Getting to Know Vetiver: Relaxation, Focus, and Pest Control

vibrant green vetiver grass

Vetiver essential oil is a lesser-known essential oil, but it is widely used worldwide for its earthy scent and soothing properties. Is it time you brought this aromatic and invigorating oil into your home?

Experience increased relaxation and focus, naturally cool air, and even fewer mosquitos when you add this oil to your collection, and try out our Back-to-School Diffuser Blend (at the bottom of the page), designed to fight restlessness and help kids zone in on their schoolwork.


Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides) is a perennial bunchgrass native to south India, where it is also known as ‘khus,’ and widely cultivated in tropical regions worldwide. This hardy species is resistant to drought, pests, disease and weeds, and is often used to stabilize soil and restore ecosystems, though the majority of cultivation is for essential oil (EO) production. 

The grass can grow 5 feet tall but its aromatic roots, from which the essential oils are distilled, can grow downwards into the soil as far as 10 feet. Although it is closely related to other fragrant grasses, including Citronella and Lemongrass, its closest relative is Sorghum (source).

Traditional Medicinal Uses

Indian tribespeople who live off the surrounding forest gather vetiver roots to treat a variety of ailments. Different tribes apply the root paste topically to treat injuries such as burns, snakebites, scorpion stings, and sprains, and to ease the symptoms of headache and rheumatism. Some use a decoction of the roots--created by boiling the roots to extract potent chemicals--as a tonic for weakness (source).

In India, Hispaniola and other regions where vetiver is cultivated, mats woven out of vetiver roots are in high demand for window coverings. When kept moist, the aromatic root mats cool the atmosphere within a dwelling and release a refreshing smell (source).

Vetiver also finds frequent use in both traditional and luxury cosmetics. Women in tropical regions might soak vetiver roots in coconut hair oil to give fragrance, and vetiver EO is one of the most frequently-used ingredients in the contemporary perfume industry, particularly for mens’ scents (source).

vetiver oil in a clear bottle with dried vetiver roots

Benefits of the essential oil

Research over the last twenty years has shown that vetiver essential oil could bring many potential benefits to our mind, body and environment.


Vetiver is frequently used as a scent, topical agent or tonic to promote feelings of wellness and peace. And although more research is needed to confirm the mechanism by which vetiver relaxes us, preliminary studies have shed some light: a team of researchers found that inhaling vetiver EO has similar effect on the amygdala--the fear center of the brain--to the common medication diazepam. 

Increase Focus

Does relaxation help us focus or does focus bring about relaxation? Whichever it is, vetiver is on it. This root-extracted oil with its earthy, woody, slightly sweet scent can have a powerful grounding effect on users, and allows them to move from a steady emotional base into invigorated clarity.

One researcher even found that consistent inhalation of vetiver essential oil can significantly improve behavior and impulse control in children.

Cooling + Soothing

The tropical residents who use vetiver roots to make mats, roofs and drinks (made by soaking the roots in water) know a bit about staying cool. The subtle sweetness of vetiver’s scent will give your indoor space or bath a freshness more typical of a well-ventilated forest.


Vetiver can protect cells through its unusual antioxidant activity, and potential soothing and protective effects are linked with its strong proclivity to remove free radicals.

Resist Microbes

Several researchers have also found potential resistive properties of vetiver essential oil, specifically towards Gram-positive bacteria and Staphylococcus sp and tuberculosis. If confirmed, this oil could become a helper against antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains.

Pest Repellant

Vetiver, either in whole plant form or as an essential oil, is repellant to many common household pests. Using vetiver around the perimeter of a house or other structure can keep out and kill termites, and a 5% vetiver diffuser solution can repel mosquitoes. Adding a few drops of vetiver essential oil to still water sources around your property can also kill mosquito eggs and discourage more mosquitoes from using that source as a breeding ground.

How to use

Diffuse vetiver oil on its own or in a blend to clear your mind of clutter and enhance focus. Popular diffusing locations are workspaces and offices, where it can increase productivity, and in the bedroom, where its soothing properties will ease you into a deep and restorative sleep. Only diffuse for up to an hour three times daily.

Apply vetiver oil topically to soothe and cool the skin and aid relaxation. Because vetiver is a particularly viscous oil, it is important to blend it with a carrier oil, such as jojoba oil or coconut oil, to ensure even application.

Ingest vetiver oil by putting 1-2 drops of oil in a glass of water or capsule, or by soaking whole vetiver roots in water. Do not ingest larger quantities, as higher doses have not been adequately tested for safety.

If you’re crafty, use vetiver oil to create earthy fragrances. The majority of vetiver essential oil in the modern world is used for the production of perfumes and cosmetics, and you can create your own aromatic blends at home with vetiver as a component.


The chemical components of vetiver essential oil are non-volatile and safe for use in most applications. 

Always spot-check essential oils before topical application to check for sensitivity and limit diffusing time. Essential oils, although natural, are very potent substances with the potential for unforeseen side effects.

focused little boy working on his coloring book homework

Back-to-School Diffusing Blend for Restless Kids

As if it isn’t already difficult enough for kids to focus on classes for an entire schoolday, the current situation--with many kids attending classes and doing schoolwork from home--makes focus much more difficult. The home environment provides plenty of distractions, and remote teachers face additional obstacles getting all of their students zeroed in on the lesson.

I support my kids’ learning by sending them outside during lunch to burn off some energy and then diffusing this essential oil blend to boost their focus and energy in afternoon classes, when many kids’ restlessness peaks. This blend smells great and is made up of essential oils known for their invigorating and relaxing properties, as well as their gentleness.

  • 1 drop Lavender EO
  • 2 drops Cedarwood EO
  • 1 drop Frankincense EO
  • 1 drop Vetiver EO
  • ⅓ c Water

Combine the ingredients in your diffuser and diffuse in your children’s workspace for maximum one hour daily.

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