Vetiver essential oil, also called khus oil, is extracted from the vetiver plant, a clumpy, green grass native to India that can grow five feet high or more. Vetiver is in the same family as other grasses used for their essential oils, including lemongrass and citronella.

Vetiver oil is quite fragrant, with a distinctive sharp and earthy scent you may recognize from men’s cologne.

Vetiver essential oil is distilled from the vetiver plant’s roots, which are aged before being soaked in water. The highly concentrated oil that is released is then skimmed off the top of the water. It’s used in holistic practice for its soothing, grounding capabilities.

Keep reading to find out what we know about using vetiver oil for health benefits.

Vetiver oil has quite a few properties that make it a promising ingredient for aromatherapy.

Vetiver oil for alertness and mental fatigue

In a 2016 animal study, researchers concluded that inhaling vetiver oil improved alertness and brain function. Vetiver oil may help your brain feel more awake if you’re struggling to focus on a task or remain alert to what’s happening around you.

Vetiver oil for breathing in your sleep

Using vetiver oil in a diffuser while you sleep could help improve your breathing patterns. A small 2010 study measured the response of 36 people who were exposed to differing aromas during their sleep.

Vetiver oil increased the quality of exhalation and decreased inhalation when sleeping study participants detected it. This could mean vetiver oil could help people who snore heavily.

Vetiver oil for anxiety

Vetiver oil may help you if you experience anxiety. A 2015 animal study observed rats that were exposed to vetiver oil through inhaling its scent. The subjects of the study appeared to be more relaxed after vetiver oil exposure. Human trials are needed to understand the mechanism vetiver oil uses to treat anxiety.

Using essential oils for anxiety is becoming more popular, with several other oils having demonstrated anti-anxiety effects.

Vetiver oil protects you from ticks

A 2015 study showed that vetiver oil has a high toxicity for ticks. When diluted with a carrier oil and applied topically it may even be more effective than some commercial products marketed to protect from the tick bites that could cause Lyme disease.

Vetiver essential oil for ADHD

Anecdotally, some people use vetiver oil aromatherapy as a treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD. A 2016 study showed that vetiver essential oil can decrease mental fatigue and improve alertness, so it makes sense that it might work for people with ADHD to focus on a task and filter out other sensory input.

But more research is needed to suggest definitively that vetiver essential oil would work for the purpose of treating ADHD. In the meantime, there are other essential oils with demonstrated benefits for ADHD.

Vetiver oil contains antioxidants

A 2009 study showed that vetiver root has antioxidant properties. Antioxidants scavenge your body’s systems for toxins and what are called “free radicals,” which disrupt your body’s processes and contribute to the signs of aging.

Using skin creams that contain vetiver oil, or using it in its pure essential oil form, may give you an antioxidant boost.

Vetiver oil is effective as an aromatherapy agent. That means it’s safe to inhale when it’s been distilled and released as a vapor. Using an aromatherapy diffuser to inhale the scent of pure vetiver oil is one way to use it for health benefits.

You may also try applying vetiver oil topically. Vetiver oil should always be diluted using a carrier oil, such as jojoba oil or coconut oil. Mix 1 to 2 drops of vetiver oil in every 10 drops of your carrier oil to start using it on your skin. If you’d like, you can gradually increase the amount of vetiver oil in your mixture.

Vetiver is safe in most applications, as long as it is used in moderation. Speak to a doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and considering using vetiver essential oil for its health benefits.

Vetiver essential oil carries very little risk of toxicity. As long as you don’t have an allergy to the vetiver plant, it should be safe to apply topically to your skin. Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil and do a patch test on a small section of your skin before applying it all over your body.

Inhaling vetiver oil through an aromatherapy diffuser should also be safe for most people. Always proceed with caution when using aromatherapy on your child. Never use aromatherapy or topical oil applications on a child younger than 2 years old without speaking to their doctor about possible side effects.

Aromatherapy affects pets too, you might want to remove them from the house when you use a diffuser.

Vetiver oil is a lesser-known essential oil, but it has powerful properties. We still need more research to understand how vetiver essential oil affects your brain and the rest of your body when it is applied topically or inhaled.

What we do know is that vetiver oil can soothe and calm anxiousness, stimulate a tired brain to feel more alert, and protect you from tick bites that could cause other health problems.