Ylang Ylang Tree

Cananga odorata

Herbs gallery - Ylang Ylang Tree

Common names

  • Ilang-Ilang
  • Maramar
  • Perfume Tree
  • Ylang Ylang

The ylang ylang tree (botanical name Cananga odorata) is a member of the Annonaceae family and grows very rapidly. This plant family also includes plants like sugar-apple, custard-apple and soursop. Every year this tree grows more than 5 meters (15 feet) and eventually a mature tree achieves a height of about 12 meters (40 feet), especially when grown in favourable conditions.

Ylang ylang trees grow well in full sunlight or in partial shade. This tree has a preference for acidic soils, akin to that in its original rainforest habitat. The leaves of this tree are evergreen. They are smooth, shiny and are oval shaped with pointed ends and undulated edges. Usually, the leaves are about 13 cm to 20 cm (5 inches to 8 inches) in length. The drooping flowers of this species appear on long stalks and have six slender, greenish-yellow (seldom pink) petals. The appearance of the ylang ylang flowers are somewhat like a sea star. The flowers produce an extremely aromatic essential oil.

Ylang ylang trees start flowering roughly after three to four years from the day they are planted. The flowers of these trees are not particularly attractive, as they have a light green hue, almost similar to that of the leaves. When the trees mature, the color of the flowers become chartreuse and change to deep yellow before they drop on the ground.

Nevertheless, the flowers of ylang ylang have a blissful aroma and this makes these trees particularly significant. In fact, these aromatic flowers are used as a vital ingredient in manufacturing Chanel No.5 perfume.

According to legend, Coco Chanel requested perfumer Ernest Bo to develop the perfect aroma for use in a woman's perfume. Ernest Bo provided Chanel with a succession of aroma samples for trials and she took a fancy for the 5th sample, which was created using the pleasing essences of ylang ylang flowers, jasmine and rose.

The ylang ylang is indigenous to Asia and grows in places having tropical climatic conditions. The flowers of this tree as well as the essential oil obtained from the blooms are also referred to as ylang ylang. The essential oil from the ylang ylang flowers is widely used by the perfumery industry and also in aromatherapy.

Ylang ylang grows in several areas lying in the Pacific Rim and the flowers are loaded with a sweet aroma akin to that of jasmine. These aromatic flowers are often used in weddings as well as honeymoons. The essential oil obtained from ylang ylang is available in four qualities - ylang I, ylang II, ylang III and ylang extra. The quality of the essential oils is largely dependent on the time taken to extract it from the flowers by means of a process called steam distillation. For instance, the longer the distillation process, which may often take as many as 24 hours, the lighter will be the aroma of the essential oil. While the aroma of extra ylang is most potent, that of ylang III is the faintest. Compared to other essential oils that are light scented, all varieties of ylang ylang are rather heavily scented. Hence, it is important to be cautious while adding the ylang ylang oils to any blend. When used in extra amounts, especially while blending them with any less luxuriant aromas, ylang ylang can subdue them easily.

Similar to roses and jasmine, for long people have considered the aroma of ylang ylang to be an aphrodisiac. To some extent, the popularity of ylang ylang in perfume blends may be responsible for this view. The truth is that all other scents that are considered to be aphrodisiac also have wonderful smells. This is one of the reasons why the opposite sex is attracted when one uses these scents or perfumes made from these aromatic essential oils. In aromatherapy, practitioners use this aroma to relieve stress - adding just some drops of the aromatic ylang ylang oil in a hot bath can help to provide relief from the day's stress quickly. However, a number of people find the aroma of ylang ylang so overpowering that it may even lead to headaches, especially in individuals who are susceptible to heavy fragrances of flowers.

In Southeast Asia, people often grow ylang ylang in their gardens owing to its yellowish-green hued and extremely scented, dangling flowers that emerge almost incessantly on the verdant twigs. However, when seen from a distance, the ylang ylang flowers first do not appear to be striking. Initially, they have a pale green color, but turn yellowish as they mature. As the blooms are extremely aromatic, they are used in the form of an offering or to make a room fragrant. In fact, the aroma of the blooms is so strong that it spreads to the entire neighbourhood.

Although the blooms do not seem to be very remarkable when seen among the leaves, they are extremely elegant and remind one of a trendy accessory for a deluxe brand name evening dress, besides their magnificent scent. Incidentally, a smaller variety of ylang ylang, called Cananga odorata var. fruticosa also exists and it grows in the form of a compact shrub rising up to a height of nine feet.

Parts used

Essential oil, flowers.


The essential oil extracted from ylang ylang trees is used extensively in aromatherapy. This essential oil is said to be effective in alleviating high blood pressure (hypertension), stabilizing sebum secretion to cure skin complaints and also believed to be an aphrodisiac. In addition, the essential oil is also extensively used by the perfumery industry for making floral themed or oriental perfumes, especially Chanel No. 5. It is worth mentioning here that ylang ylang blends excellently with almost all fruit, floral and wood aromas.

People in Indonesia spread the flowers of this tree on the beds of newly married couples. On the other hand, people in the Philippines use ylang ylang flowers along with sampaguita flowers to make a garland, which is worn by women. In addition, ylang ylang blooms are also used to decorate religious statues and photographs.

Ylang ylang flowers are effective in combating depression as well as unwinding the body and the soul. In this way, the aroma of these flowers helps to provide relief from chronic stress, sadness and anxiety. In addition, these flowers also help to improve one's mood and induce happiness and hope. Ylang ylang flowers may also be useful in treating people enduring nervous breakdowns and/ or severe depression following an accident or a shock.

Seborrhoea, also known as seborrhoeic eczema, is a very appalling disease, which occurs when the sebaceous glands do not function properly. This anomaly leads to abnormal production of sebum and consequently infects the epidermal cells. This health condition not only has a horrible appearance, but it is extremely painful. In addition, the complexion of the skin becomes white or yellow, which may be dry or oily, may begin to peel off. Such peeling of the skin occurs on the cheeks, eyebrows, and scalp as well as in all other places where hair follicles are present. The essential oil obtained from ylang ylang may prove to be useful in treating this inflammatory condition as well as alleviating the redness and irritation of the skin. Application of the ylang ylang essential oil to the affected areas helps to normalize the production of sebum by curing the infection.

Ylang ylang essential oil is also effective for treating all wounds, such as abrasions and cuts as well as burn injuries that are accompanied with the risks of the wound turning out to be septic owing to a variety of infections by bacteria. The risks of the wound becoming septic increase when the injury was caused by an iron object. This is because the wound may be contaminated by germs that are responsible for tetanus. In such conditions, use of ylang ylang essential oil may help to prevent tetanus as well as sepsis by means of slowing down the growth of the microbes and, at the same time, by decontaminating the wound. Ylang ylang essential oil possesses the aptitude to protect wounds/ injuries from bacterial infections. It also thwarts viral and fungal infections. In addition, this essential oil also facilitates the healing process of the wound.

You may actually use the ylang ylang essential oil to trigger romance in couples as well as to enhance your sex life. In fact, this essential oil may prove to be extremely beneficial for people with low libido (people with very poor or no desire for sexual activities) owing to depression, extreme work pressure, professional stress and owing to the negative consequences of atmospheric pollution. In effect, increasing incidents of frigidity and loss of libido have plagued contemporary life. However, you can get respite from these problems if you turn to ylang ylang essential oils, which possess the aptitude to increase your sexual craving.

The essential oil obtained from ylang ylang is very useful in bringing down high blood pressure. As high blood pressure or hypertension is a major health hazard among the young as well as the aged these days and drugs meant to treat this condition have various side effects on the patients, the essential oil of ylang ylang may prove to be a natural and easy solution. Use of this essential oil does not lead to any undesirable side effects, provided it is taken as recommended.

Ylang ylang essential oil offers numerous health benefits, including alleviating anxiety and stress. In addition, this essential oil also has sedative effects and works to cool anxiety, nervous problems, anger, and stress. As it helps to unwind the body and the mind, this essential oil makes you feel at peace.

At the same time, ylang ylang essential oil promotes hair growth and also keeps your hair healthy. In addition, this oil also helps to keep the hair roots and follicles damp. It has also been found that ylang ylang essential oil is useful in curing post-menstrual symptoms like anger, depression, frustration, anxiety and others.

Most people suffer from a condition called kinetosis, also known as motion sickness, when they are travelling. It makes the traveler sick and is more common in women. This condition occurs owing to excessive stress as well as disturbance on the nerves to sustain the equilibrium of the body when one is traveling. Use of ylang ylang essential oil alleviates this strain on the nerves and calms them. As a result the traveler does not feel dizzy.

The essential oil obtained from ylang ylang helps to sustain the softness and smoothness of the skin and, at the same time, retains moisture. This oil also facilitates curing skin infections, cracks and other conditions. As the oil possesses sedative and antimicrobial properties, it also helps to lessen fevers. This oil is also useful in alleviating high fevers, which accompany malaria.

The essential oil of ylang ylang is also beneficial for boosting the health of the nervous system. It reinforces the nervous system and helps to repair all damages endured by the nervous system. In addition, ylang ylang essential oil also helps to lessen the strain on the nerves and shields them from the risks of several disorders.

You may also use this oil to treat infections of the internal organs, including the stomach, colon, intestines and the urinary tract. Ylang ylang essential oil is also beneficial for people enduring exhaustion, sleeplessness or insomnia, frigidity (impotence), and health conditions that are caused by excessive stress. This oil is very useful for retaining moisture of the skin and sustaining the balance of oils in the skin. Ylang ylang helps to keep the skin hydrated, youthful and smooth.

Culinary uses

Besides being used in aromatherapy and for making perfumes, ylang ylang is widely used to add essence to ice cream in Madagascar.

Habitat and cultivation

A tropical tree, ylang ylang is indigenous to the rainforests in the Philippines and Indonesia. Around 1860, ylang ylang oil was first produced in the Philippines and even today the region supplies large amounts of this essential oil, which is obtained from the mature cultivated trees.

Ylang ylang trees grow well in tropical lowlands where the humidity is high and the annual temperature ranges between 21°C and 27°C. In Java, this species grows in clusters inside the damp evergreen and teak forests. On the other hand, this plant is found growing in altitudes of about 850 meters. The plant is cultivated in even higher lands situated at about 1200 meters.

Trees belonging to this species grow best in locations receiving total sunlight, but they also possess the aptitude to grow in partial shade. Generally, ylang ylang is propagated by means of its seeds. Although it is also grown from cuttings, this process is somewhat difficult. In case you are living in the tropics, you may even grow ylang ylang trees in your garden. All you need to do is to put some organic peat humus or top soil in the hole you have dug to sow the seeds. In addition, you may make compost using cow manure and leaves to make the soil more fertile. This compost may be put around the roots of the trees for robust growth and more flowers.

You may cut back the trunk as well as the branches of the trees to give them the preferred shape and size. Cut the branches that are too low or ones that are unsightly. Remove the branches that may have been damaged by winds or cold.

It is important to water the trees regularly. Also ensure that you fertilize them at least thrice every year - during the spring, summer and fall. For best results, always use excellent quality granular fertilizer.


Typical chemical compositions of the various grades of ylang-ylang essential oil are reported as:

  • Linalool
  • Caryophyllene
  • Geranyl acetate
  • Methyl benzoate
  • P-cresyl methyl ether
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • Germacrene

Side effects and cautions

Although ylang ylang is considered to be safe for use by everyone, some people, who are very sensitive to floral essences, may experience headaches and nausea when they use this aroma in disproportionate amounts. On the other hand, using this scent in recommended doses do not cause toxicity or any type of irritation.


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