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What is Ylang Ylang?

By Jane Harmon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Ylang ylang (pronounced EE-lang EE-lang) is a tropical tree native to Asia, or the flower of the tree and the essential oil produced from the flowers. The tree is the Cananga odorata, and the oil is extensively used in making perfumes and in aromatherapy.

In parts of the Pacific Rim, ylang ylang, with its heavy and sweet scent similar to jasmine, is associated with weddings and honeymoons. Its essential oil comes in four grades: ylang extra, ylang I, ylang II, and ylang III. The grades vary based on when the oil is removed in the steam distillation process. The lengthier the distillation, which generally can take up to 24 hours, the lighter the scent of the oil — ylang extra has the strongest scent and ylang III has the weakest. All grades have a fairly heavy scent compared to lighter scented oils, so they should be added carefully to a blend. Ylang ylang can easily overpower less exuberant scents.

The scent of ylang ylang, like jasmine and rose, has long been considered an aphrodisiac. This may account for its popularity in perfume blends. Of course, the so-called aphrodisiac scents also simply smell wonderful, which may be why they are attractive to the opposite sex. In aromatherapy, this scent is used for its stress-relieving properties — a few drops of ylang ylang oil in a hot bath can melt the day's cares quickly away. Some people find the scent overpowering, however, and it may cause headaches in people sensitive to heavy floral scents.

Ylang ylang is also thought to reduce anxiety and perhaps even relieve depression. Sexual dysfunction or simple lack of interest might be addressed with this scent in an aromalamp or blended in a massage oil. Use in perfume recipes that call for jasmine, if your budget cannot support the purchase of the much more costly jasmine essential oil.

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Discussion Comments

By anon337268 — On Jun 04, 2013

Can't it be used for love spells?

By fify — On Feb 16, 2013

@ddljohn-- My sister uses a facial oil to clean blackheads and ylang ylang oil is one of the ingredients. I don't know if pure ylang ylang oil can be used though.

There is also ylang ylang soap that might help with blackheads.

By bear78 — On Feb 16, 2013

I got a body massage with ylang ylang oil and perfume this past weekend. I felt fine during the massage but a few hours after I got a headache and started feeling very tired, almost like I would faint.

The next day I was also very tired and dehydrated.

I think the headache was caused by the ylang ylang. But the exhaustion and dehydration was probably just the effects of the massage. I'm going to ask my masseuse to avoid ylang ylang oil next time.

By ddljohn — On Feb 15, 2013

Does ylang ylang have any benefits for skin?

By anon161828 — On Mar 21, 2011

@Naturesgurl3: I am a trained aromatherapist and your friend who is a masseuse should not be using any lotion or oils with essential oils in it unless she is trained in aromatherapy.

There is a lot to learn with essential oils and a lot have contraindications and can be harmful. Ylang Ylang does indeed reduce palpitations and blood pressure and if it is being used on someone with low blood pressure then it can be harmful.

By yournamehere — On Jul 27, 2010

You do have to be careful to use good ylang ylang oil though -- cheaper ones have been known to cause headaches and nausea.

By pleats — On Jul 27, 2010

Some say that ylang ylang essential oil benefits the circulatory system as well.

Apparently it is hypotensive, which means it can lower blood pressure and help with heart palpitations and hypertension.

This, when combined with it's sedative properties, make it an excellent essential oil for treating those with anxiety.

By naturesgurl3 — On Jul 27, 2010

My friend is a masseuse, and she is big on using ylang ylang body lotion during her massages.

She says the scent not only smells great, but is really good for the skin too, and her clients love it.

By CarrotIsland — On Jul 25, 2010

Ylang Ylang has many uses. It has the most wonderful scent! It is often used for stress-related disorders like depression, insomnia, and nervous tension.

It also has skin care uses. It is used to treat acne and irritated skin. Many people still use it as a hair rinse, as well.

By GardenTurtle — On Jul 25, 2010

Ylang ylang and anise oils are also used in the treatment of lice infestations.

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