Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata) essential oil comes from flower petals of the large, tropical ylang ylang tree. Ylang ylang actually means “flower of flowers” and was given this name because of its sweet, floral scent. In fact, ylang ylang oil is one of the key ingredients used in the legendary perfume Chanel No. 5!
It’s been highly sought after for centuries for its natural thickening effect on hair and also its healing properties on the skin. Throughout history in Indonesia, and even today, it’s commonly been used to decorate the bed of newlyweds on their wedding night due to its energizing, aphrodisiac qualities. Today, ylang ylang trees are widely grown in tropical areas throughout Asia, including Indonesia, the Philippines and the Polynesian islands.
Benefits of Ylang Ylang Oil
Ylang ylang is considered an effective antidepressant, antiseptic, antispasmodic and sedative. It has a positive effect on immune health, blood flow and emotions, making it a natural remedy for the endocrine, cardiovascular, reproductive and digestive systems. In foods and beverages, ylang ylang oil is used as a flavoring and preservative. In product manufacturing, it’s used as a fragrance for cosmetics, household cleansers, hair products and soaps.
Ylang ylang essential oil benefits include:
- Increasing blood flow
- Relieving inflammation
- Fighting parasites
- Regulating heartbeat
- Healing cardiac problems
- Lifting someone’s mood
- Promoting healthy intestinal function
With a naturally rich, floral scent that’s considered “romantic” and uplifting, many people like to diffuse ylang ylang in their bedrooms or add some to household cleaning products. The scent also has the ability to positively impact emotions and can help create a calming, relaxing atmosphere in your home. It especially can be useful for soothing you through a rough day when you add ylang ylang oil to your bath, lotion or other beauty care products.
9 Ylang Ylang Oil Uses
1. Heart Health Booster
Known to improve blood flow and fight inflammation, ylang ylang supports a healthy circulatory system. It’s considered one of the most helpful essential oils (along with lavender, clary sage and frankincense) for controlling blood pressure and preventing heart arrhythmia. Massage a single drop daily over the heart combined with a carrier oil. As a natural high blood pressure remedy, you can take ylang ylang as a dietary supplement too (only when using a therapeutic-grade oil) by adding one to two drops to water or warm tea.
2. Mood Enhancer
Because of its ability to act directly on the olfactory system of the brain, inhaling ylang ylang can have immediate, positive effects on your mood and act like a mild, natural depression remedy. It’s said to “expand the heart,” and research shows it can help release negative emotions, including anger, low self-esteem and jealousy.
It’s also beneficial for fighting insomnia without drugs and chronic fatigue syndrome since it has mild sedative effects and can lower stress responses like a fast heartbeat and high blood pressure. Try diffusing the oil in your home or massaging it into your skin to bring on stronger feelings of awareness, confidence, peace and self-love.
3. Skin Health Preserver
One of the most popular uses for ylang ylang is applying to the skin in order to preserve a “youthful glow” and help prevent signs of aging or irritation. Ylang ylang is even powerful at fighting the development of skin cancer cells and melanoma. Combine one to two drops with coconut or jojoba oil and massage it into the face once or twice daily for protection.
4. Natural Energizer
If you feel like you’re always tired, drained or frustrated, trying aromatherapy treatment with ylang ylang can help. Many people find the scent to be energizing and useful for fighting fatigue or body aches. Add several drops to a clean cotton ball and apply it to your wrists, neck or chest.
5. PMS Remedy
Aromatherapy or massage with ylang ylang can be helpful for reducing PMS symptoms. To naturally remedy PMS cramps, tension and stress, you can apply ylang ylang oil along with lavender oil to the back of neck and lower abdomen.
6. Natural Hair Care Product
There’s many ways that ylang ylang and coconut oil benefit your hair. Try massaging ylang ylang into your scalp along with using coconut oil or jojoba oil (or your regular condition) to increase the appearance of healthy, shiny hair. It can also be helpful for preventing tangles and dandruff, while also working as a hair loss remedy. Some research even shows this combination can kill head lice.
7. Aphrodisiac and Social Enhancer
Ylang ylang has been shown to act like a natural impotence remedy since it can help increase the libido of both men and women. To feel more connected with those around you (including your spouse or family members), diffuse ylang ylang in your room, inhale it from the bottle, add a drop to your body lotion, or even apply a small amount to your bedsheets or shirt collar.
8. Diabetes Fighter
Known to lower the risk for nerve damage due to diabetes complications, ylang ylang can help protect tissue and cells from damage, making it a natural diabetes remedy. Massage several drops into the reflex points of the feet, over the abdomen and pancreas, or use it internally.
9. Digestive Aid
To prevent poor blood flow or feelings of stress and anxiety that can interfere with healthy digestion, try inhaling ylang ylang, massaging it over the digestive organs or consuming several drops daily.
Ylang Ylang Research and Studies
An interesting fact is that the quality of ylang ylang oil depends a lot on the cultivation of the flowers that are used — specifically the time of day that the flowers were picked. It’s believed that flowers picked early in the morning yield the most beneficial oil, since the flowers are pollinated by night moths. The drop in temperature and dewiness that can occur overnight might also have positive effects on the oil’s chemical structure. The most intensive smell is released from dusk until dawn so when sunrise comes, the flowers’ natural aroma fills the air.
The 14-hour-long distillation process used to extract ylang ylang oil also impacts its potency and abilities. Steam distillation is the preferred method since this preserves the oil’s volatile compounds best. And during the long distillation process, the proportion of oil that is extracted first is believed to be the highest quality of the whole batch — often called “ylang ylang complete” or “ylang ylang extra.”
As the distillation process is repeated, lower-grade oil is produced. This is the type usually just called “ylang ylang oil” or “cananga oil” that’s used in most fragrant soaps and cleaning product manufacturing.
Studies show that high-quality ylang ylang oil holds a high percentage of active constituents called terpenoids. Isolated terpenoid derivatives (including canangaterpenes IV-VI) show promising results as natural therapeutic agents for the treatment of several skin disorders. When tested on cancerous melanoma skin cells, terpenoid compounds exhibit a potent inhibitory effect on cell melanogenesis and immune-system cytotoxicity. In other words, antioxidants in ylang ylang oil help protect skin cells from oxidative stress and DNA damage that can lead to cancer cell formation.
Other active compounds in ylang ylang oil include several types of flavonoids, terpenes, o-methylmoschatoline, liriodenine and dihydroxybenzoic acid. The pleasant fragrance of ylang ylang varieties is mainly due to these volatile organic compounds produced by the flowers. According to a 2014 report published in the Journal of Experimental Botany, the floral scents of ylang ylang are a key factor in plant-insect interactions and are vital for successful pollination since they repel pests and bugs.
Researchers from the Phytochemistry Research Department at the University of Rajshahi in Bangladesh found that these phytochemicals also possess antibacterial, antifungal and cytotoxic activities when used topically or internally by humans. They can help improve immune function and lower inflammation, which is a leading contributor to most diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, autoimmune and cognitive-related disorders.
Yet another benefit of ylang ylang essential oil’s active ingredients is the ability to help prevent nerve damage that can contribute to complications seen in diabetes patients. Terpenoids and flavonoids in ylang ylang have been shown to act like aldose reductase inhibitors, according to a 2014 report published in the Journal of Natural Medicines. Aldose reductase inhibitors have been studied recently as a way to prevent eye and nerve damage in people with diabetes.
Ylang Ylang Essential Oil Recipes
- Aromatically: The oil can be diffused throughout your home using a diffuser or inhaled directly from the bottle.
- Topically: Ylang ylang should be diluted with a carrier oil like coconut oil in a 1:1 ratio before applying it to your skin. Always test for skin sensitivity before using it on large or sensitive areas of the skin. You can perform a skin patch test on your arm or feet to make sure you don’t experience skin sensitization. Also keep the oil out of your eyes, ears or nose and away from pets that might react to it badly.
- Internally: ONLY recommended for very high-quality oil brands. Check ingredients carefully, and look for only Cananga odorata (ylang ylang) flower oil. Only use 100 percent pure, therapeutic-grade essential oil if you plan to add a drop to water or take it as dietary supplement mixing with honey or a smoothie. It’s recognized as safe by the FDA (21CFR182.20) when using small amounts internally in this way, but a therapeutic-grade oil might be hard to find due to labeling and marketing constraints if you’re not careful. Purchasing ylang ylang complete or extra is your safest best.
Ylang ylang works well with other essential oils like rose oil, lavender oil, frankincense oil, jasmine oil and bergamot oil. Depending on your condition and what you want to use it for, it can double as both a relaxant and a stimulant. Use several drops of mixed essential oils, and dilute them with a few drops of a carrier oil. Here are several combinations to try:
- For building confidence: 2 drops ylang ylang and 2 drops bergamot.
- For a natural home freshener that smells tropical: 2 drops ylang ylang and 2 drops jasmine.
- To release tension: 2 drops ylang ylang and 2 drops frankincense.
- To give you an energy boost: 2 drops ylang ylang and 2 drops of citrus oil like lemon oil, grapefruit essential oil or orange oil.
- For an aphrodisiac massage rub: 2 drops ylang ylang and 2 drops sandalwood essential oil.
Homemade Ylang Ylang, Frankincense and Myrrh and Body Lotion Recipe
This homemade body lotion recipe brings hydration and essential vitamins and nutrients to the skin. In addition, the essential oils tone, lift, heal and protect the skin.
Total Time: 90 minutes
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup beeswax
- 1/4 cup shea butter
- 2 tablespoons vitamin E (from a broken supplement gel)
- 10 drops frankincense essential oil
- 20 drops myrrh oil
- 10 drops ylang ylang essential oil
- Glass bottle
- Put olive oil, coconut oil, beeswax and shea butter in glass bowl, and then place that bowl in saucepan with water. Heat stove to medium, and mix ingredients together.
- Once mixed, put in refrigerator for an hour until solid. With a regular mixer or hand mixer, beat the mixture until it is whipped and fluffy. Then add essential oils and vitamin E and mix. Fill container and store in cool place.
Interactions and Side Effects of Ylang Ylang
Use ylang ylang sparingly whether internally or topically. High levels might cause reactions and sensitives, so be sure to do a skin patch check first before using on your face, skin or ingesting. You also want to use caution when dealing with low blood pressure. If you take blood pressure medications or have an existing heart condition, talk to your doctor before beginning treatment with any new herbal remedies.
Ylang ylang oil seems safe for children, women who are breastfeeding and pregnant women in small amounts when a high-quality oil is used. It also appears to be safe when applied to the skin, mouth and scalp in combination with other herbal essential oils. There isn’t enough information to know if ylang ylang oil taken by mouth in amounts higher than what is typically advised causes serious reactions, so for now always stick to a small dose.