Ladies, if you’ve ever worn Chanel Sycomore, Lancome Hypnose, or Sarah Jessica Parker Covet, you’ve enjoyed the base note of vetiver.
Men can find the unique fragrance in Prada Infusion de Vetiver, Lancome Sagamore, Carven Vetiver, and more.
Would you be surprised to learn that vetiver is one of the most popular of all ingredients in perfumes? Wherever it’s found, vetiver lends a grounding, sensuous, and warm aroma perfect for a wide range of applications.
Have you ever tried it in your own blends, for its grounding and calming effects? Reputed as a favorite among base notes, vetiver can lead you in lots of fun directions. Want a new relaxing and moisturizing body oil, air freshener, or cleansing mist? Start with vetiver and add the right ingredients, then sit back and enjoy.
Want to try it?
What is Vetiver?
Related to lemongrass and part of the Poaceae family of plants—scientifically called vetiveria zizanioides—vetiver is also called “khus” in its native India, where it was once used for making ropes, screens, mats, baskets, blinds, and insect and rodent repellents.
Historically, vetiver was thought to help increase safety and financial resources, and its hedges were used to trap crop residues and silts to form an earth embankment. Ancient Sanskrit manuscripts detailed its use as a water purifier, and inscriptions on copper plates dating back to 1103 AD listed “khus” perfume as belonging to the Royals. As recently as the 1950s, vetiver grass was shown to have the ability to help improve soil fertility and facilitate ground water recharge, and was used in India to help reclaim the soil for planting.
The essential oil comes from the roots of the plants, which are interlinked underground and grow about 12 feet into the soil. Known in India as the “oil of tranquility,” vetiver was known to possess many potential health benefits as well.
Benefits of Vetiver Essential Oil
In traditional medicine, the herb was used to treat arthritis, muscle aches, rheumatism, and circulation problems, and to promote fertility. Modern herbalists use it as an aphrodisiac, to tame inflammation, and to help fade scars and hyperpigmentation.
Some studies have even suggested that it may help calm symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). A study done by Terry Friedman assessed children’s behaviors, in particular their ability to focus, and how they were affected by certain essential oils. Vetiver showed a 100% improvement in behavior, performing significantly better than lavender and cedarwood.
In aromatherapy, vetiver is considered to be primarily grounding, with the following potential emotional benefits:
- Promotes restful sleep.
- Relaxing, calms nerves.
- Restores one’s connections to his/her roots.
- Counteracts symptoms of trauma.
- Awakens sexual desire.
- Helps ease mental exhaustion.
Its incredible benefits have made it historically sought after, and clearly modern day formulators have caught on. (Though to get the real benefits, you should use the essential oil and not a synthetic replication.)
If you're familiar with the scent of vetiver, you know that its earthy scent is loved by many but also benefits from being balanced by accompanying middle and top notes.
What is a Base Note?
At its simplest level, perfumery consists of composing a balance of ingredients using three different categories:
- Top notes make up between 10 and 30 percent of the blend.
- Middle notes make up between 30 and 60 percent of the blend.
- Base notes make up between 15 and 30 percent of the blend.
The top notes (also called the “head notes”) are those you’re likely to smell first, but they quickly evaporate, usually within 5 to 30 minutes. These are the ones that rush at your senses when you first smell the fragrance, and create its first impression. They typically come from flowers and leaves, and are often stimulating and uplifting—perfect for counteracting fatigue or depression. Some top notes include basil, eucalyptus, lavender, lemon, neroli, and sage.
Middle notes last a little longer, maybe a few hours. These come to the fore once the top notes have evaporated, and are considered the “heart” of the fragrance. You’re likely to detect them about 10 to 30 minutes after you’ve applied. They are usually linked to creating balance between mind and body. Think full-bodied scents like chamomile, cinnamon, geranium, ginger, rose, and ylang ylang.
Base notes evaporate the most slowly of all three, and may linger for a day or more. They are said to mingle with the heart notes to create the full body of the fragrance, but most of all, they provide the final impression. Think foundation scents, those that are heavy, deep, tenacious, and strong. These oils are usually connected with grounding us, counteracting nervousness and anxiety while promoting relaxation, and a feeling of being supported. Vetiver is a base note, along with other oils like cedarwood, clove, frankincense, myrrh, sandalwood, and vanilla.
Combining the three categories to create a fragrance is where the fun lies in perfumery. How much of each you use depends on the effect you want to have. Let’s say you want to stimulate and enliven the senses. You might use more top notes, maybe two or three, compared to only one middle and one base. If you’re seeking a fragrance to encourage meditation or introspection, you may want to use more base notes, with just a bit of top and middle.
5 Vetiver Essential Oil Blends to Try
There’s a reason vetiver is used so commonly in perfume formulas. It has grounding aromatherapy and a scent that mingles well with others. Though it mixes well with many oils, some are better than others.
Here are some tips for blending vetiver to create appealing scents:
- Moisturizing body oil: Blend your favorite carrier oil (jojoba, fractionated coconut, rose hip seed, argan, evening primrose, avocado) with three drops each of lavender and palmarosa, and one drop vetiver.
- Relaxing diffuser: Having a stressful day? Try blending 3 drops vetiver in your diffuser with 10 drops petitgrain, 6 drops cedarwood Virginian, and 6 drops Peru Balsam.
- Meditating bath: Add the following to your bath to create a relaxing, grounding escape—4 drops each bergamot and geranium, and 2 drops vetiver.
- Calming mist spray: Give your room a calming, relaxing feel by misting this spray about—35 drops lemongrass, 25 drops anise seed, 25 drops allspice, 25 drops Red Mandarin, 20 drops vetiver, 20 drops bergamot, and 4 ounces pure water.
- Nature walk perfume: If you can’t get to the real woods, try using a little of this fragrance instead—5 drops lavender, 4 drops lemon, and 3 drops vetiver in a 5 ml bottle filled with fractionated coconut oil or sweet almond oil.
What Blends Well With Vetiver Essential Oil
In general, vetiver blends well with:
- Ylang ylang
- Lemon and other citrus scents (lime, grapefruit)
- Clary sage
Experiment with balancing top, middle, and base notes and soon you’ll be creating beautiful blends that please your palette and give you the aromatherapy you want.
Do you use vetiver in your homemade blends? Please share your ideas with our readers.
Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants - Vetiver in India
The Prairie Homestead - 10 Essential Oil Recipes for Your Diffuser
Vetiver Aromatics - Perfume Recipes