epimers A and B), vetiselinenol, khusimol, isovalencenol, khusimone, alpha-vetivone and beta-vetivone. The oil is amber-brown in color.

In aromatherapy it is a popular oil since it has many medicinal properties. Some of the most prominent ones being: anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, relieves insomnia, antiseptic, antioxidant and it has sedative properties. Other uses include treating heat stroke, joint disorders and skin problems. Using vetiver oil is also a way to boost energy levels when you’re exhausted. In addition, it’s used to cool the body during very high temperatures and soothe feelings of anxiety and nervousness.

The main uses and benefits:

1.     Reduces inflammation

The soothing and cooling effects of vetiver essential oil calm and pacify all sorts of inflammation.

2.     ADHD and ADD

In a 2001 study, children with ADHD inhaled either lavender, cedarwood, vetiver, or a blend of essential oils three times a day and once at night. Although it was a small study, the results showed promising results.  Lavender improved performance by 53 percent, cedarwood by 83 percent, and vetiver by 100 percent. The study found that the relaxing and calming properties of vetiver oil helped the children combat their ADHD and ADD symptoms, which typically include difficulty in concentrating, diminished focus, being easily distracted, difficulty with organization and following directions, impatience, and fidgety behaviour. The research that is being done to support vetiver oil, and other essential oils, as an effective natural remedy for ADHD is an exciting and much-needed prospect.

3.     Speeds up healing

The essential oil helps heal wounds by promoting the growth of new tissues in wounded places and also by keeping it safe from infections by inhibiting the growth of microbes. Finally, it also promotes the accumulation of leucocytes and platelets at that location.

4.     Insomnia

Since vetiver can help reduce anxiety and improve concentration, it’s no surprise that it can also help reduce insomnia by acting as a sedative. 

5.     Powerful antioxidant

Antioxidants are substances that help prevent certain types of cell damage, especially those caused by oxidation. When certain types of oxygen molecules are allowed to travel freely in the body, they cause what’s known as oxidative damage, which is the formation of free radicals, which are very dangerous to the body’s tissues. Some benefits of consuming antioxidant-rich foods and herbs include slower aging, healthy and glowing skin, reduced cancer risk, detoxification support, and longer life span.

A study done at the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition a Clemson University in South Carolina evaluated the antioxidant activity of vetiver oil in 2005. The results showed that vetiver oil possessed a strong free radical scavenging activity when compared to standard antioxidants such as butylated hydroxytoluene and alpha-tocopherol.

Antioxidants are important in skin care because they can delay the visible signs of aging.  Vetiver is a powerful antioxidant, which makes it a fabulous oil to use in skin care products.

6.     Skin care, including scars and marks

Vetiver oil is a cicatrisant, meaning it heals scars by promoting the regeneration of skin and tissue, so it’s a good oil for scars and stretch marks.  It’s also said to effectively treat dark spots, acne blemishes, and cracked skin, and is anti-ageing. It’s a natural antiseptic, so it can help kill bacteria when applied topically to the skin.  This makes it an excellent choice for skin care salves and balms, especially for dry or cracked skin.

7.     Libido enhancer and aphrodisiac, natural hormone balancer

The oil has the power to arouse feelings of sexual desire, and since sex has more to do with the psychology of the brain than the physiology, it is a remedy for most sexual disorders like frigidity, lack of libido, and impotence. Vetiver oil is not only good for raising testosterone levels in the mind; it also has gentle estrogen-like effects. It has the power to strengthen the female reproductive system and balance hormones. It also aids in treating menstrual discomforts such as fatigue, bloating, skin issues, emotional changes, breast tenderness and cramps. By working as a sedative, vetiver oil serves as a natural remedy for PMS cramps and helps the body relax and combat the daunting hormonal and emotional changes.

8.     Bug repellent

Although citronella and cedarwood are often thought of as the best defense against an insect infestation, vetiver has longer lasting effects at lower concentrations.  Vetiver oil repels termites and reduces mosquito larvae, and is also one of the most effective repellents of ticks. Treating vulnerable surfaces with a blended spray can be a quick, easy, non-toxic form of prevention. It can also help kill lice, so it’s a good oil to add to shampoo or use on the scalp if you’ve been exposed to a lice outbreak. 

9.     Anti-bacterial

This oil efficiently stops the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, the bacteria responsible for causing sepsis and eliminates them. It is totally safe for this oil to be applied externally on the wounds or taken orally in order to protect wounds as well as internal organs from sepsis.

10.  Reduces anxiety and stress

When diffused, vetiver essential oil may help for natural anxiety relief. It may alleviate anxiety, stress, insomnia, and depression.  In a 2015 study, scientists studied the effects of vetiver essential oil and its effects on the central amygdaloid nucleus, which is associated with emotional regulation, blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate. 

During the study, rats inhaled vetiver essential oil before performing stressful tasks.  They found that the oil performed the same as a prescription anti-anxiety medication. 

11.  Chemotherapy relief

Some early testing is exploring the potential that the antioxidant levels in vetiver have to mitigate the side effects of chemotherapy. This cancer treatment is sometimes necessary but always inflicts secondary damage. Tests found that damage to DNA, kidneys, and marrow were slowed compared to those without the oil, presumably because of vetiver’s antioxidant capacity,

Uses:

  • Add 1–2 drops to tea or hot drinks during winter time to promote immune-supporting properties

  • Use as a massage oil to calm emotions

  • Take a warm bath with a few drops of Vetiver essential oil for deep relaxation.

Pro tip: Use a toothpick to help get the desired amount out of container if Vetiver is too thick to get out of the bottle. A little goes a long way.

 

Directions for use:

  • Diffusion: Use three to four drops in the diffuser of your choice.

  • Topical use: Apply one to two drops to desired area. Dilute with oil of choice such as fractionated coconut oil or olive oil to minimize any skin sensitivity.

  • Bathing: Put 5–10 drops of vetiver oil in your bath water; because it’s both fragrant and cooling, using it in your bath prevents overheating and helps with relaxation and insomnia. To boost the calming results, combine vetiver oil with lavender and rose essential oils as well.

  • Massage: Make your own calming massage oil by mixing 3–5 drops of vetiver oil with equal parts jojoba oil. This combination leaves your skin clean and moisturized, and your mind at peace.

 Blending: Vetiver blends very well with other floraly oils such as jasmine, lavender, ylang ylang and grapefruit.

Word of caution:

The oil is considered safe, but can cause possible skin sensitivity so never use undiluted and always first test if you tolerate the oil. Keep out of reach of children. If you are pregnant, nursing, or under a doctor’s care, consult your physician. Avoid contact with eyes, inner ears, and sensitive areas. Some sources claim that vetiver oil can cause a miscarriage if taken by mouth, but there is insufficient evidence for that side effect. There are currently no known drug interactions.