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8 December 2021 / Laura Garvin Gomez

Ylang Ylang Essential Oil: History, Uses and Benefits

Delicate ylang ylang has many cosmetic benefits and is even used as an aphrodisiac.

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Zoomed in picture of the yellow ylang ylang plant.

The iconic floral scent of ylang ylang has been connected to perfumery for many years.

Often referred to as the ‘flower of flowers’, ylang ylang has a rich, sweet fragrance that can be recognised in hallmark perfumes such as Dior J’adore and Chanel No. 5.

So complex is its scent that seventy-five of its compounds weren’t identified until 2013, and its profile is still being investigated.

However, ylang ylang is more than just the way it smells.

What is ylang ylang essential oil?

Highly valued for many centuries due to its ability to thicken hair, heal skin, and spark romance, ylang ylang oil is revered for its abilities as a mood booster and brightener.

Sometimes referred to by its botanical name, Cananga Odorata, ylang ylang is an especially gentle oil that is usually yellowish in colour with an exotic, floral sweetness.

Grown from the South East Asian Cananga tree, the delicate flowers that give ylang ylang its scent are so sensitive that they must be harvested by hand after sunset.

Picking the flowers out of sunlight helps to protect the aromatic compounds in the flower and preserve their powerful properties.

What are the different types of ylang ylang essential oil?

Ylang ylang essential oil is usually steam distilled in a “fractioned fashion”.

This means that different versions of the oil are collected at different stages of distillation, separating out the volatile components of the oil according to temperature.

Here are the different oil varieties that can be achieved based on this fractured model:

The lightest of the varieties and the first to be collected, ylang ylang extra is often used as a top note in perfumery.

It is the most aromatic of the oils and therefore diffuses very easily - but as it is the lightest, it also dissipates the quickest, meaning that whilst its scent is beautiful it often doesn’t last as long.

Ylang ylang 1, 2 and 3

The next three varieties each get progressively denser, and each has a scent that lasts longer than the one before.

These heavier varieties are more likely to be used as base or middle notes in perfumery.

Ylang ylang complete is a combination of all other distillates and is so named because it is a ‘complete’ perfume itself.

A fuller scent than light ylang ylang extra, it is the most commonly used of the five types.

What are the benefits of Ylang Ylang Essential Oil?

While the strength of the ylang ylang scent may vary from variation to variation, the benefits remain ultimately the same regardless of the oil type you choose.

Some factors that ylang ylang can help with include:

  • Immune-boosting and protection
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep
  • Skin health
  • Romantic mood

Ylang Ylang plant flowering in the wild.

Using ylang ylang essential oil to help protect our health

Aside from its pleasant smell, ylang ylang also contains a number of defence mechanisms to help keep the body in full working order.

A found that the phytochemicals present in ylang ylang oil show strong antibacterial and antifungal activity, making the oil a great choice for adding to cleaning sprays and helping to banish harmful microorganisms from the home.

Ylang ylang can also help to boost immune function and naturally works to lower inflammation, reducing the risk of diseases.

It is especially beneficial to heart health as it is thought to improve blood flow and control blood pressure.

This reduces undue stress on the heart and helps us to feel stronger and healthier.

Can ylang ylang oil reduce anxiety and stress?

Ylang ylang’s scent is not just famous for its beauty, but also for its ability to soothe and reassure.

A found that ylang ylang was able to influence processes in the hippocampus region of the brain and in the serotonin system, which points to an anti-anxiety effect.

Traditional medicine also appears to be in agreement on ylang ylang’s ability to help release negative emotions and promote positivity overall.

Why is ylang ylang good for sleep?

Ylang ylang has also been noted as beneficial for fighting insomnia as well as promoting healthy sleep patterns.

This is largely thanks to its sedative effect, which is said to significantly reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure rates and heart rates in the body – thus promoting a sounder environment for sleep.

A explored these properties and concluded that the oil had a ‘harmonising effect’.

Is ylang ylang essential oil good for the skin?

Ylang ylang is often applied to skin to prevent signs of aging and reduce irritation.

This may be due to the presence of active constituents in the oil called terpenoids.

Preliminary research suggests that terpenoids display promising results as natural treatments for many skin disorders, and a found that ylang ylang oil holds a high concentration of terpenoids.

This may explain why so many people use ylang ylang oil in their skincare routine.

Ylang ylang is a very gentle oil and can leave skin smelling fresh and sweet – just be sure to dilute with a carrier oil before applying it topically.

Does ylang ylang oil act as an aphrodisiac?

One of the most famous traditional uses of ylang ylang is its role in marriage rituals.

In some cultures, ylang ylang is considered a wedding night staple due to its aphrodisiac qualities, its ability to soothe anxiety, and its perceived energising effect.

Bunches of ylang ylang flowers are therefore used to decorate the beds of newlyweds on their wedding night as encouragement of this good fortune.

Ylang ylang is still considered a libido booster across the globe and is said to increase confidence, helping us to feel at our best in the bedroom.

How to use Ylang Ylang Essential Oil 

Aromatherapy

With it's beautiful smell and top perfumery credentials, it's no wonder aromatherapy is the most popular use for this essential oil worldwide. 

Add to a diffuser, oil burner, or tissue and let the scents of this beautiful flower circulate around your home.

Aromatherapy is also considered the best method for releasing the mood-boosting and sedative effects of the oil. 

Bath

If you're seeking a higher level of comfort and relaxation, adding a few drops of ylang ylang oil to a warm bath can help facilitate this environment.

It can also be beneficial as a way to prepare the mind and body for your night's sleep.

Skincare

Ylang ylang's anti-aging qualities, combined with its rich number of terpenoids, make it a fantastic addition to your skincare routine.

Apply a few drops of ylang ylang to a carrier oil of your choice, and apply as a daily cleanser.

Cleaning

Adding a few drops of ylang ylang to your cleaning sprays, or even making your own DIY version, can provide a great boost to the cleanliness of your home environment. 

This is due to the strong antibacterial and antifungal properties present in the oil, which can help it banish harmful microorganisms. 

Candles, soaps & more

Ylang ylang's beautiful scent transfers remarkably onto any scent project - including candles, soaps and wax melts. 

Check out the Make At Home section of our blog to find out what you can make with your ylang ylang essential oil.

History of Ylang Ylang Essential Oil 

Though the flower has been used traditionally in areas such as Java and Vietnam for centuries, the introduction of ylang ylang essential oil occurred fairly recently, dating only as far back as the 19th century. 

It was at this stage that ylang ylang oil began its use as a potent remedy for infections, as well as for diseases such as typhus and malaria. 

    Delicate and romantic ylang ylang will likely remain a staple in perfumery for many years, and its reassuring, aphrodisiac effects will continue to reach us through perfumes worn by ourselves or our loved ones.

    If you want to experience ylang ylang’s more potent effects, however, diffusing the oil, using it in skincare, or employing it as cleaning ingredient can help you to feel its brightening, health-boosting benefits.

    Shop our ylang ylang essential oil here.

    Product Name

    100% Pure Ylang Ylang (Complete) Essential Oil
    Botanical Name Cananga Odorata
    Scent Type Floral
    Benefits & Uses Antibacterial, Mood Boosting, Immune-Boosting
    Suitable for Diffusers? Yes, this ylang ylang (complete) essential oil is perfect for diffusers.
    Suitable for Candles and Soaps? Yes, this ylang ylang (complete) essential oil is perfect for candle and soap making.
    Extraction Method Steam Distillation
    Bottle Type Tamper proof and UV resistant

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