Vetiver oil is not a very common essential oil, but its use dates back to thousands of years. Also known as the khus oil, this essential oil is native to India.
Vetiver essential oil offers many beneficial properties including antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, sedative, aphrodisiac, nervine, cicatrizant, vulnerary and tonic, which result in numerous uses and benefits.
What is vetiver oil?
Vetiver oil is extracted from the aromatic roots of the vetiver plant (Vetiveria zizanioides). This clumpy green grass, which can grow up to 5 feet tall, belongs to the Poaceae, which is the same family as lemongrass and citronella.
The roots of the vetiver plant are aged before they are soaked in water. The highly concentrated oil that is released is then skimmed off the top of the water.
Vetiver oil is amber brown and has a sweet, woody, smoky, and profoundly calming scent. It is also known as the ‘Oil of tranquillity’ and ‘the fragrance of the soil.’
Vetiver oil has over 100 components. Khusimene, beta-vetivene, delta-selinene, cyclocopacamphan-12-ol, vetiselinenol, khusimol, isovalencenol, phusimone, alpha-vetivone, and beta-betivone are some of its essential components.
History of vetiver essential oil
Vetiver plant has been used since ancient times for making perfumes, soaps, and cosmetics. It is also used in foods for flavoring and for making cooling drinks. It was used to make mats, which were soaked in water and hung at windows and doors to cool the air that passed through them.
Vetiver oil has been used in scents since the middle ages. It is the primary aroma in many men’s colognes.
In Ayurvedic medicine, vetiver oil has been used to treat arthritis, muscular pains, headaches, heat strokes, skin issues and imbalances in psychosomatic temperament. Vetiver oil is used in Ayurvedic massages to sedate the senses and lower stress.
Vetiver oil is also used in ancient Chinese medicine to soothe dry skin, stimulate focus and to calm the body.
Health benefits of vetiver essential oil
1. Relieves anxiety and promotes sleep
Vetiver oil has been used for centuries to calm the mind and ease tension, which is the reason why in India and Sri Lanka it is known as the oil of tranquility.
Traditionally, people used it for alleviating stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, hysteria, trauma, and panic attacks. People also use vetiver oil as a meditation aid.
A 2015 research studied the effects of vetiver essential oil on anxiety-related behavior of mice. The rats appeared to be more relaxed when exposed to vetiver oil.
The researchers also observed that the anxiolytic properties of vetiver oil might be associated with altering neuronal activation in CeL (1).
Vetiver is one of the most relaxing and soothing essential oils. It helps to promote sleep by relieving anxiety and anger.
2. Treats ADHD
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a disorder that involves hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, and inattentiveness. Vetiver oil may help such people who find it difficult to stay focused.
A 2016 study measured the effect that inhaling vetiver oil has on the brain. According to the results the rats that inhaled vetiver oil showed an increase in attention levels, and this was reflected in the measurements of the brain activity (2).
During another study, Dr. Terry Friedman tested the effectiveness of various essential oils in treating ADHD in children between the ages of 6 to 12 years.
During the study Dr. Friendman found that lavender oil increased the performance by 53 percent, cedarwood oil by 83 percent and vetiver oil increased the performance by 100 percent. He found that the calming and relaxing properties of vetiver oil helped children to combat ADHD and ADD symptoms.
Stress can lead to loss of libido over time. Vetiver is known to have sedative properties, which help to relax the body and calm the mind. This process helps to balance the hormones naturally.
Vetiver essential oil is also known to improve sleep, which is also vital for raising testosterone levels in the body (3). The calming and relaxing effect of vetiver oil has the added benefit of enhancing sensual mood and promoting restful sleep.
Vetiver also helps to strengthen the female reproductive system and balance hormones. It treats menstrual discomforts like fatigue, bloating, cramps, skin problems, breast tenderness, and emotional changes.
4. Rich in antioxidants
Vetiver oil is an excellent source of antioxidants. Antioxidants help the body by preventing the destructive effects of free radicals. Consuming food rich in antioxidants helps to maintain healthy skin, slows down aging, lowers the risk of cancer and helps detox the body.
According to a study by the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Clemson University, vetiver oil possesses strong free radical scavenging activity when compared to standard antioxidants such as butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and alpha-tocopherol (4).
5. Chemotherapy relief
Some studies have shown that the high antioxidant levels of vetiver oil can mitigate the side effects of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy drugs can inflict secondary damage to the body, as these drugs can cause toxicity.
A 2015 study from India investigated the protective effects of vetiver oil against cisplatin-induced toxicity in mice. During this study, researchers induced toxicity in mice by injecting cisplatin for five consecutive days.
When researchers gave vetiver oil to these mice, it attenuated renal toxicity, lowered the levels of serum blood urea nitrogen, creatinine and reduced DNA damage (5).
6. Boosts the immune system
Vetiver oil is an excellent tonic which helps improve the function of the immune and nervous system. When we are stressed, the adrenaline and cortisol levels in the body rise. This process increases heart rate and blood pressure. Stress slows down digestion, growth, reproduction and the immune system.
The tonic properties of this oil help enhance circulation, boost metabolism and digestion. So, natural remedies for stress like vetiver essential oil can impact brain, heart, digestion and the immune system.
7. Improves skin health
Vetiver oil has antiseptic properties that help heal wounds by eliminating the growth of harmful bacteria. It is also a cicatrisant, which means it can heal scars by regenerating skin and tissue (6). This property of vetiver oil helps in diminishing the appearance of stretch marks.
The antibacterial properties of vetiver oil help to remove harmful bacteria from the skin pores, which can lead to blackheads, acne, and cysts.
Its antioxidant and hydrating properties keep the skin moisturized and prevent premature aging.
8. Protects from bugs
Tick bites can cause Lyme disease, which can be painful and difficult to treat. To further complicate the problems, ticks seem to have become resistant to many treatments. According to a 2015 study from Brazil, vetiver oil is highly toxic for ticks (7).
It can be diluted and applied to the skin or sprayed on to the tick-infested area.
Vetiver oil is also effective against mosquito larvae which can cause diseases like dengue, malaria, yellow fever and filariasis.
Some people also use vetiver oil as a natural treatment for hair lice.
Ways to use vetiver oil
You can purchase vetiver oil from any health store. Make sure you buy 100 percent pure therapeutic grade vetiver oil.
You can use vetiver oil aromatically and topically, but you should never use it internally.
Aromatically: Use an aromatherapy diffuser to diffuse this oil in your home and inhale the scent for its health benefits.
Topically: Mix a few drops of vetiver oil with a carrier oil like jojoba oil and massage it on your skin. This process helps to keep your skin healthy and helps get rid of scars.
Bathwater: You can also add a few from of vetiver oil to your bath water to help in relaxation and improve sleep quality.
Side effects of vetiver oil
Vetiver essential oil is known to be non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing oil. However, experts do not recommend the ingestion of this oil. You can use vetiver oil topically and aromatically.
Pregnant women are advised not to use this oil as it may cause miscarriage. This oil should also not be used by children under seven.
Some people may develop an allergic reaction to this oil. In such a situation discontinue use and consult a doctor for appropriate remedial action.
Do a skin patch test by diluting this essential oil in a carrier oil and applying a small amount on a small area that is not sensitive.
You should never use vetiver oil near your eyes, inner nose, and ears.
There are no known drug interactions of vetiver oil.
Vetiver oil is steam distilled from the roots of the vetiver plant. Also known as the oil of tranquillity, this oil has a sweet, woody, smoky, and calming scent and is amber brown.
Vetiver plant has been used since ancient times for making perfumes, soaps, and cosmetics. In Ayurvedic medicine, it has been used to treat arthritis, muscular pains, headaches, heat strokes, skin issues and imbalances in psychosomatic temperament.
Vetiver oil improves health in many ways including relieving anxiety, improving sleep, treating ADHD, boosting immune function, improving skin health and protecting from ticks.
Vetiver oil is generally safe to use though it is known to cause allergic reactions in some people. Make sure you buy 100 percent pure therapeutic grade vetiver oil.