Vetiver (Vetiveria zinzeniodies) is one of my favorite essential oils [EO]. It was the first oil that was healing for me before I even thought about aromatherapy in this way. It has earned a special place in my heart and would be the answer if anyone asked me what EO I could not do without during a stressful or traumatic situation! Vetiver is coined “The Oil of Tranquility” in East Indian lore. I thought I would find it exalted as the oil for shock and stress. But modern sources cite its use primarily as a superb fixative for perfumes and clinically used for oily skin, acne, arthritis, rheumatism and gout due to its strong anti-inflammatory and mild rubifacient action.
I was introduced to Vetiver as “Khus”. A devotee of a local East Indian Ashram gave it to me. I soon craved the smell like a good addiction. I didn’t know if this was a pure unadulterated sample, a cheap imitation or not Vetiver at all. It was olive green, fluid and had the smell of freshly cut grass and pungent, rich soil after a soaking rain! I could never find it in this form again but the viscous dark brown Vetiver I did find was an acceptable alternative. It does not have the addictive aroma of that “Khus”, but I discovered other qualities in it. It smells like a rocky, woody beach. Soaking in it makes me feel like I just took a dip in the Rio Grande River. I find it a grounding, confident and masculine EO for men.
Once, while making candles, I burned myself with wax. It was a second-degree burn but no more than 1/4 inch in diameter. Although a relatively mild burn, I felt such pain that I instantly had a shock-like response. I felt faint as all the blood drained from my face. Intuitively, I rubbed Vertiver on the burn and the shock-response dissipated, the burning stopped and the wound healed quickly without a scar. More importantly, I soon found it soothed my anxieties, as no other EO would.
Vetiver is not a quickly reached to oil in aromatherapy- it should be. It is said to have a unique ability to balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system during “Fight or Flight”. Fight or Flight is a primal systemic response that animals & humans have to threatening situations. Our physical body primes itself to run away or confront a threat to protect our emotional, spiritual, psychological or physical well-being. Even in injury our nervous system mobilizes similarly. Sometimes we do not even know why we feel a constant angst. It may be due to a past trauma where the discharge of a flight or fight response was never achieved. The trauma imprinted in our cells; our bodies still primed for action long after the event has past. A psychologist might call it post-traumatic stress (Levine).
“When turning points in life challenge you to face your shadows, Vetiver, with its stabilizing tranquility brings a quiet assurance, drawing you to the earth, offering support and strength as you reconcile the changes taking place.” (The Blossoming Heart, by Robbi Zeck N.D.)
Vetiver is an EO that becomes darker and richer with age. My first experience was so special because it was Rhu Khus - vetiver in its green form, before aging. It is also vetiver in its purest form. In Sanskrit, Vetiver oil is called Ruh Khus (Vetiver Attar). It is one of the sacred anointing oils used for purification after trauma, especially suitable for vatta constitutions. The word “Ruh” (Attar) denotes a traditional form of distillation unique to East Indian culture. Authentic Ruh requires a huge amount of labor, time, and raw material, which makes them precious. The distillation process of Ruh Khus cannot be fully expressed in words—it is both a ritual and art. A Ruh is rarely found in pure form today; often adulterated with synthetic chemicals. So my memory of Ruh Khus is very special and lingers.
* Check your sources for cautions & considerations, and route & dosing before using EOs. Especially during pregancy; on small children & infants; the elderly & weak; and those with epilepsy & neuro-muscular diseases.
David, P. (1988). An A-Z aromatherapy. New York, NY: Barnes & Noble. New York.
Levine, P. (1997). Waking the tiger. Berkley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Schnaubelt, Kurt. (1995). Advanced aromatherapy: The essential science of
essential oil therapy. Rochester. NY: Healing Arts Press.