Vetiver oil, also known as khus oil, is a lesser-known plant oil that offers a heavy, earthy fragrance.1 It is believed to be very grounding, calming and stabilizing, and provides a range of uses and benefits.2 Read on to learn more about this herbal oil.
What Is Vetiver Oil?
Chrysopogon zizanioides, commonly known as vetiver, is a perennial grass that belongs to the Poaceae family, which is native to India.3 In Western and Northern India, it is called “khus.”4 It can grow up to 2 meters tall, with brownish-purple flowers,5 tall stems, and long, thin and rigid leaves.6 Today, vetiver is widely cultivated in the world's tropical regions.7
Vetiver essential oil is derived through the steam-distillation of the plant's roots. It has a strong initial aroma, and is described as woody, smoky, earthy, herbaceous and spicy.8 One of the most valued qualities of vetiver oil is that it is deeply grounding, and often used to help promote sleep. It is also said to be equally helpful for restlessness.9
Uses of Vetiver Oil
Almost the entire vetiver plant is used for various applications. Its roots have been particularly popular since ancient times.10
Vetiver essential oil is not only extensively utilized in perfumery,11 but it’s also a flavoring agent in beverages and other foods.12 Its aromatic effect on the mind is calming and balancing, while its other notable medicinal properties include antiseptic, antispasmodic, immune-stimulating, sedative to the nervous system and stimulating to the circulatory system.13
Vetiver oil's calming and soothing properties have been believed to help dispel anger, hysteria and irritability, as well as reduce neurotic behavior. This in turn, reduces stress and tension. These revitalizing qualities make vetiver oil useful for helping relieve physical and mental exhaustion, and for addressing issues ranging from general aches and pains to insomnia and anxious feelings.14,15
Composition of Vetiver Oil
According to a paper by U.C. Lavania from India,16 the chemical composition of vetiver oil is extremely complex. It mainly comprises sesquiterpenes and sesquiterpene derivatives, of which vetiverols, their carbonyl compounds and esters, serve as the main constituents. Their relative abundance normally dictates the quality of the oil.
Three carbonyl compounds are deemed the primary odor-influencing components of this essential oil,17 which is used extensively to blend oriental-type perfumes and floral compounds, along with other cosmetic and aromatherapy applications. Vetiver oil is also a main ingredient in 36 percent of all Western-quality perfumes and 20 percent of all men's fragrances. The plant’s main fibrous roots are important for oil quality.18
A separate study published in the Journal of Essential Oil Research19 looked at the chemical composition of selected vetiver essential oils. Results show that it has about 110 constituents, mainly sesquiterpenes. The characteristic constituents were beta-vetispirene (1.6 to 4.5 percent), khusimol (3.4 to 13.7 percent), vetiselinenol (1.3 to 7.8 percent) and alpha-vetivone (2.5 to 6.3 percent).
Benefits of Vetiver Oil
Vetiver essential oil may help provide the following health benefits:
Enhance libido and improve sexual health20
Provide relief to insomnia patients21
Alleviate skin problems like wrinkles and overproduction of sebum22
Provide relief from all types of inflammation24
Improve and maintain good nerve health25
Heal wounds by promoting growth of new tissues27
Vetiver oil is also believed to benefit those who are suffering from the following conditions:28,29,30,31,32
Vetiver oil may also help control attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) thanks to its calming effects.33,34 A 2001 study35 conducted by Dr. Terry Friedman found that the oil's aroma improved the brain activity and reduce the symptoms of children with ADHD.
To harness these benefits, vetiver oil can be administered in different ways. It can be applied topically (recommended diluted with a carrier oil), directly inhaled or diffused. The oil blends well with the essential oils of benzoin, grapefruit, jasmine, lavender and ylang-ylang.36
How to Make Vetiver Oil
The roots of vetiver undergo steam-distillation in order to produce the oil. Vetiver essential oil is painstaking and labor-intensive to manufacture, which drives its price up. To reduce production cost, it may be diluted with less expensive (and therefore less effective) oils, or even synthetic fragrance oils.
This is why you should make sure you are buying vetiver oil from a reputable source.37 There are several vetiver oil recipe blends for specific health concerns. Here are three you can try:
• Stress-relief blend — Blend 1 drop of vetiver oil, 2 drops of lavender and 3 drops of chamomile in 1 ounce of carrier oil. Massage the blend onto the affected area.38
• Better sleep blend — Blend 3 drops of vetiver oil, 3 drops of lavender oil and 2 drops of frankincense oil in 1 ounce of carrier oil. Add this to your diffuser.39
• Pain-relief blend — Blend 4 drops myrrh oil, 3 drops lemongrass oil, and 2 drops each of eucalyptus and vetiver oil in 2 ounces of carrier oil. Massage onto the affected area.40
How Does Vetiver Oil Work?
Since essential oils are extremely potent, I advise you to dilute vetiver oil with a carrier oil,41 such as coconut oil. You can start with 1 drop to 1 to 3 teaspoons of carrier oil. With caution, increase the essential oil as needed.
Vetiver oil works in vapor therapy42 — it can address nervous complaints, dispel anger and irritability, and relieve insomnia this way. It can also be blended in a massage oil or diluted in the bath. Through this mode of administration, it can assist with mental and physical exhaustion, nervous complaints, rheumatism and arthritic pain and skin-healing.43,44,45
This essential oil also works in a cream or lotion, moisturizing and nourishing skin. It especially benefits dry, irritated and dehydrated skin, and helps reduce wrinkles and stretch marks.46 On the other hand, it is generally not recommended to be taken internally.
Is Vetiver Oil Safe?
This essential oil is deemed nonirritating and nontoxic, and therefore generally safe. However, it should not be used by pregnant women. You should also observe extreme caution and consult a doctor before using this oil on children. Prior to use, always test for skin sensitivity by doing a patch test. Be sure to dilute vetiver oil using a carrier oil, such as coconut oil.47,48
Side Effects of Vetiver Oil
The possible side effects of vetiver oil are not known. However, it may potentially be unsafe for pregnant women, as it might cause a miscarriage. It’s also best avoided if you’re breastfeeding, as it may have negative effects on your nursing baby.49