July 13th 2017 - Mmmmm … The sweet smell of dirt! The warm months of spring and summer soften the ground and plants deepen their hold in the earth, anchoring the growth to come. As the plant kingdom sends down roots, it is a perfect time to celebrate the essence of mother earth and the rich depth of her grounding energy by taking a look at an essential oil derived from roots.
Vetiver is a perennial plant indigenous to the Himalayan mountains, southern India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. The essential oil is steam distilled from the dried, chopped roots of this grass-like plant and has an intensely aromatic scent which is earthy, warm, resinous and slightly smoky.
The Vetiver plant belongs to the Gramineae, or grass family, which provides more edible species than all other plant families put together. In the intense heat of the Indian climate the wiry, fibrous roots of the vetiver plant are woven into screens called tatties for doors and windows. These shades are dampened each day to provide an aromatic and moisturizing screen from the penetrating sun. The fragrance of the vetiver root is also known to repel insects and is used in making handheld fans prized by women from India to Java.
In aromatherapy classes it is common for students to report that this essential oil smells 'just like dirt.' Though this never fails to get a laugh, it closely describes the earthy quality of vetiver’s aroma. And though some find this scent unappealing, others become deeply appreciative of the grounding quality that its scent seems to have on the body, mind and spirit. Susanne Fischer-Rizzi describes this earthy quality of vetiver essential oil in the Complete Aromatherapy Handbook: “the scent of mother earth, mysteriously hidden in a deep, dark recess, drawing on the fullness of her life-giving force.” (1)
This grounding quality makes vetiver essential oil a fixative in many fine perfumes such as Channel No. 5 and White Shoulders. In these blends, the base note which vetiver provides contrasts and brings out the sweet essence of other ingredients. Scent is intensely personal: what delights one person’s sense of smell can be unpleasant to another. And the intensely earthy fragrance of vetiver can be a challenge to balance aromatically. But there are some guidelines which can be used to experiment in successfully blending with vetiver. For a contrasting effect, the lighter top notes such as orange, lemon, grapefruit and lime essential oils work well with vetiver, as do some of the more flowery middle notes such as rose, lavender and jasmine. For a rich, complex aroma try blending vetiver with other base notes such as patchouli, sandalwood or cedarwood.
The Indian name ‘vetiver’ means “oil of tranquility.” The translation offers a clue to the primary benefit associated with this essential oil. On an emotional level, vetiver is used to cool and calm the heated energy of irritability, anger and hysteria. It supports the yin, or restorative energy of the body and acts on the central nervous system, relaxing the mind and relieving mental burn-out. Vetiver also assists in centering the body’s energy, making this essential oil a great choice to relieve the jangled or ‘spaced out’ feeling that often accompanies nervous exhaustion. It acts to restore a sense of being rooted and fully embodied in situations where the energy of fear or anxiety has shaken our emotional equilibrium. Vetiver also assists those who routinely neglect physical needs by reconnecting the mind and spirit to the body, restoring balance within this continuum.
Using this oil can be as simple as opening a bottle and breathing in its aroma while the tension dissolves away. Blended into a carrier medium such as lotion, massage oil, or bath salt, vetiver’s rich therapeutic properties become readily accessible. These include a cooling affect on inflammatory disorders such rheumatoid arthritis and eczema. It also helps to fight infection by stimulating the immune system to increase white blood cell production and assists in the management of stress without the drawback of becoming sick. Vetiver boosts the hormone secretions of estrogen and progesterone, making it an ideal choice for relief of menopausal responses that result from insufficient levels of these hormones. This versatile essential oil is also nourishing and moisturizing for the skin. It assists in preventing tissue degeneration and can be used to treat stretch marks during pregnancy as well as to improve the tone of aging skin.
Vetiver is non-toxic and non-irritating and can be used safely by simply smelling directly from the bottle or combining with a neutral carrier medium. This essential oil actually improves with age when stored in a cool, dark place. And the investment you make in buying it will provide lasting benefits. So in celebration of the warm months of spring and summer, nourish your own roots and try vetiver essential oil. Nothing will bring you closer to the spirit of the season.
Hallie Sawyers is the founder of Soul Song and a well known, respected educator with extensive training in energy work and body-centered therapies. Her mission highlights creating transformation on personal and professional levels through quality education in alternative approaches to prevention and wellness. She is a Traditional Usui Reiki Master Teacher, certified in reflexology and polarity therapy, a Master Instructor of Integrated Energy Therapy, Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Holistic Aromatherapy, and an approved CEU provider for the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork and New York State. She offers individual appointments, lectures and training in Reiki, Integrated Energy Therapy, Hot Stone Massage, Reflexology, and Aromatherapy in New York, Connecticut and other areas by request. To schedule an appointment, lecture or class, you can reach Hallie at 585.967.0009 or visit www.soulsong.abmp.com
Hallie Sawyers, LMT APP BCTMB
Other than specifically noted credits, the information in this article is derived from the essential oil curriculum of Hallie's class: Making Scents of Aromatherapy; Essential Oil Basics for Home and Health Care.
To schedule a class, lecture, or individual aromatherapy consultation, contact Hallie at email@example.com or visit her website: www.soulsong.abmp.com
(1)Complete Aromatherapy Handbook: Essential Oils for Radiant Health by Susanne Fischer-Rizzi. June 1991. p67