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Vetiver - Chrysopogon zizanioides (previously Vetiveria zizanioides) is a perennial grass of the Poaceae family, native to India. The name comes from Tamil. In western and northern India, it is popularly known as khus (Hindi-Urdu:ख़स/خس), giving the earlier English names cuscus, cuss cuss, kuss-kuss grass, etc. Vetiver can grow up to 1.5 meters high and form clumps as wide. The stems are tall and the leaves are long, thin, and rather rigid; the flowers are brownish purple. Unlike most grasses, which form horizontally spreading mat-like root systems, vetiver's roots grow downward, 2–4 meters in depth. Vetiver is closely related to other fragrant grasses such as Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus), citronella (Cymbopogon nardus, C. winterianus), and Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii).Though it originates in Indiamarker, vetiver is widely cultivated in the tropical regions of the world. The world's major producers include Haitimarker, Indiamarker, Javamarker, and Réunionmarker.

Uses

Erosion control

Vetiver roots on sale.
Several aspects of Vetiver make it an excellent erosion control plant in warmer climates. Unlike most grasses, Vetiver does not form a horizontal mat of roots; rather, the roots grow almost exclusively downward, 2–4 meters. This makes vetiver an excellent stabilizing hedge for stream banks, terraces, and rice paddies. The close growing culm also help to block the runoff of surface water. Because Vetiver propagates itself by small offsets instead of underground stolons, it is noninvasive and can easily be controlled by cultivation of the soil at the boundary of the hedge.

The Vetiver System, a technology of soil conservation and water quality management, is based on the use of the Vetiver plant.

Perfumery and aromatherapy

Vetiver is mainly cultivated for the fragrant essential oil distilled from its roots. Worldwide production is estimated at about 250 tons per annum (Lavania). Due to its excellent fixative properties, Vetiver is used widely in high end perfumes. It is contained in 90% of all western perfumes (Lavania). Haitimarker is one of the leading producers of Vetiver in the world, along with Javamarker, Chinamarker, Indiamarker, Brazilmarker, and Japanmarker. The United Statesmarker, Europe, Indiamarker, and Japanmarker are the main consumers.

In perfumery, the older French spelling, vetyver, is often used.

Medicinal use

Vetiver has been used in traditional medicine in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and West Africa.

Old Tamil literature mentions the use of Vetiver for medical purposes.

In-House use

Mats made by weaving Vetiver roots and binding them with ropes/cords are used in India to cool rooms in a house during summer. The mats are typically hung in the doorway and kept moist by spraying with water periodically. It acts like an air-cooler when wind from a fan or outside hits it. It also adds a pleasant aroma in the house which is commonly described as "cool" and "refreshing".

In the hot summer months in India, sometimes a muslin sachet of Vetiver roots is tossed into the earthen pot that keeps the household's drinking water cool. Like a bouquet garni, the bundle lends its distinctive flavor and aroma to the water.

Essential Oil

Composition

Vetiver oil or khus oil is a complex oil containing over 100 identified components. Typical make up is as follows:
benzoic acid furfurol
vetivene vetivenyl vetivenate
terpinen-4-ol 5-epiprezizane
Khusimene α-muurolene
Khusimone Calacorene
β-humulene α-longipinene
γ-selinene δ-selinene
δ-cadinene valencene
Calarene,-gurjunene α-amorphene
Epizizanal 3-epizizanol
Khusimol Iso-khusimol
Valerenol β-vetivone
α-vetivone vetivazulene


The oil is amber brown and rather thick. The odor of vetiver oil is described as deep, sweet, woody, smoky, earthy, amber, balsam. The best quality oil is obtained from roots that are 18 to 24 months old. The roots are dug up and cleaned then dried. Before the distillation, the roots are chopped and soaked in water. The distillation process can take up to 18 to 24 hours. After the distillate separates into the essential oil and hydrosol, the oil is skimmed off and allowed to age for a few months to allow some undesirable notes which form during the distillation to dissipate. Like patchouli and sandalwood essential oils, the odor of vetiver develops and improves with aging. The characteristics of the oil can vary significantly depending on where the grass is grown and the climate and soil conditions. The oil distilled in Haiti and Réunion has a more floral quality to it and is considered of higher quality than the oil from Java which has a smokier scent. In the north of India, an oil is distilled from wild-growing vetiver. This oil is known as Khus or Khas and is considered superior to the oil obtained from the cultivated variety. It is rarely found outside of India as most of it is consumed within the country.

Notes



References

  • Germplasm Resources Information Network: Chrysopogon zizanioides
  • Veldkamp, J. F. (1999). A revision of Chrysopogon Trin., including Vetiveria Bory (Poaceae) in Thailand and Malesia with notes on some other species from Africa and Australia. Austrobaileya 5: 522–523.
  • Other Uses and Utilization of Vetiver: Vetiver Oil - U.C. Lavania - Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Lucknow-336 015, India
  • E. Guenther, The Essential Oils Vol. 4 (New York: Van Nostrand Company INC, 1990), 178-181, cited in Salvatore Battaglia, The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy (Australia: The Perfect Potion, 1997), 205.]
  • Ruh Khus (Wild Vetiver Oil)/Oil of Tranquility - Christopher McMahon



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