Vetiver is one of our favorite essential oils. (We’ve used it in a number of our Recipes and Blending Guides in the Inner Sanctum Library.) In a blend, it offers a deep, rich, earthy tone. Therapeutically, it also has great anti-inflammatory and grounding properties.
It’s always an incredible experience to get to know the plants of the oils we love so dear. Being a member of the Grass Family, Vetiver is pretty easy to grow here in Florida, so I have enjoyed growing it, harvesting it, and sharing it with friends!
My first harvest was a couple of years ago, yielding one little ball, which we gave to Timothy Miller when we met him for lunch in January of 2017. We told him it was to help bring him back to Florida soon, and it worked! He ended up teaching a class here that October.
I replanted the stalks from that harvest, and they produced three giant plants, so I began digging up around them. I’ve seen videos of a much larger Vetiver production, where they used a tractor to chain off a 10-foot wide plant and lift it after a six-foot hole had been dug around the roots. My smaller, three-foot plants were difficult enough. Next time, I’m putting the roots in a pipe, so that I can retrieve the roots more easily.
My friend Rehne in LA got me started on growing Vetiver by sending me some of my first stalks. Rehne plants her Vetiver in a 12-inch galvanized pipe that’s been cut and put back together—placing it partially in the ground. With this method, harvest is easy. Pull out the pipe, open it, and voila!
Where are those pipes when I need them? At least I know now and will try that this year.
Now, harvesting is quite the experience. The smell of the Vetiver is instant—as soon as the shovel hits the soil. The sound of breaking roots was inevitable, and as I dug deeper, the roots revealed themselves.
Once the roots are washed, they are white and plump, and they smell of earth. This smell permeated my porch for the next week.
Once trimmed of their leaves, I cut the roots off. Then I began to separate them into stems with a bit of root for replanting. Once the roots were free, they got several soakings, power squirts, and more soaking to clean them of dirt. Drying overnight, they easily dropped the dry sand the more I cleaned the stalks. I separated the rootless and now they’re ready to replant—this time in pipes. It was a messy job separating the stalks; once done, I gave the roots a final trim and collected a few small pieces that I can use for incense!
I made one ball for a friend, a tradition we started with the first harvest last year. Tried to do another, but I may end up weaving these fibers to make a fragrant basket! Perhaps with a bit of Lavender?
Have you ever grown Vetiver? If so, what did you do with it? Leave us a comment below!
If you’d like to grow your own, I have plenty to share! Contact me and I’ll send you one while they last.
As we slowly move towards spring, we can feel the stirrings of the earth in this time of new root growth. Now is the time for contemplating how to nurture the seeds that are sprouting in our lives. Lately, we are turning to earthy roots of Vetiver and Angelica for inspiration in our growth process.
BELOW: Botanical drawing of an Angelica plant with a Vetiver root basket and scented balls.
Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides) is a grass that grows in tropical climates. Instead of spreading horizontally underneath the ground as many grasses do, Vetiver roots grow straight downward. We obtain the medical and aromatic properties from this part of the plant, as well as the volatile oil. The roots are dug, dried, then chopped and soaked in water to create the oil, which may take up to 24 hours! For us, it is a superior oil for pulling us back to earth, or maybe as the root growth suggests, helping us dig deeper into the nutritious soil of our lives.
Angelica Root (Angelica archangelica) oil is also grounding but in a different way. The Angelica plant’s most distinguishing feature is its burst of flowers, which grow out of its leaves and create a majestic canopy above the plant. In its first year, it produces only leaves, and its stem can reach six feet high. In the second year, the umbrella-shaped burst of flowers appears in the summer. These flowers yield seeds, which also create an oil.
The scent of Angelica root oil is deep like Vetiver, but it also contains a sweetness that propels us to venture forth on the next expansion of our journey.
Together in equal proportions, they make a light and airy scent, as the tenacious Vetiver holds back the ethereal Angelica. Use it for meditation, wear it in a necklace, or use it in inhalers. Caution as Angelica is phototoxic, so avoid skin use if you’ll be going out in the sun.
As you move onto new projects this year, use these oils to help keep you planted on earth while still reaching towards the sky.
Tidbits from Tony Burfield’s Second Edition Natural Aromatic Materials – Odours and Origins:
Vetiver (java type) – Red-brown to deep brown viscous liquid. Odour is heavy sweet woody earthy reminiscent of roots and wet soil with a rich undertone of precious wood. Long-lasting. Dry-out is woody-earthy and creamy with a slight smoky aspect.
Angelica Root – It is a pale yellow to brown oil, usually darker than the seed oil, with a pungent, heady, fatty, liqueur odour with some fruitiness, and peppery aspect. Dry-out is tobacco, fatty, spicy/cumin-like.