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vetiver grass

Vetiver oil: Benefits, usage & side effects

23 Aug 2021 • 4 min read

Ever heard of vetiver oil? We'll go through how and why you can use it, as well its main benefits and side effects. 

What is vetiver?

It’s an essential oil renowned for its grounding, calming and stabilising properties.

Also referred to askhus oil, vetiver oil is made from a perennial grass that’s native to India.1

Part of the Poaceae plant family, vetiver grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides) can grow up to 1.5 metres tall and has tall stems and long, thin, rigid leaves and purple/brown flowers.

It also happens to be related to other fragrant grasses, namely lemongrass and citronella.2

The name vetiver, Vetiveria Zizanioides in full, means ‘hatcheted’ up in the parts of India where it’s native to.

Vetiver grass thrives in sandy loam or clay loam soil and climates that are tropical, sub-tropical or Mediterranean.

The plant is indigenous to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

It can also be found in many other tropical regions, including Brazil, Jamaica, Africa, Indonesia, Japan and Australia.

How is vetiver oil made?

Like most essential oils, vetiver is made from the process of steam distillation, which involves vetiver roots.

This process has been used for many centuries, with vetiver oil dating as far back as the 12th century, when it was a taxable item in its native India.

The vetiver roots tend to be harvested for oil when the grass is around 18 to 24 months old.

Interestingly, there is no synthetic version of vetiver essential oil because it has such a complex scent profile, which is made up of more than 100 components, making vetiver oil that even more special.3

What does vetiver smell like?

Highly distinctive.

Some people describe it as woody, smoky, earthy and spicy. While others say it smells dry and leathery.

It’s also been said to smell quite a lot like patchouli too.

Because of its woody, smoky, almost rugged, smell vetiver is often classed as being more of a masculine scent and is widely used in colognes and other scented products for men.4

Men’s fragrances that contain vetiver include Creed Original Vetiver, Carven Vetiver, Annick Goutal Vetiver, Guerlain Vetiver Extreme, Il Profumo Vetiver de Java, Prada Infusion de Vetiver, Lacoste Red Style in Play and Tim McGraw Southern Blend.

Meanwhile, perfumes that contain vetiver include Chanel Sycomore, Lancome Hypnose, Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps, Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche and DKNY Delicious Night.

Handpicked content: What is patchouli: Benefits, risks and uses

Summary

  • Vetiver essential oil is made from the vetiver grass plant (Chrysopogon zizanioides) that’s native to India
  • The oil is extracted from vetiver roots using steam distillation
  • It has an extremely distinctive, masculine smell that’s woody, smoky, earthy and spicy

5 benefits of vetiver essential oil

You may not have heard of it until now, but vetiver oil’s been used for many years and has been linked to many different benefits, some of which we’ve listed below:

  1. Helps to manage dandruff

Vetiver's moisturising properties can help to manage dandruff. 

How to use vetiver oil for dandruff

1

Massage

Massage your scalp and hair with a blend of vetiver and almond oil before going to sleep.

2

Towel wrap

Wrap a steamed towel around your scalp to allow the oil to penetrate deep into the sebaceous glands.

3

Leave overnight

Leave the towel on overnight to allow the oil to further absorb. 

4

Lemon juice

Rub some lemon juice onto your scalp before shampooing your hair.

  1. Repelling insects

Most of us light our citronella candles when we’re in the garden and want to keep wasps and other insects at bay, but not as many of us realise vetiver can do pretty much the same thing too.

It can reportedly repel termites and reduce mosquito larvae, as well as kill head lice.5

  1. Stress reliever

Vetiver contains the active ingredients, khusimone, vetivenene, vetiselinenol, khusimol, alpha- and beta-vetivone, which give it its unique smell.

These compounds also give vetiver oil antioxidative, chelating, anxiolytic and neuroprotective qualities that have been linked to potentially helping ease oxidative stress and anxiety.6

  1. For bathing

Vetiver oil can be blended with other calming essential oils for a luxurious bathing experience.

How to use vetiver oil in your bath

Try this soothing bathtime blend:

1

Fill your bathtub with warm water. 

2

Add all the ingredients, mix well and let them all dissolve.

3

Once dissolved, soak in the tub for at least 20 minutes to allow all of the essential oils to fully absorb into your skin.7

  1. Intensive moisturisation

Vetiver roots are said to hold water and help hydrate the soil around the plant.

And when applied to skin, vetiver is reportedly good for giving your skin a dose of intensive moisture.

Try combining vetiver oil with mango butter and coconut oil for a natural body oil that helps keep skin hydrated.8

Summary

  • Several benefits have been linked to vetiver oil
  • They range from rejuvenating and moisturising skin, to helping boost the immune system, repelling insects and tackling dandruff

Does vetiver make you sleepy?

Vetiver essential oil, with its deep and rich scent, is widely reported to be deeply grounding and often used to help promote a peaceful sleep because of its calming effects.

It’s because of this that some people also call it the Oil of Tranquility.9

Whether it actually helps people sleep is yet to be scientifically proven.

However, it’s still combined with many other essential oils to help create sleep-inducing blends that may help with relaxation and sleep when used alongside other methods.

These include avoiding caffeine 12 hours before bed, turning off devices 60 minutes before going to sleep and not exercising right before you go to sleep.10

When it comes to using vetiver before bedtime, try combining 3 drops of juniper berry, with 2 drops of vetiver and 2 drops of bergamot, or 2 drops of vetiver with 2 drops of lavender and 1 drop of frankincense.

Handpicked content: Guide to sleeping better: 35 natural sleeping remedies

Vetiver oil side effects

Vetiver essential oil is completely safe to use in moderation. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, speak to a medical professional first before using it.11

As is the case with all essential oils, vetiver can be infused or gently inhaled, but should never be swallowed or applied directly to skin without being diluted with a carrier oil, such as jojoba or coconut oil first.

If you do intend to use it on your skin, make sure you do a patch test first.

Handpicked content: All about jojoba oil

Takeaway

While it may not be as commonly heard of as the likes of lavender, tree oil or eucalyptus essential oil, there are lots of reasons for vetiver oil to now be on your radar.

If not just for the distinctively rich and enticing scent, but for the many benefits that are associated with using it.

As with all essential oils, you can use it on its own or alongside other essential oils for more of a blended effect.

We hope you’ve found this article useful and plan on adding vetiver oil to your essential oil wish list!

With so many different essential oils out there, it can be difficult to know which ones to use.

Take a look at this article for some inspiration and practical insight, ‘The 7 most popular essential oils.’

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Last updated: 24 August 2021

manisha-taggar

Manisha Taggar

Author

Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate

Joined Holland & Barrett: May 2019

BSc Hons in Pharmaceutical & Cosmetic Science

Manisha started her career at a Cosmetics distributor as a Regulatory Technologist followed by a Regulatory Affairs Officer, ensuring the regulatory compliance of cosmetic products from colour cosmetics to skincare.

After 3 and half years in this role, Manisha joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.

Manisha specialises in Cosmetic products, both own-label and branded lines, ensuring that these products and all relating marketing material comply to the EU Cosmetics Regulation.

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