This anxiety-fighting oil primes your brain to better deal with stress

This article was originally published by Dr. Axe

Vetiver oil has been used in traditional medicine in South Asia, Southeast Asia and West Africa for thousands of years. It’s native to India, and both its leaves and roots have wonderful uses. Vetiver is known as a sacred herb valued because of its uplifting, soothing, healing and protective properties. It’s a natural body cooler — making it extremely popular in tropical countries. In fact, in India and Sri Lanka it’s known as the “oil of tranquility.”

Some of vetiver oil uses include treating heat strokes, joint disorders and skin problems. Using vetiver oil is also a way to boost energy levels when you’re exhausted. In addition, it’s used to cool the body during very high temperatures and soothe feelings of anxiety and nervousness.

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Recent research credits vetiver oil for treating symptoms of ADHD and ADD. It’s also known to increase libido and treat insomnia without drugs. There are a number of vetiver oil benefits that you can take advantage of in the comfort of your home; the essential oil is perfect for skin care products and relaxing oil combinations.


The Vetiver Plant and Its Components 

Vetiver, or chrysopogon zizanioides, is a perennial bunchgrass of the Poaceae family native to India. In western and northern India, it’s popularly known as khus. Vetiver is most closely related to Sorghum, but it shares many morphological characteristics with other fragrant grasses, such as lemongrass, palmarosa and citronella oil.

Vetiver grass can grow up to five feet high; the stems are tall, and the leaves are long and thin. The flowers are a brownish-purple color, and unlike most root systems, the roots of vetiver grass grow downward and can go as deep at eight feet (which is deeper than some tree roots).

The vetiver plant is highly drought-tolerant and can help to protect soil against sheet erosion. Because the roots are so deep, they don’t dislodge easily; therefore, they have been used to stabilize railway cuttings and embankments in order to prevent mudslides and rockfalls. The plant can block the runoff of surface water, and it slows water flow.

Vetiver oil is distilled from the plant’s roots, and it contains over 100 components. The important compounds of vetiver are khusimene, delta-selinene, beta-vetivenene, cyclocopacamphan-12-ol (epimers A and B), vetiselinenol, khusimol, isovalencenol, khusimone, alpha-vetivone and beta-vetivone. The oil is amber-brown in color, and it’s described as a sweet, woody and smoky fragrance.

Similar to patchouli oil and sandalwood essential oil, the odor of vetiver develops and improves with aging, and the scent varies depending on the plant’s location.


7 Vetiver Oil Benefits

1. Proven Antioxidant

Antioxidants are substances that help prevent certain types of cell damage, especially those caused by oxidation. When certain types of oxygen molecules are allowed to travel freely in the body, they cause what’s known as oxidative damage, which is the formation of free radicals, which are very dangerous to the body’s tissues. Some benefits of consuming antioxidant-rich foods and herbs include slower aging, healthy and glowing skin, reduced cancer risk, detoxification support, and longer life span.

A study done at the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition a Clemson University in South Carolina evaluated the antioxidant activity of vetiver oil in 2005. The results showed that vetiver oil possessed a strong free radical scavenging activity when compared to standard antioxidants such as butylated hydroxytoluene and alpha-tocopherol.

2. Heals Scars and Marks on Skin

Vetiver oil is a cicatrisant, meaning it heals scars by promoting the regeneration of skin and tissue. It rejuvenates the skin and removes dark spots or signs of acne and pox. It’s also an anti-aging oil and effectively treats stretch marks, cracks and other skin disorders. Plus, it works as a home remedy for burn relief as well as a home remedy for acne. This can be effective for women who have stretch marks after childbirth. By adding a few drops of vetiver oil to your face wash, body soap or lotion, you will notice the difference — your skin will be even or your complexion will improve.

Vetiver oil is an antiseptic, meaning that when it’s applied to living tissue or skin, it reduces the possibility of infection and kills bacteria. Studies show that a minimum concentration of vetiver oil is needed to kill infections such as staph. This vetiver oil benefit is useful before and after a surgical procedure and when healing wounds and cuts.

3. Treats ADHD

In 2001, a study done by Dr. Terry Friedman found that vetiver oil is effective in treating children with ADHD. The case study was conducted for two years (1999-2001), and it involved 40 children between 6 and 12 years old. Twenty of the children were not diagnosed with ADHD — they served as the control group — and 20 children were diagnosed.

The essential oils that were used in the study were lavender, vetiver, cedarwood and Brain Power (which is a blend of frankincense, sandalwood, melissa, cedarwood, blue cypress, lavender and helichrysum essential oils). The essential oils were tested one at a time for 30 days per oil; the children used a inhalation device at night and inhaled the essential oil about three times day when they were feeling “scattered.”

The final results were extremely promising — lavender oil’s benefits were apparent, as it increased performance by 53 percent, cedarwood essential oil increased performance by 83 percent and vetiver oil increased performance by 100 percent! The study found that the relaxing and calming properties of vetiver oil helped the children combat their ADHD and ADD symptoms, which typically include difficulty in concentrating, diminished focus, being easily distracted, difficulty with organization and following directions, impatience, and fidgety behavior. The research that is being done to support vetiver oil, and other essential oils, as an effective natural remedy for ADHD is an exciting and much-needed prospect.

4. Serves as an Aphrodisiac

Mental and physical stress can lead to a loss of libido or sex drive. A 2010 study published in the journal Hormones and Behavior first suggested this when it evaluated the “dual-hormone hypothesis” clinically. Researchers discovered that when cortisol is elevated in times of stress, testosterone responds by elevating as well. The problem is that eventually the testosterone levels bottom out at a much lower level than before cortisol kicked in.

When you live life in a stressed state, you deplete testosterone levels and feel a loss of sexual desires. Because vetiver oil is proven to be an effective calming and sedative agent, it leaves your mind and body relaxed, which allows you to balance your hormones naturally.

It’s also very important that you get enough sleep. According to an article from the journal Current Opinion of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity, getting enough sleep and at the right times are two of the most effective and natural ways to raise testosterone. Because vetiver oil has soothing properties that leave you in a state of tranquility, it’s known to help with insomnia and stress that leads to sleep loss. With the right amount of sleep, your body begins to feel its natural and healthy urges again — so if you can’t sleep, try utilizing vetiver oil.

Vetiver oil is not only good for raising testosterone levels in the mind; it also has gentle estrogen-like effects. It has the power to strengthen the female reproductive system and balance hormones. It also aids in treating menstrual discomforts such as fatigue, bloating, skin issues, emotional changes, breast tenderness and cramps. By working as a sedative, vetiver oil serves as a natural remedy for PMS cramps and helps the body relax and combat the daunting hormonal and emotional changes.

5. Improves Body Function

Vetiver oil boosts the immune and nervous system, as it’s a natural tonic. A 2015 study conducted in India found that vetiver oil plays a protective role in the body by lessening the toxic results of a chemotherapy drug called cisplatin, which is used to treat cancer of the testicles, bladder, ovaries or lung. Because of its antioxidant activity, vetiver oil significantly inhibited DNA damage, clastogenic effects and cell cycle arrest in the bone marrow cells of mice that were given cisplatin for five consecutive days.

Vetiver oil’s soothing and restorative attributes are also responsible for stimulating the immune system and and supporting the nervous system. When we’re stressed, adrenaline and cortisol flood the body; our blood pressure, breathing and heart rate increases. Glucose is then released into the bloodstream for ready energy. Digestion, growth, reproduction and immune system functions are suppressed or put on hold when we feel tense and anxious, and blood flow to the skin is decreased while pain tolerance is increased.

Ridding yourself of stress impacts your brain, heart, digestion, immune system and every other system in the body, so natural remedies for anxiety, like vetiver oil, can be extremely useful.

6. Soothes Anxiety and Nervousness

Traditionally, vetiver oil has been used in aromatherapy for relaxation and alleviating emotional stress, panic attacks, trauma, anxiety, insomnia, hysteria and depression. A 2015 study investigated the effects of vetiver oil as a tool that helps with anxiety and the neurological actions in the central amygdaloid nucleus. The central amygdaloid nucleus connects with brainstem areas that control the expression of innate behaviors; it’s responsible for the perception and results of emotions, such as changes in heart rate, blood pressure and respiration.

When vetiver oil was given to rats, it altered this neuronal activation from stress. In fact, vetiver oil had the same impact as Diazepam, a medication that treats anxiety, muscle spasms, seizures and other medical conditions.

7. Repels Termites

The Louisiana State University Agricultural Center analyzed the termite repellency of eight essential oils, including vetiver grass, cassia leaf oil, clove bud, cedarwood, eucalyptus globules, eucalyptus citrodora, lemongrass and geranium oils. Of the tested essential oils, vetiver oil proved the most effective repellent because of its long-lasting activity. Vetiver oil also decreased termite tunneling activity at concentrations as low as fiver micrograms per one gram of sand.

Another study proved that vetiver oil is able to repel and control the mosquito larvae that’s responsible for diseases like dengue, malaria, yellow fever and filariasis. Some people use vetiver oil on the scalp to kill lice, as it’s non-toxic and works as a pest killer and repellant.


Vetiver Oil History & Interesting Facts

Vetiver oil has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. In these treatments, vetiver oil is used to treat imbalances and heal health disorders like muscular aches, fevers, arthritis pain and headaches. One interesting use, vetiver essential oil was used in massaging brides to sanctify them before marriage. Because of its cleansing and therapeutic properties, it’s known to heal a person from within.

The most popular use of vetiver oil in the Middle Ages was its use in scents, which continues to be true today. Because of its woody and earthy aroma, it’s frequently used in the perfume industry — providing a more masculine fragrance.

For thousands of years, vetiver grass has been used to make roof thatches, rugs, baskets and curtains. In India, vetiver roots are dried and then woven into window curtains; the curtains cool the fresh air that comes in from the window, so in the hot summer months the rooms are fresh and airy. Sometimes the curtains are sprayed with water so the hot air that passes through creates a cool and fragrant breeze.

Today, vetiver is used as a mulch because it’s useful as weed control in coffee, cocoa and tea plantations. It works by building a barrier in the form of a thick mat. The hairy texture of the vetiver leaves also serves as a pest repellant; when larvae lands on the leaves, it cannot move, so it falls to the ground and dies.


How to Find Vetiver Oil

It’s easy to find and purchase vetiver oil from a local health food store or online. Look for reputable and organic brands that indicate the product is 100 percent vetiver essential oil. A 10-milliliter bottle of vetiver oil costs between $10 and $15. Vetiver oil blends well with bergamot oil, cedarwood essential oil, geranium oil, ginger essential oiljasmine oil, lavender essential oil, lemon oil, lemongrass essential oilorange oil, patchouli essential oil, rose oil and sandalwood essential oil.

You can also purchase a vetiver sponge; it can be found online or in an Ayurvedic shop. The loofah-type sponge is made of vetiver roots, and it’s used to exfoliate dead skin cells and improve circulation in the body. They have a pleasant, woody-citrus fragrance, and they’re antibacterial.


Easy Vetiver Oil Uses

Here are some easy ways to use vetiver oil at home:

  • Make your own vetiver water by soaking clean vetiver roots in cooled boiling water for 2–3 hours. Make sure to cover the pot as the roots soak. The water has a calming effect on the body, and it acts as a blood purifier. It can also be used to rinse your hair to give you a cooling and refreshing feeling.
  • Put 5–10 drops of vetiver oil in your bath water; because it’s both fragrant and cooling, using it in your bath prevents overheating and helps with relaxation and insomnia. To boost the calming results, combine vetiver oil with lavender and rose essential oils as well.
  • To benefit your mind and mood, diffuse 3–5 drops of vetiver oil or place 1–2 drops on your wrists, chest and neck.
  • Make your own calming massage oil by mixing 3–5 drops of vetiver oil with equal parts jojoba oil. This combination leaves your skin clean and moisturized, and your mind at peace.

Possible Vetiver Oil Side Effects

This essential oil is completely safe, being a non-irritant, non-sensitizing and non-toxic substance. It should not be used when pregnant or breastfeeding, as there is not enough information in regard to its effects on a nursing infant. Vetiver oil is possibly safe for human consumption when taken in smaller medical doses. Drinking vetiver water (by soaking the roots) is deemed safe.

Some sources claim that vetiver oil can cause a miscarriage if taken by mouth, but there is insufficient evidence for that side effect. There are currently no known drug interactions.


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