Is it possible that a plant can teach valuable lessons about human behavior such as cooperation, resilience, resourcefulness, acceptance, and benevolence? Maybe this is a stretch anthropomorphically but in the case of vetiver, it seems perfectly appropriate. This pretty but very common looking tall grass has hidden secrets that are Nobel Peace Prize worthy.
Soil erosion is perhaps the world’s most chronic environmental problem that is literally costing the earth. The soil it carries off now totals 20 billion tons a year and this loss is not only severely degrading the environment, it is eroding the economic viability of countries” writes Richard Webb, a renowned landscape architect and permaculture teacher. Of vetiver’s most notable qualities is its ability to stabilize and fortify soil, thus preventing erosion. Its roots can grow as far as 4 meters into the soil and actually feed it nutrients. These roots are also great companions and non invasive in nature. They grow deep down into the earth rather than spreading and taking over any nearby crops that are trying to flourish. Additionally, vetiver utilizes phytoremediation, which de-contaminates the earth from heavy metals and other potentially toxic materials. For this reason, vetiver is said to contribute to poverty reduction by stabilizing erosion-vulnerable soil and allowing farmers to cultivate in a steady, non-competitive and healthy environment. Vetiver also does well in areas the have significant rainfall but can withstand prolonged drought making it a reliable and adaptable as the world’s climate becomes less and less predictable. And it doesn’t stop there. It is used to make thatch mats, roofs, and window covers that are so critical in some African, Indian, Polynesian and Asian households.
Known as agar wangi, or fragrant root in the Indonesian language, vetiver’s essential oil is deep and rich. It is widely used in ayurvedic and traditional healing practices worldwide. Some of its most common healing properties include but are not limited to: anti anxiety/stress, antioxidant, antibacterial, cooling, calming, balancing, grounding, sedative, reproductive and sexual health, blood circulation, pesticide and much more. This “Oil of Tranquility”, as it is called in Sri Lanka, is used by perfumers far and wide and has distinct and lovely notes of wood and earth that are appreciated by both men and women.
This list could continue extensively and if interested in the scientific and magical ways of botany, it is worth delving deeper into the world of vetiver. Supportive, accommodating, problem-solving, therapeutic, robust and gift giving.
We are so grateful to Bali for all that it shares with us. Not a day goes by without wonder and thoughts about the practices we see here each day. As guests, we will never fully understand but are impacted deeply. We watch as things change and only hope to contribute positively to this magical island and its people.
Bali is one of the 17,508 islands in the Archipelago of Indonesia.
Balinese Hindus make up 84.5% of Bali’s population.
Plants, flowers and incense play an essential role in the daily life of Balinese Hindus.
Flowers and other botanical materials are used to make daily offerings for the spirits and the gods as a symbol of their gratitude for peace.
Plants are a critical tool used in all traditional healing practices in Bali.
Jamu is a plant based drink made with local plants and used to heal and nourish the body.
Plants are used in traditional textile making for fibers and color.
Tri Hita Karana is a Balinese philosophy that explains 3 reasons for prosperity:
Harmony with nature
Harmony with humans
Harmony with the divine
The seen/real world (sekala) and the unseen/spiritual world (niskala)
Black and white