These notes were originally prepared for two short CPD (Continuing Professional Development) "essential oils refresher" sessions which I led for Professional Aromatherapy Network in South Yorkshire. I would be glad to lead such sessions for other groups, e.g. local/regional IFPA or IFA branches.

For list of other essential oil profiles see USES.
To buy cedarwood oil visit the ONLINE SHOP.


Vetiveria zizanoides

Sometimes spelt as "vetivert".

Origin Native to South India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Now also cultivated in other tropical areas. The oil is mainly produced in Java, Haiti and Reunion (1). In India the wild plant is known as khus. Comes from the same family (Gramineae) as lemongrass, citronella, palmarosa. 

Extraction Steam distillation of rhizomes (roots), yield 0.5% tp 4%. Optimum age for roots is around 18 months to 2 years. They are sun-dried to reduce moisture content, chopped,and distilled for up to 48 hours. (2) Colour dark brown to dark amber or olive. Essential oil which is green in color and light in scent is an inferior oil which has been distilled from immature roots. Marie Temmen says “the finest quality Vetiver oil is Reunion Vetiver or Bourbon Vetiver from the Reunion Islands” (4). (NB I have had enquiries about this - sorry, I do not currently stock Reunion vetiver, mine is from Java).

History The name comes from the Tamil word which means "hatcheted up" and is a description of the way in which the roots are collected (4). Noted in India as a taxable item in the 12th century. Used in Ayurveda for inflammatory skin and joint conditions. (2). Used in soaps, toiletries and perfumes.Vetiver grass was used in Calcutta for awnings, blinds and sunshades, in Java the roots were used for weaving mats and thatching huts and in Haiti the grassy parts were also used for thatching. Used to deter insects. Vetiver grass protects against soil erosion. Vetiver is also known as the 'oil of tranquility' (3).

Contra-indications None. 

Chemistry Vetiverol 50% to 85%, esters inc. vetiveryl acetate up to 35%, vetiverone 15% to 27%, vetivene up to 20%, acids inc. palmitic, vetinevic and benzoic 4% to 30% (2).

Blending Suggestions Base note. Earthy, musty smell. Very viscous. Benzoin, bergamot, black pepper, camomile Roman, coriander, elemi, ginger, jasmine, lavender, lemon, mandarin, patchouli, rose, sandalwood, ylang ylang.

Major Properties antiseptic, antispasmodic, circulatory stimulant, sedative (“grounding”).

Uses Stress-related conditions, emotional and mental burnout, depression, insomnia, nervous tension. “Helps to concentrate, organize scattered thoughts and overcome intellectual fatigue” (5).

Arthritis, muscular aches and pains, poor circulation, rheumatism, sprains.

PMS?, menopause? (6). 

Acne, dry skin, oily skin?, wounds, wrinkles?, stretch marks. John Kerr says it is “indicated for any inflammatory skin conditions due to the high content of sesquiterpenes and sesquiterpene alcohols. This includes irritated skin, rashes, and topical bacterial or fungal infections” (2).



1) Julia Lawless, The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, Element, Shaftesbury, 1992, p.187.

2) John Kerr, Essential Oil Profile – Vetiver, Aromatherapy Today Vol.28 Dec. 2003, p8-10.

3), April 2004. 

4) Marie Temmen, Vetiver,, April 2004. Originally published in Scentsitivity, the quarterly journal of the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, Vol. 7, No. 3.

5), April 2004.

6) Peter Holmes, Vetiver, International Journal of Aromatherapy, Vol. 5 No. 3, Autumn 1993, pp. 13-15.

Other sources for information, present and past; books, articles or other material by Martin Watt (safety); Patricia Davis/London School of Aromatherapy, Valerie Ann Worwood.

Other Links

The Vetiver Network Much about vetiver grass for erosion control, and all other aspects of use. Some material on the essential oil in the Discussion Board, "Other Uses" section.

Paul Boizot. Information revised 29.07.05. Page updated 28.10.14.

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My address from 30.04.12 is 14 Holly Bank Grove, York YO24 4EA, U.K.

contact me on: 01904 621510
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