I do love the fragrance of May roses and lilacs, and jasmine too. But if I had to pick a favorite fragrance – especially as a scent to wear – my absolute favorite would be vetiver, which is verdant and rooty, citrusy and earthy, woody and leathery, somehow all at once. I simply can’t resist it.
The oil of Vetiveria zizanioides is obtained by steam distillation of its thick, spidery roots. Soothing and cooling, vetiver is said to be anti-inflammatory, an antiseptic, and an aphrodisiac. Vetiver is also relaxing as a sedative, a tonic for the metabolic system, immune system booster and remedy for spesis and an eraser of scars.
A perennial grass with long, knotty roots growing in wet and marshy land, vetiver often hangs in riverbanks. Also known as khas, vetiver is native to southern India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, and is also cultivated in Reunion, the Philippines, the Japan’s Comoro Islands, West Africa and South America. The oil is mainly produced in Java, Haiti and Reunion. It is a rhizome, from the ancient Greek for “mass of roots,” similar to ginger and galangal, and irises and Lily of the Valley, which also have sopping, thick roots.
Vetiver’s use and even spiritual significance is centuries old. In southern India, the dried roots are woven into window blinds to lower the intense daytime heat while perfuming the air when sprinkled with water. The Javanese use the wirey roots for weaving mats and thatching huts. Folk magicians believe vetiver provides safety and brings financial security. It is central to the Sama-Chakeba festival of north India, celebrating the return of migratory birds when winter comes, and the grass is also used in elaborately embroidered Sikki grass art from eastern India.
There’s even a folk band called Vetiver. I don’t know their music but I’d like to because I like their look.
And oh, that intoxicating scent.