An Eco-sustainable World
HerbaceousSpecies Plant

Chrysopogon zizanioides

Chrysopogon zizanioides

Vetiver o False beardgrass (Chrysopogon zizanioides (L.) Roberty) is a herbaceous species belonging to the Poaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota Domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Subarign Tracheobionta,
Magnoliophyta Division,
Liliopsida class,
Cyperales Order,
Poaceae family,
Genus Chrysopogon,
C. zizanioides species.
Basionimo is the term:
– Phalaris zizanioides L ..
The terms are synonymous:
– Agrostis verticillata Lam.;
– Anatherum muricatum (Retz.) P.Beauv.;
– Anatherum zizanioides (L.) Hitchc. & Chase;
– Andropogon aromaticus Roxb.;
– Andropogon aromaticus Roxb. ex Schult.;
– Andropogon muricatus Retz.;
– Andropogon odoratus Steud.;
– Andropogon zizanioides (L.) Hochr., 1910;
– Andropogon zizanioides (L.) Urb.;
– Chamaeraphis muricata (Retz.) Merr.;
– Holcus zizanioides (L.) Stuck.;
– Oplismenus abortivus Roem. & Schult.;
– Rhaphis muricata (Retz.) Steud.;
– Rhaphis zizanioides (L.) Roberty;
– Sorghum zizanioides (L.) Kuntze;
– Vetiveria arundinacea Griseb.;
– Vetiveria muricata (Retz.) Griseb.;
– Vetiveria odorata Virey;
– Vetiveria odoratissima Bory;
– Vetiveria odoratissima Bory ex Cloquet;
– Vetiveria odoratissima Lem.-Lis.;
– Vetiveria zizanioides (L.) Nash;
– Vetiveria zizanioides var. genuina A.Camus;
– Vetiveria zizanioides var. tonkinensis A.Camus.

Etymology –
The term Chrysopogon comes from the Greek χρυσόϛ chrysós oro and πώγων pógon barba, due to the golden appearance of the down at the base of the spikelets.
The specific epithet zizanioides comes from the genus Zizania (Latin name of a weed weed mentioned by ecclesiastical writers) and from the Greek εἷδος eídos aspect, semblance: similar to plants of that genus.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Vetiver is a plant native to India but widely cultivated in tropical regions of the world, such as in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand and Indochina; he also naturalized in other regions, particularly in the United States.
Its natural habitat is that of alluvial plains and banks of streams and rivers, on rich and humid soils, often along watercourses.

Description –
Chrysopogon zizanioides is a herbaceous plant that can grow up to 1.5 meters in height.
Unlike most grasses, which develop roots horizontally, the roots of this plant grow downwards, up to 2-4 meters deep.
It is characterized by straight and tall stems.
The leaves are long, thin, rather stiff and can reach up to 300 centimeters in length and 8 mm in width.
The flowers are purple-brown; they are collected in panicles which are 15–30 cm long and have spiral branches 25–50 mm long; the spikelets are in pairs and there are three stamens.
Its seeds are often sterile.

Cultivation –
Chrysopogon zizanioides is a plant widely cultivated today in tropical regions of the world. The largest producers in the world are Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand and Indochina and, moreover, it has naturalized in other regions, particularly in the United States.
The shoots that grow from the underground crown make the plant resistant to frost and fire and allow it to survive the strong pressure of grazing.
The stems of the plants are erect and rigid. They can survive the flow of deep water. Under clear water, the plant can survive for up to two months.
Due to all of these characteristics, the vetiver plant is highly drought tolerant and can help protect the soil from leaf erosion. In case of sediment deposition, new roots can grow from the buried nodes.
It is a plant of the tropics, where it is found at altitudes of up to 2,500 meters. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are between 22 and 35 ° C, but can tolerate between 12 and 45 ° C. when the plant is dormant it can survive temperatures down to about -15 ° C, but the young shoots can be severely damaged already at 0 ° C.
It prefers an average annual rainfall in the range of 500 – 2,500 mm, but tolerates 200 – 5,000 mm.
From the pedological point of view it prefers a soil that retains moisture in full sun, it grows in a vast typology of soils, tolerating occasional water stagnation once established; plants are very tolerant to saline soils and prefer a pH in the range 4.5 – 8, tolerating 3 – 9.9.
In current cultivation often sterile genotypes are used (they do not produce fertile seeds) and since vetiver does not propagate by underground stolons, these genotypes are non-invasive and can be easily controlled by cultivating the soil at the border of the hedge. However, care should be taken, as the fertile genotypes of vetiver have become invasive.
In fact, almost all the vetiver grown in the world is propagated by vegetative means.
Harvesting of mature plants is done mechanically or manually. A machine uproots the mature stump 20–25 cm below the ground. To avoid damaging the foliage of the plant, a single blade moldboard plow or a disc plow with special adjustment is used.
In cultivations it is possible to obtain yields of 1 – 5 tons of dried roots per hectare every year, with an oil content of 0.7 – 2.5%; this produces 40 – 100 pounds of essential oil.
The United States, Europe, India and Japan are the main consumers.

Customs and Traditions –
Chrysopogon zizanioides, commonly known as vetiver and வெட்டிவேர் in Tamil, is a plant native to India where in the western and northern areas it is popularly known as Khus.
During the reign of Harshavardhan, Kannauj, India, became the largest center for the trade in aromatics and the vetiver tax was introduced for the first time.
This plant is grown for many purposes. The plant helps stabilize the soil and protects it from erosion, but it can also protect fields from pests and weeds. Vetiver has favorable qualities for animal nutrition. From the roots, the oil is extracted and used for cosmetics, aromatherapy, herbal skin care, and Ayurvedic soap. Its fibrous properties make it useful for crafts, ropes, and more.
Furthermore, vetiver has been used to make perfumes, creams and soaps. It is used for its antiseptic properties in treating acne and sores.
In West African regions, such as Mali and Senegal, vetiver roots were traditionally used to reduce the proliferation of bacteria in water jugs and jars. In Indonesia, the roots of vetiver are widely used in the production of scented mats. In the Philippines and India, the roots are intertwined to create fragrant fans called “sandal root fans”.
Vetiver can be used for crop protection. It attracts the borer (Chilo partellus), which lays its eggs preferentially on vetiver but whose larvae cannot thrive there, as the plant’s hairiness prevents them from moving on the leaves, which instead fall to the ground and die.
Vetiver essential oil has antifungal properties against Rhizoctonia solani.
As a mulch, vetiver is used for weed control in coffee, cocoa and tea plantations. It builds a barrier in the form of a thick mat. As the mulch breaks down, soil organic matter builds up and additional nutrients become available for the crop.
Vetiver extracts can repel termites. However, alone, unlike its extracts, it cannot be used to repel termites. Unless the roots are damaged, anti-dermal chemicals, such as nootkatone, are not released.
Vetiver leaves are a useful by-product for feeding cattle, goats, sheep and horses. The nutritional content depends on the season, the stage of growth and the fertility of the soil. In most climates, nutritional values ​​and yields are best if the vetiver is cut every 1-3 months.
Vetiver is also used as a flavoring agent, usually as a khus syrup. Khus syrup is made by adding Khus essence to sugar, water and citric acid syrup. The essence of Khus is a thick dark green syrup obtained from the roots. It has a woody flavor and a characteristic scent of khus.
The syrup is used to flavor smoothies and yogurt drinks like lassi, but can be used in ice cream, mixed drinks like Shirley Temples, and as a dessert topping. Khus syrup does not need to be refrigerated, although Khus flavored products may need to be.
Vetiver oil, or khus oil, is a complex oil, containing over 150 identified components, which are:
– benzoic acid furfural;
– vetivene vetinyl vetivenato;
– terpinen-4-ol 5-epiprezizane;
– khusimene α-muurolene;
– khusimone Calacorene;
– β-umulene α-longipinene;
– γ-selinene δ-selinene;
– valencian δ-cadinene;
– calarene, -gurjunene α-amorfene;
– epizanal 3-epizanol;
– khusimol Iso-khusimol;
– valerenol β-vetivone;
– α-vetivone vetivazulene.
Vetiver oil is amber brown and viscous. Its smell is described as deep, sweet, woody, smoky, earthy, amber and balsamic.
In the medicinal field, vetiver has been used in traditional medicine in South Asia (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand) and West Africa.
Ancient Tamil literature mentions the use of vetiver for medical purposes. Ayurvedic medicine considers vetiver root refreshing and astringent and recommends it for burning sensations, bilious fevers, sweating, stranguria, ulcers and blood diseases.
Among other uses, it should be remembered that in the Indian subcontinent, khus (vetiver roots) is often used to replace straw or wood chips in evaporative coolers. When cold water runs over wood chips in evaporative padding for months, they tend to accumulate algae, bacteria and other microorganisms. This causes the cooler to emit a fishy or algae smell. Vetiver root padding counteracts this odor. A cheaper alternative is to add a fresher or even pure vetiver scent to the tank. Another benefit is that vetiver filling does not catch fire as easily as dried wood chips.
Mats made by intertwining vetiver roots and tying them into ropes are used in India to cool the rooms of a home during the summer. Mats are typically hung over a door and kept moist by periodically sprinkling water; they refresh the air that passes, as well as give off a fresh aroma.
In the hot summer months in India, sometimes a sachet of vetiver root muslin is thrown into the clay pot that keeps a family’s drinking water cool. Like a bouquet garni, the bassoon gives the water a distinctive flavor and aroma.
Vetiver, as mentioned, can be used in the agroforestry field.
We have seen that unlike most grasses, which tend to have a more or less rooting habit on the surface, the very dense root system of Vetiver has a strong tendency to grow downwards for 4 meters or more.
Traditionally, the plant is grown in southern India in strips as permanent field boundaries and occasionally in contour strips to control erosion, while in Java it is planted to protect sloping drainages.
Its use as an erosion control plant has spread throughout the tropics, but for a long time it was limited to small areas. A recent interest began in Fiji, where it was grown in contour belts in sugar cane plantations on steep slopes. Since the late 1980s, its erosion control planting has been heavily promoted, not only around fields, but also to protect terracing and road embankments.
Strips of densely dense, stiff and strong grass stems interrupt the runoff water velocity and divide it evenly, reducing the risk of runoff streams and ravine erosion.
Additionally, the plant is highly tolerant of heavy metals in the soil, including silver, cadmium, manganese and aluminum. In addition, it can grow on land where fuel has been poured. Over time it gradually builds up these toxins which can then be removed by cutting the grass and metals can be recovered.

Preparation Method –
Chrysopogon zizanioides is a plant from whose root a high quality essential oil is obtained, known as “vetiver oil”. Its scent is intense and woody and is used for many applications, being used in perfumery, cosmetics, deodorants, soaps and other toiletries.
In perfumery, essential oil and vetiveril acetate, synthesized by the acetylation of vetiver oil, are important fixatives for more volatile fragrances. The chemical stability of vetiver oil under alkaline conditions makes it a fragrant compound suitable for soaps.
The best quality oil is obtained from 18-24 month old roots. The roots are dug up, cleaned and then dried. Before distillation, the roots are chopped and soaked in water. The distillation process can take up to 24 hours. After the distillate has separated into the essential oil and hydrolat, the oil is skimmed and left to age for a few months to allow some unwanted notes formed during distillation to dissipate. Like the essential oils of patchouli and sandalwood, the smell of vetiver develops and improves with aging. The characteristics of the oil can vary greatly depending on the place where the grass is grown and the climatic and soil conditions. The oil distilled in Haiti and Réunion has a more floral quality and is considered to be of higher quality than the more smoky Java oil. In northern India, the oil is distilled from wild vetiver. This oil is known as khus or khas, and in India it is considered superior to the oil obtained from the cultivated variety. It is rarely found in trade outside India, as most of it is consumed within the country.
As mentioned, the essential oil, and the roots, have insecticidal and repellent properties for insects of which little is known.
The roots are used to make baskets, mats, fans or “pamaypay” in the Philippines and to cool screens called “tatties” in India. These give a pleasant smell to the environment, especially if moistened.
Dried roots, or powdered root sachets, are stored between clothes to give them a pleasant smell and to repel insects.
Old stems and leaves are an excellent long-lasting straw and can be made into a coarse paper pulp.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
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Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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