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The scent of an uncommon grass

Chrysopogon zizanioides, commonly known as vetiver or Khus (derived from Tamil), is a perennial grass of the Poaceae family, native to India, Thailand and Java, it’s used in attars to anoint brides and woven into mats to scent the air when bruised under foot. …
My first encounter with this potent grass was at the beginning of my aromatherapy career, as some of you know I kinda fell into aromatherapy (some would say that the hand of destiny guided me) I remember so clearly my first day of training at Micheline Arcier’s, there I was this post punk/new romantic 80″s girl who had stumbled into this aromatic world of mystery and the metaphysical.
 As I lay on the couch our teacher demonstrated to me the interconnectedness of the body and emotions first hand, grasping my foot. She administered a firm pressure to the sole of my foot and smiled smugly as I leapt up with a yelp reacting to the acute sharp pain of her precise reflex stimulation. Ahhh she said and explained it related to stress, to be specific the knot in my stomach (umm you think? How did she know?).

She explained it linked to my solar plexus (a crossing of nerve fibres related to the sympathetic nervous system found just below the diaphragm) and was like our emotional brain which reacts unconsciously to stress, fear anxiety.
She sagely looked at me and suggested I take a deep sniff of vetiver, she handed it to me, my reaction was one of utter revulsion as its rich,dark,nutty aroma engulfed me and commanded me into calm submission.
I was reminded of this incident whilst in conversation about said unguent with a fellow aromatherapist. We were discussing the inclusion of it in a skin-care product and had produced the same reaction in her. I explained that such reactions are often caused by something in that aroma we need. So if the nervous system is overactive and adrenal function maxed out, this rich,deep dark earthy aroma takes no prisoner’s and commands you to be still.

It was a key component of a blend I created for Pure Alchemy called Stillness and when treating super charged stressed out clients being silenced in mid-sentence as I anointed it to key points, I suggested this might be at the root of her reaction as her own emotional and physical reserves pretty fragile and stretched.I use it like an accessory note to ground a formula, it gives substance and  enrichment.

Her experience of Vetiver till now had been in men’s fragrances and yes it is a base note and often found like patchouli in orientals.They are from the same tribe and similar to Spikenard and need sensitivity when using them.
So what’s the relevance to skin-care product?

Ahhh… I said once again in my most sage like manner…. Well, it gives fantastic support to the body when it is deficient and lacking in tone, working on the connective tissue it renews strength and vitality. A fantastic tonic for the skin if there is hormonal deficiency, often the cause of dry flaky skin and poor tone.
Most of all it nourishes the body and mind and has a reassuring strength that grounds and cools the most restless soul, anchoring it and offering a sense of belonging and respite.

Interestingly, vetiver grass is known as the oil of tranquility where it gives stability to fragility. In Haiti it is both and economic and environmental necessity, production of the oils offers a living whilst densely tufted roots offer physical ballast to prevent soil erosion called kenbe te a (hold the earth), to stabilise riverbeds and roads.

An anchor to a shifting fragile earth and holds it together with deep roots. It brings vital nourishment to soil and a foundation for other crops to be planted and flourish. In life there is always a delicate balance between commercial(outward) and conservation (inward) utilisation of resources, the eternal dance of Yin & Yang.