Cameroon: Utilization of Vetiver Grass Roots for Medicinal and Other Purposes

Ngwainmbi Simon Chia. Coordinator, Cameroon Vetiver Network (CAVN)

Paper to be presented at the Second International Vetiver Conference, Thailand. January 2000

Email: "Ngwainmbi Simon"< [email protected]>

I want to present here just a small part of my research work on Traditional Medicine (vetiver). I have used vetiver grass as medicine for 2 years now and it can cure many sicknesses. Farmers in Boyo, Cameroon, whenusing vetiver do not need western medicine for toothache, nor do they need chemicals to kill rats, snakes, rodent and weevils in their maize and beans. When you grind the roots of vetiver and mix with some food and place as bait in the house for rats eat, after feeding they shortly die shortly.

In the Northwest and Western Provinces as well as Adamawa, people say vetiver sends away bad dreams i.e. evil spirits (vetiver tea is said to make people relax .. Ed).

Yes! Because of its curative powers, people are very much interested in planting t vetiver grass. Infact it is this method that I have used to send vetiver to all parts of Cameroon in a very short time.

Also aromatic herbs like vetiver grass have enormous industrial potential. When infused, these leaves and roots produce an insoluble essential oil which is highly in demand for its flavouring, therapeutic and insecticide properties.


Method I

I first of all made the people of Cameroon (Mbingo) to understand what vetiver can cure.

- vetiver can kill rats

- vetiver can send away snakes

- vetiver can send away rodent

- vetiver can keep away weevils

Method II

After the farmers in Mbingo understood that vetiver can do the above. I go on to show them that vetiver takes away 96% of the farmers problems. I moved to the field to show how vetiver can now control Erosion. This again with my practical experience proves, as you can see sites, on the slides. I did not stop here, but have now moved with training of 54 vetiver grass promoters. After the training the participants were to open school nurseries in their own village or town where people will come to study. In this case there were 54 vetiver volunteers each taking care of 25 persons. With this method many people planted vetiver grass.

Method III

Training how to use vetiver as medicine to the human body.

Because vetiver can cure many sicknesses many people now grow it for medicinal purposes only. The oil from the plant is very medicinal.

How to extract Essential oils by hydrodistillation method:-

Aromatic herbs such as vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides) have enormous industrial potential. When infused, these leaves and roots produce an insoluble essential oil, which is highly in demand for its aroma, therapeutic and insecticide properties.

Vetiver oil emits a sweet and pleasant odour (aroma) from the roots and some traces from the leaves. It is mostly obtained by steam distilling the roots and is used in soap making (scent), lotions, deodorants and other cosmetics. Its scent dominates a perfume. Haiti, Indonesia produces most of the world's vetiver oil. The oil is extremely complex, containing more than 60 compounds.

Method of extraction


- The leaves are harvested while fresh, and can either be dried, chopped or fermented before processing.

- The prepared leaves are put in a container with 2/3 quantity of water and heated in an enclosed lid, boiled at a very high temperature - above 100 degrees centigrade over a long heating period.

- The generated heat destabilises the complex compounds which turn into vapour and comes out with volatile components.

- The tank is connected to a cooling device by a galvanised pipe (020) which condenses the vapour on coming out of the drum or container.

- The condensed vapour drips at the outlet into a glass container where the distilled water + essential oils are collected.

- The essential oil then floats and can be collected by hand. The quantity collected varies between 2 - 3 % of distilled water quantity.

- The small traces of water collected can further be evaporated with less than 100 degrees centigrade of obtain pure oil.


Roots contain the higher quantity of essential oils with high concentration of bicylic and tricylic sesquiterpenes, hydrocarbons, alcohol & rsquys and carboxylic acids. Those that repel insects are minor constituents.

- Harvest the roots, wash and dry to reduce water content.

- Put in a vessel of 2/3 water quantity in weight.

- Distil as explained above "Leave method".


Substantial quantities of this oil is being imported and used in soap industries and perfumeries. It has a healing properties, aseptic properties (which kills germs, bacteria and other virus), flavouring and deodorant properties i.e. it scares away some harmful insects such as mosquitoes. For example, people in India and elsewhere have been using vetiver roots in protecting clothes from moths, heads from lice and bedding from bedbugs. The oil repels flies and cockroaches as well and may make a useful ingredient for room refreshers. Presently, the author uses the roots to repel rats and cockroaches in his books shelve at Mbingo.


The volunteers have great chances of success in the following:

- Availability of Raw Materials. Vetiver grass grows in every single part of Boyo Division and some parts of N.W. Province. Its cultivation can be made more profitable, if associated with intensive erosion control by planting on contour bonds in the entire mountainous part of Kom.



1/2 can melted beeswax

1 can Vaseline

1 can vegetable oil

2 cans vetiver scented water (you get the scented water by boiling a handful of vetiver root with small amount of water

1 teaspoon borax

- Prepare pot of boiling water on fire

- In a clean tin put beeswax, Vaseline and vegetable oil. Heat tin in Boiling water pot until melted. (double boiler)

- In another clean tin mix the borax with the scented water. Heat tin in double boiler until the wax mixture is ready

- Prepare a clean container

- Note: melted wax and oils into container quickly. Then pour water mixture into that container of wax and oil stirring continuously until it is thick.

- Pour into container before it cools.

Your cream is now ready. You can now cure all your skin problems.

As I let people know the above ways of using vetiver to cure themselves and now let vetiver talk to people and I do not need to talk to them It is this magic grass that is talking in Cameroon not Ngwainmbi Simon. Anyway I learn to understand what vetiver says and I tell people. Did you know that vetiver talks? Yes! it does. Ngwainmbi Simon knows how and that is why with vetiver grass a farmer has no more problem. Because it is used to solve all farmers problems. e.g. sickness, soil problems, rats, weevils, bad spirits, demons, fire tracing, providing water, roofing of housing, and all you can think of.

My advice now to all farmers of Cameroon or any country on earth should turn to vetiver grass for the answer for their problems of health, animals and in the farm.

The oil I use to rub my body is vetiver cream and here I have some.