A Haitian Treasure: Vetiver

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

Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides) is a perennial grass, native to India, where it is known as khus or the oil of tranquility, but 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 last summer.  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 came across Nubian Heritage products. While perusing the body washes, I saw blah blah blah with "Haitian Vetiver". Honestly, once I saw "Haitian" on it, I had to have it. I read the ingredients on the back. All natural. All organic. AND Haitian? #Sold.
The second I came home, yes you guessed it, I ran to my mom telling her about my find and she told me that vetiver is all over Haiti. Curious. So I did my research as usual. Introduced to Haiti in the 1940's by a Frenchman, total production now reaches over 60 tons annually. The oil distilled in Haiti has developed more of a floral quality and is considered of higher quality than the oil from Java which has a smokier scent. Sold at around $16/ml (wowsers!), the U.S, Europe, India, and Japan are the main consumers. #Typical. During my research, I came across "USAID" and that name always tickles my fancy. It turns out that USAID and Estee Lauder had major plans for vetiver production in Haiti, as it is one of the most desirable plants in the perfume business. See more information about Project MarChe (Market Chain Enhancement Project).
There is little information online about the corruption dealings of vetiver in Haiti, but let's just say...there are so many economic opportunities available for Haiti in regards to the production of this highly prized plant! Just got to find the right mergers that are socially profitable, equitable, and responsible. Cheers to wishful thinking!

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 Uses:
  • Acne
  • Arthritis
  • Cuts (antiseptic)
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Insomnia
  • Immunity
  • Muscular aches
  • Oily skin
  • Rheumatism
  • Sores
  • Stress

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The "Haitian Treasures" series explores the magnificent benefits and uses of Haiti's natural resources, which I call "Haitian Treasures" because they are truly national gems.  Naïka in Balance is the premiere source for information on healing herbs used by Haitians. In this series, I explore the tie between Haiti's natural resources and natural, traditional, and holistic healing.

Learn about other Haitian Treasures explored on this blog here!

The two most popular Haitian Treasures on this blog are:

Castor oil/l'huile palma christi
Wonder of the world plant/fey lougawou

Naika, the writer of this blog, has a doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine and a Masters of Science in Acupuncture as of June 2017. Please do not take the information presented on this blog, as medical advice, without consulting your certified health care practitioner. Knowledge is power and your health is your wealth!