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Sunday, November 21, 2010
WHAT IS KHUS? VETIVER: ENVIRONMENTAL AND HEALTH BENEFITS
Vetiver is known as khus in Urdu and is grown for a variety of purpose. It is native to Asia and gets its name from Tamil. In Sri Lanka the oil of vetiver, (Vetiveria zizanoides) is known as the oil of tranquility.
It is a tall grass plant and the grass is used to make baskets, and other woven hand produced products. It grows in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Indian subcontinent, Japan, Haiti, China and Thailand. There are several projects in these areas which were initiated to stop soil erosion and to protect the land as well as to provide rural people with a livelihood from making items from the roots and grasses. The roots are valued for the essential oil they produce, which commands a high price in the perfume industry. It is also used in traditional medicines. It is reputed to have calming properties and can be used as a sedative, but it is especially useful for women’s reproductive health as it helps keep menstruation regular and painless. It also helps to promote fertility. In Ayurvedic medicine it is used to relieve the symptoms of arthritis and rheumatism and muscle pains and sprains. It is reputed to have antiseptic, antispasmodic, and vermifuge properties and to help cure insomnia and nervous tension. It is also used to treat fungal growths on the skin, such as ringworm.
The roots are particularly valuable, not just for the essential oil that can be extracted from them but also because they can be used to construct dwellings and to make blinds and screens as well as handbags and fans. Women in Asia love these fans because they act as insect repellents as well as keeping the user cool.
While still in the soil the roots help it by absorbing water but maintaining the moisture levels in it and by absorbing toxins from chemical pesticides and fertilizers, so restoring the soil to a more healthy state. They can also be used in insect repellents and in sprays to freshen rooms.
Just like the prickly pear cactus in Turkey, vetiver can help prevent soil erosion and is planted as a hedge for this purpose now.
The leaves are used to make handicrafts and as fodder for animals, for strewing on the floor of animal pens and stables, and they are also used as thatching material. They make excellent fibre for making paper and are also used for growing mushrooms and as compost material.
In some parts of Asia brides are traditionally anointed and blessed with vetiver oil before their wedding ceremonies, and in Russia coats would contain sachets of vetiver to retain body heat. In the Middle Ages vetiver was mixed with lime and rosewood as perfume.