Sensuous, sweet, exotic, heavy--these are all very accurate when describing the scent of ylang-ylang. Pronounced variously as 'ee-lang ee-lang' and 'lang lang', the ylang-ylang tree comes from the botanical family Annonaceae, the Custard-Apple family, and bears the genus name Cananga odorata. Meaning 'flower of flowers', the word ylang-ylang comes from the Tagalog language of the Philippines, one of its native regions. In Malaysia, the ylang-ylang tree is known as 'kananga', which is where the genus name 'cananga' comes from.
The ylang-ylang tree grows to be about 60 feet tall, with long, slender branches which droop under the weight of the six-petaled yellow, pink, or mauve flowers it bears, which are large and fragrant. A tropical evergreen tree, it is found primarily in low-lying tropical areas from India and stretching south-east all the way to northern Australia. It is native to India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, and has been introduced to Australia, New Zealand, Madagascar, Mauritius, and the Comoro Islands for commercial purposes.
Traditionally, the ylang-ylang tree has had many uses. Because of its pleasant shade, but moreso its wonderful aroma, the ylang-ylang has always been a popular shade tree, similar to lilac bushes in the United States. The scent of ylang-ylang is also thought to be an aphrodisiac in many cultures and countries such as Indonesia, where the flowers are scattered on the nuptial bed. For hundreds of years, peoples living near the ocean used infusions of ylang-ylang in various oils such as coconut to protect their hair from the harsh salt water. Also, in Victorian England, ylang-ylang was a popular ingredient in pomades.
Today, ylang-ylang still enjoys popularity in various forms, from a popular scent in perfumes to a common additive to skin care commodoties to flavoring in sodas and desserts; however, its most popular usage is as an essential oil.
As an essential oil used in healing, ylang-ylang can aid in treating countless ailments and negative emotions. They are as follows:
Ylang-ylang has been scientifically proven to relax the mind yet also stimulate at the same time; this is, perhaps, why ylang-ylang is so effective in helping to aid in the relief of psycho-sexual problems such as frigidity and impotence. Also, because of its relaxing properties, ylang-ylang helps to gently lower high blood pressure and can also relieve symptoms of insomnia, along with minimizing stress and tension. In addition, many massage therapists use ylang-ylang in their massage oils because of its therapeutic usefulness. Ylang-ylang has even been shown to help calm agressive behaviors in dogs and other animals.
For ylang-ylang essential oil, it is believed that yellow flowers hold the most superior scent. In extracting the essential oils from the flowers, the steam method is most commonly used. First, flowers are always picked after dusk or in the very early morning, as that is when their aroma is strongest. Next the flowers are distilled in steam, and the oil produced from there. The first 35-40% of the oil--otherwise known as the first fraction--is the highest quality oil. It is commonly labeled as 'ylang-ylang extra'. The second fraction is simply called 'ylang-ylang'. The third fraction, which is the lowest grade, is often labeled as 'cananga oil'. Some distillers do not fractionate their oils, and this is known as a complete oil.
Though ylang-ylang has many excellent benefits, it does require a bit of safety information. Ylang-ylang has been known to cause nausea and/or headaches when used frequently. Also, ylang-ylang should not be used by individuals with low blood pressure. An essential oil should never be used undiluted. This can cause hypersensitivity, burning, and/or rash. As with any essential oil, consult a doctor or professional aromatherapy practitioner if you are pregnant, epileptic, have liver damages, or any other health risks.