Vetiveria zizanioides and its benefits

Know in one minute about Vetiveria zizanioides

  • The Vetiveria zizanioides plant can be used in medicine, perfumery, and as a flavoring agent.
  • Vetiver oil is obtained by steam distillation of roots.
  • Oil has a strong, smoky, earthy-woody odor with a sweet tone.
  • This plant is fast-growing and similar to that of lemongrass in appearance and flavor.
  • The oil improves alertness, brain function and treats mental fatigue.
  • Treat swelling of the circulatory system, nervous system and keep skin healthy.
  • Kill the larvae of green bottle fly and treat wounds.
  • This plant grows well in any soil but is well-drained, sandy, loam soil is best.
  • Need direct sunlight and a moderate amount of water.
  • Grow well in humid to sub-humid conditions with temperature 25 °C (77 °F)
  •  Add nitrogen fertilizer about once a month to obtain the best growth.
  • Pruning should be done three times and can harvest after 15-24 months
  • Easy to propagate by offsets, seeds, or by root divisions or ‘slips’.
  • Safe to pets but the intake of higher dosage may be toxic.

Introduction

Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides or Chrysopogon zizanioides) is commonly known as Khas-Khas or khus grass or “Miracle grass”. It is used as an eco-friendly tool to prevent erosion, contamination of soil by heavy metals and organic wastes. Vetiver oil is useful in medicine, perfumery, and as a flavoring agent in the food industry

Geographical distribution

This plant is native to India and widely distributed in Burma, Ceylon, Bangladesh, and spread from Southwest Asia to tropical Africa (1)

Vetiver essential oil

Vetiver oil from Vetiveria zizanioides is obtained by steam distillation from the roots of vetiver grass. This essential oil is viscous, light to dark brown color, deeply smoky and earthy-woody odor with a sweet persistent undertone. The color and scent can vary according to the source. This oil has a spicy smell but after dilution, it is pleasant.

It blends well with various oils like sandalwood, rose, violet, jasmine, patchouli, lavender, mimosa, cassia, and ylang-ylang (2)

Main components

Vetiver essential oil contains mainly sesquiterpenes like benzoic acid, vetiverol, furfurol,  vetivone, and vetivene.

The main components of vetiver essential oil are valerenol (18.48%), valerenal (10.21%), and β-Cadinene (6.23%). Moreover, khusimene and β-vetivenene in oil result in both feminine and masculine pleasant, woody odors (3).

Botanical description

Vetiver is a fast-growing, perennial bunchy herbaceous plant. It is similar to that of lemongrass in appearance and flavor.

1. Height

It is tall, tufted grass and can reach up to 2 meters (6 feet).

2. Stem

The stem is straight, erect, and rigid.

3. Leaves

The leaves are thin, elongated, and somewhat firm.

4. Flower

The plant bears small brown-purple flowers in long spikes. 

5. Root

The fibrous roots grow downward in the soil and can attain depths of more than 3 meters (10 feet). Roots are strong, spongy, finely structured, and strongly scented (4).

Benefits of Vetiveria zizanioides essential oil

Despite its aroma, vetiver oil also possesses various medicinal activities such as antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.  These make it beneficial in aromatherapy.

1. Improve alertness and treat mental fatigue

The use of vetiver essential oil is as refreshing as consumption of tea or coffee and used as a relaxant for the nervous system. Inhalation of this oil is good for learning and memory, also improves alertness and brain function (5).

2. Antioxidant properties

Vetiver oil contains natural antioxidants like beta-vetivenene, beta-vetivone, and alpha-vetivone which remove harmful radicals and protect the body from various diseases (6).

3. Treat inflammation

Vetiver essential oil regulates inflammation-related enzymes (7). Thus, reduce the swelling of the circulatory system, nervous system, and skin fibrosis (8).

4. Keep skin healthy

Melanin is a pigment, found in the skin surface, hair, and retina. It protects the cells from UV radiation but the high amount of melanin can cause skin diseases and even cause cancer. However, vetiver essential oil contains cedr-8-en-13-ol (12.4%), which can inhibit lipid peroxidation strongly and decrease melanin production (9).

5. Antimicrobial properties

Vetiver essential oil contains bioactive compounds that fight against bacteria. It shows antimicrobial activity against Mycobacterium smegmatis, Staphylococcus aureus, and Escherichia coli (10). It also inhibits the growth of fungi like Candida albicans and C. glabrata.

Moreover, this oil also treats tuberculosis, caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (11).

6. Green bottle fly repellant

Vetiver essential oil kills the larvae of green bottle flies that affect humans and animals. Therefore, this oil can be used as a biopesticide and be applied as wound dressings (12).

The side effect of vetiver oil

Vetiver essential oil rarely causes problems when diluted thus, it is a safe essential oil for foods and cosmetics (13).

How to grow and take care

Vetiver is a fast-growing plant, form cluster and highly drought-tolerant and dislodge when exposed to a strong water flow. This plant can not grow in pots and containers. It is resistant to pests and diseases. It also protects fields against vermin and other pests, as well as weeds. 

1. Soil

This plant can grow in almost every soil type but well-drained, sandy, loam, and rich in organic matter are best for growth. The saline and alkaline soil (pH 8.5 -10) is considered to be ideal for growth. 

2. Water

This plant doesn’t like too much water or too little water, because overwater may stunt the growth of young plantlets. So regular checking of soggy soil is necessary.  On the other hand, a mature plant can tolerate under waterlogged conditions and absorb dissolved heavy metals from polluted water. 

3. Light

Vetiver plant needs direct sunlight for exclusively growth and also does well in a partially sheltered position.

4. Temperature and humidity

The ideal temperatures of soil required for healthy growth are 25 °C (77 °F) but it can tolerate at 13 °C (56 ° F). Vetiver plants grow well in humid to sub-humid conditions.

5. Fertilizer

These plants generally do not need fertilizer in fertile soil. However, fertilizer about once a month with nitrogen fertilizer and manure or compost during the growing season is good for poor soil. Suspend fertilizing during the dormant winter period.

6. Mulch

This plant needs mulching around the base the plant. This process keeps the soil moisture and discourages root rot.

7. Pruning

Pruning is necessary thrice at 20-30 cm above ground level during the entire cropping period of two years. Trimming should be done first in 4-5 months after planting, second in just before flowering, and last one month before digging.

8. Harvesting

Vetiver root can be harvested after 15-24 months of planting but harvesting at 18 months produces good quality oil.  Irrigation suspended for 7-10 days before harvesting (14).

Propagation

The Vetiveria zizanioides plants are easily propagated using seeds or by root divisions or ‘slips’ but seeds are rarely used.  Slips are separated from the clump with the rhizome and placed in moist soil or water thoroughly after planting. The best time of the year to propagate this plant is from June to August (15).

Toxicity to pets

A research study suggested that intake of vetiver oil in moderate dosage is non-toxic to rats. However, prolonged exposure of rats to vetiver oil can affect red blood cells, clotting, and cause organ degeneration. Intake of a higher dosage of vetiver oil may alter lipid metabolism (16).

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