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"Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul."
Library at Thebes, inscription over the door
Ylang ylang is an exotic, aromatic essential oil used extensively in perfumes.  It is also a well known aphrodisiac. In addition, ylang ylang essential oil is used in aromatherapy for several problems.

Ylang Ylang for Romance

Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata) is known as the flower of flowers, a name derived from the Malay alang ilang, a reference to “flowers which flutter in the breeze.”  Ylang ylang is commonly used for romantic occasions; in Indonesia, the flowers of Ylang ylang are spread on the newlyweds' bed.  In the Philippines, the flowers of Ylang ylang were traditionally used to make a pomade to massage on the body; this helped to counter insect and snake bites and to avoid diseases throughout the rainy season.

Traditional Use of Ylang Ylang

Ylang ylang has also been used in hair applications and in cosmetic and skin care use; the Victorians used ylang ylang on their hair through the application of macassar oil.  In the Molucca Islands, Ylang ylang and cucuma flowers are used to make an ointment for cosmetic and hair care and to protect against infections, fevers and skin disease.  Ylang ylang was a traditional folk remedy for asthma, headaches, malaria, rheumatism and diarrhea

Extraction of Ylang Ylang Essential Oil

Ylang ylang essential oil is extracted from the flowers of a tropical tree native to Indonesia, the Commores, Madagascar and Reunion.  The flowers of ylang ylang are pink, yellow, cream or mauve with a strong, exotic and floral fragrance.  This aroma earns ylang ylang the nickname of Poor Man's Jasmine, as its scent is reminiscent of jasmine (Jasminum officinale).

The flowers of ylang ylang are usually picked in the morning for the best distillation of the essential oil; the scent of ylang ylang is strongest in the afternoon and early evening.  The essential oil of ylang ylang is of varying qualities; usually the first distillate is of the highest quality and the latter distillate, being the poorer quality of essential oil, is often sold as cananga rather than ylang ylang.

Use of Ylang Ylang Essential Oil in Aromatherapy

Ylang ylang is used in aromatherapy as an antiseptic, to calm, to balance and as a sedative;  it is also used as a tonic for the reproductive system and can help with sexual difficulties.  Ylang ylang is used to help hyper-activity in children, insomnia, stress and to treat oily and dry skin care problems.

Ylang ylang is a calming essential oil and can help to relieve depression, anxiety and shock; ylang ylang also alleviates anger, insecurity and stubbornness.  It can help to promote hair growth.  Ylang ylang is frequently used in cosmetics, perfumes and in food and drink flavorings.  Excessive use of ylang ylang may cause headaches and nausea, due to its strong fragrance.


- Davis, Patrica 2005 Aromatherapy An A-Z London, UK: Vermilion
- Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils London, UK:Element

This article was written by Sharon Falsetto and appeared in its original format on Suite101 as Ylang Ylang Essential Oil

It is expressively prohibited to copy or use this article in any way unless written permission is given by the author Sharon Falsetto.  If it is discovered that copyright laws have not been complied with, legal action will be pursued by the author Sharon Falsetto.

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ylang ylang flowers are traditionally spread on the bed of newlyweds in Asia