The following information is taken from an excellent literature review on traditional uses of Vetiver essential oils by Thai Danh Luu’s PhD Thesis Proposal “Development of process for purification of α and β-vetivone from Vetiver essential oil & Investigation of effects of heavy metals on quality of extracted Vetiver oil.”
(References are listed below the article for further research.)
Note: Cenderawasih Aromatics makes no claim to medicinal value of Vetiver essential oil – we only offer the following information for educational purposes of traditional uses of Vetiver essential oil. Please read our full disclaimer here.
3.5. Uses of Vetiver essential oils
Vetiver oil has been utilized as raw materials for various fragrant products such as perfumes, deodorants, lotions, soaps, etc. In addition, vetiver oil plays an important role in aromatherapy. Furthermore, vetiver oil is shown to have insecticidal activity. Currently, vetiver oil is proved to have antioxidant and anticancer activities
Vetiver is known for its perfumery value since ancient times. On account of its pleasing aroma and slow evaporation rate falling under the category of lower ‘base note’ vetiver oil as such is a ‘perfume in its own right’ for which no synthetic substitute is yet available. Vetiver oil is the basis of the Indian perfume ‘Majmua’ and is the major ingredient in some 36 % of all western perfumes, such as Caleche, Chanel, Dioressence, Parure, Opium, Guerlain, Christian Dior, Givenchy (Dowthwaite and Rajani 2000) and 20 % of all men’s fragrances. A 15 – 30 % dilution of vetiver oil in alcohol is good enough to make true vetiver perfume, and its further dilutions have value as vetiver ‘eau de cologne’ and ‘eau de toilette’. ‘Vetiver pour Homme’ by Carven 1957, and ‘Vetivert’ by Guerlain 1961, are the two famous ‘eau de toilette’ for men prepared from vetiver oil (Groom 1992).
Furthermore, the vetiver oil is one of the finest fixatives known (Lavania, 2003). Its complex chemical composition and oil odor, high solubility in alcohol that improves its miscibility with other perfumery material, makes it a unique perfumery resource for which no synthetic substitute is yet available. In addition to its own perfumery value on account of vetiver hydrocarbons and carbonyl compounds, their alcohol derivatives i.e. vetiverols lend unique position to vetiver oil for perfumery applications as a valuable resource. Because of clear-cut differences in boiling point of the various constituents of vetiver oil, its vetiverol fraction could be easily separated by fractional distillation of oil under high vacuum. Also, vetiverol could be acetylated with acetic anhydride to produce vetiveryl acetate. Both vetiverols and acetates have softer odors and fixative qualities, and are used as blender with high-class perfumery products. They blend well with ionone, linalool, cinnamic alcohol, oakmoss, vanila, sandalwood, patchouli and rose bases, and are frequently used in western 6 type of fragrances having chypre, fougere, rose, violet and amber aldehyde base, and oriental fragrances and floral compounds (Lavania, 2003).
In addition to its direct perfumery applications, vetiver oil in its diluted form is extensively used in after-shave lotions, air freshners and bathing purposes, as well as flavoring syrups, ice cream, cosmetic and food preservation. Khus essence is used in cool drinks, and for reducing pungency of chewing tobacco preparations, providing sweet note to other masticatories and incense sticks (National Research Council 1993).
The main action of vetiver oil is on the nervous system and it is both sedating and strengthening in effect (Wilson 1995). It is excellent in the treatment of depression, nervous tension, debility*, insomnia and many stress-related diseases, and acts as an aphrodisiac where there is a clear connection between impotence or frigidity and stress (Wilson 1995). It may be used in massage blends and the bath; it has a rather powerful smell but is very pleasant when diluted. It stimulates the circulatory system and makes a useful massage oil for elderly or debilitated people with poor circulation (Chomchalow, 2001). It also helps to stimulate the production of red blood cells and is thus beneficial for anemia. It makes a useful warming and pain-relieving rubbing oil, suitable for deep massage of muscular aches and pains, sprains, stiffness, rheumatism and arthritis (Chomchalow, 2001). It may be added to sports oil blends and massaged into muscles before and after sports. In skin care, it helps to balance the secretion of sebum. It is used in lotions, compresses and baths for the treatment of oily skin, acne and weeping sores (Curtis 1996).
Vetiver oil revitalizes the body by fortifying the red blood corpuscles crucial in transporting oxygen to all parts of the system. Increased blood flow could alleviate muscular aches and pains and said to be useful in cases of rheumatism and arthritis (Sellar 1992). Shealy (1998) advocates that vetiver oil is particularly useful for jet lag, and for grounding and clarity while traveling.
Vetiver oil is known to repel insects; people in India and elsewhere have placed vetiver root among their clothes to keep insects away (Lavania, 2003). It also repels flies and cockroaches and may make a useful ingredient in insect repellents (National Research Council 1993). It has been used to repel moths (Sealy 1998). The two tricyclics esquiterpenoids – zizanal and epizizanal – isolated from vetiver oil show insect repelling activity (Jain et al. 1982).
Jain et al. (1982) reported that at least six compounds (α, β-vetivone, khusimone, zizanal, epizizanal and (C)-(1S, 10R)-1,10-dimethylbicyclo[4,4,0]-dec-6-en-3-one) were repellent to insects. Recently, studies of Zhu et al (2001 a and b) found three other vetiver oil compounds that were repellent to the Formosan subterranean termite including: nootkatone, zizanol and bicyclovetivenol. Zhu et al (2001 b) discovered that compound volatility was inversely proportional to repellent effectiveness. Vetivones (α and β) were the least volatile and the most effective repellents. The volatility of nootkatone is similar to α and β vetivone.
Many studies have shown that the presence of natural antioxidants from various aromatic and medicinal plants is closely related to the reduction of chronic diseases such as DNA damage, mutagenesis, and carcinogenesis (Craig, 1990; Zhu et al, 2002; Briskin, 2000; Reddy et al, 2003). Essentially, antioxidants inhibit free radical propagation in biological systems.
The study of Hyun-Jin Kim et al (2006) showed that the vetiver oil (VO) possessed a strong free radical scavenging activity (antioxidant activity) when compared to standard antioxidants such as butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and -tocopherol. Among the complex constituents in the crude VO, β-vetivenene, β-vetivone, and -vetivone, which were identified to be responsible for strong antioxidant activities. These results show that VO and some of its inherent components can be potential alternative natural antioxidants.
The study of Chen Feng et al (2003) showed that vetiver essential possessed anticancer activity. At 100ppm in cancer cell lines, vetiver oil inhibited the growth up to 89% of SiHa cervical cells, 88% of CaSki cervical cells and 89% of MCF-7 breast cancer cells. However, the results were preliminary, therefore it needs to be confirmed by further study.
Briskin, D. P. Medicinal plants and phytomedicines. Linking plant biochemistry and physiology to human health. Plant Physiol. 2000, 124, 507-514.
Chomchalow, N. 2001. The Utilization of Vetiver as Medicinal and Aromatic Plants with Special Reference to Thailand. PRVN Tech.Bull. No. 2001/1, ORDPB, Bangkok
Craig, W. J. Health-promoting properties of common herbs. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 1990, 70 (Suppl.), 491S-499S.
Curtis, S. 1996. Essential Oils: Neal’s Yard Remedies. Auriern Press.
Dowthwaite, S.V.; and Rajani, S. (2000). Vetiver: Perfumer’s liquid gold. In: Proceedings of ICV-2 held in Cha-am, Phethchaburi, Thailand, 18-22 Jan. 2000, pp. 47881.
Feng Chen, Xi Wang and Hyun-jin Kim (2003). Antioxidant, Anticarcinogenic and Termiticidal Activities of Vetiver Oil. Proceeding of third international Vetiver conference, Guangzhou, China, October 2003
Groom, N. 1992. The Perfume Book. Chapman & Hall, London.
Jain, S. C., Nowicki, S., Eisner, T., and Meinnald, J. 1982. Insect repellents from vetiver oil: 1.Zizanal and epizizanal. Tetra. Let. 23:4639–4642.
Kim H.J., Chen J.,Wang X., Chung H. Y., and Jin Z. (2005). Evaluation of Antioxidant Activity of Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides L.) Oil and Identification of Its Antioxidant Constituents. Agric. Food Chem, 53 (20), 7691 -7695
Lavania, U.C. (2003). Vetiver Root – Oil and Its Utilization. PRVN Tech. Bull. No. 2003/1, ORDPB, Bangkok.
National Research Council. 1993. Vetiver Grass: A Thin Green Line Against Erosion. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
Reddy, L.; Odhav, B.; Bhoola, K. D. Natural products for cancer prevention: a global perspective. Pharmacol. Ther. 2003, 99, 1-13.
Sellar, W. 1992. The Directory of Essential Oils. C.W. Daniel Co. Ltd., Great Britain.
Shealy, C.N. 1998. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies. Brideg Water Book Co.
Wilson, R. 1995. Aromatherapy for Vibrant Health and Beauty. Penguin Putnam Inc., New York.
Zhu, B. C. R., Henderson, G., Chen, F., Fei, H. and Lain, R. A. (2001 b). Evaluation of Vetiver oil and seven insect-active essential oils against the formosan subterranean termite. J. Chem. Ecol. 27: 1617-1625.
Zhu, B. C. R., Henderson, G., Chen, F., Maistrello, L., and Laine, R. A. (2001 a). Nootkatone is a repellent for Formosan subterranean termite (Coptotermes formosanus). J. Chem. Ecol. 27:523–531.
Zhu, Q. Y.; Hackman, R. M.; Ensunsa, J. L.; Holt, R. R.; Keen, C. L. Antioxidative activities of oolong tea. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2002, 50, 6929-6934.