A Haitian Treasure: Vetiver

Haiti is one of the leading producers of vetiver in the world.

Vetiver, Chrysopogon zizanioidesis a perennial grass native to India, where it is known as khus or the oil of tranquility, but it is produced mainly in Haiti, Java, and Réunion  Although its roots grow downwards, the plant itself can grow up to 1.5 meters high, with long and thin leaves and brownish/golden flowers. Vetiver has many uses ranging from cosmetic and bioengineering to agriculture and aromatherapy to weaving and thatching.

I first came across vetiver when I was searching for organic bath and beauty products when I first embarked on my holistic wellness journey. I decided I was over all the synthetic stuff and wanted to enjoy products that were closer to nature.  I was out and about in NYC looking for such products, and while perusing the body washes, I saw a product which featured "Haitian Vetiver".  Honestly, once I saw "Haitian" on it, I had to have it. I read the ingredients on the back. All natural, organic, and Haitian? I was sold.

I ran to tell my mom about my find and she told me that vetiver grows all over Haiti. Upon further research, I learned that vetiver was introduced to Haiti in the 1940's by a Frenchman. Fast forward a few decades, and now total production reaches over 60 tons annually. The oil distilled in Haiti has developed more of a floral quality and is considered to be higher quality than the oil from Java which has a smokier scent.

There is little information online about the distribution of vetiver in Haiti, but I envision so many economic opportunities available for Haiti in regards to the production of this highly prized plant. It's all about finding the right mergers that are socially profitable, equitable, and responsible.

Vetiver oil, known for being amber brown with a deep, sweet, earthy smell that improves over time is used for:
  • Perfume; it is contained in 90% of all Western perfumes
  • Soaps
  • Aromatherapy; it is absorbed in the circulatory system via absorption through the skin and mucous membranes, through inhalation, vaporization, bathing, massage, and spray
  • Traditional medicine in South Asia and West Africa
  • Ayurveda; the root and its essential oil can alleviate thirst, heatstroke, fevers, and headache
  • Oriental medicine; it has cool and moist energy so it nourishes, calms, and uplifts 
Medicinal topical uses:
  • Acne
  • Arthritis
  • Cuts (antiseptic)
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Insomnia
  • Immunity
  • Muscular aches
  • Oily skin
  • Rheumatism
  • Sores
  • Stress
In health,
Dr. Naika

The "Haitian Treasures" series was created by Dr. Naika in 2012. This series explores the magnificent benefits and uses of Haiti's natural resources, which Dr. Naika calls "Haitian Treasures". In this series, Dr. Naika explores the tie between Haiti's natural resources and natural, traditional, and holistic healing.

This blog post was originally posted on Dr. Naika's lifestyle blog, Naika in Balance. Dr. Naika's work is copyrighted. Please do not copy or repost Dr. Naika's work without citing her content as the original source.