Aromatherapy Spotlight on Ylang Ylang Essential Oil
by Lisa Maliga
Ylang ylang, pronounced ee-lung ee-lung, is as exotic sounding as the tropical regions from where these fragrant flowers originate. The name means, "flower of flowers" and the abundantly sweet flowers are prettily colored pink, mauve or yellow, colors frequently seen during sunrise and sunset. These trees flourish in the tropics; the islands of the South Pacific [Philippines, Guam, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Cook and the Marquesas]. Additionally, ylang ylang trees have been planted in Hawaii and New Caledonia. Near the coast of southeast Africa, some of the finest ylang ylang producing trees flourish in the Comoro Islands and Madagascar.
As this distinctively named flower hails from the warmer parts of the world, the [botanical name Cananga Odorata var. genuina] can also warm up your love life. Indonesian newlyweds discover their bed covered in the highly scented blossoms as according to "The Essential Oils Book" by Colleen K. Dodt, ylang ylang: "... is believed to be antidepressant, aphrodisiac, sedative, calming, euphoric…It has been found effective in reducing sexual difficulties resulting from anxiety, stress, and depression."
Before you run out and purchase some ylang ylang, you should be aware of the fact that this is an aromatic plant that needs to be used sparingly. Too much ylang ylang and you'll get a headache. The aroma is annoying to some, but to many it's very soothing and calming.
Ylang ylang is reminiscent of another tropical floral star in aromatherapy, namely jasmine. It has been dubbed the "poor man's jasmine" as the lower grades of ylang ylang are priced in the single or double digits. The botanical name is derived from the Malaysian word, "kenanga" which is the vernacular for the genus. "Odorata" simply means fragrant.
Grades of Ylang Ylang:
As with any essential oil, the higher the price the higher the quality. And Ylang ylang, unlike many other essential oils, has several different grades [or fractions] ranging from the costly Ylang Ylang Superior Extra down to the least expensive, Ylang Ylang III.
Ylang Ylang Superior Extra - This is an extraordinary form of ylang ylang which is considered by experts to represent the finest notes of this lovely floral. Found on Mayotte Island off the coast of Madagascar, this grade of oil is from certified organically grown flowers.
Ylang Ylang Complete - This grade is comprised of all fractions of the ylang ylang essential oil from the Extra to Grades I, II, and III.
Ylang Ylang Extra - The most floral smelling of the grades. This grade is recommended for perfumers as it is the most full-bodied and has spicy background notes. It is taken from the initial distillation where the petals are only distilled for one hour.
Ylang Ylang I - A very nice floral and the perfect introduction to this flower essential oil. This is the first distillation, obtained during the second to third hour of distillation.
Ylang Ylang II - This is the second distillation, obtained during the third to fourth hour of distillation
Ylang Ylang III - Having been distilled for at least a day, the resulting grade of ylang ylang is the heaviest in scent. This grade is best used for aromatherapy beginners on a budget or to scent soap, candles and other bath and body products.
Ylang Ylang CO2 - Distilled by CO2 [carbon dioxide], when a certain amount of pressure is applied the gas changes to liquid; thus, this is one of the safest ways to extract oils. Most ylang ylang extracted in this manner is quite expensive.
Ylang Ylang Absolute - This method of extraction is done by alcohol washing of the concrete obtained from the ylang ylang petals. Done primarily in France from the Comoro Islands flowers, the pale yellow oil has a balsamic undertone. Absolutes are outstanding for perfumery due to their long-lasting aroma.
Benefits of Ylang Ylang:
Ylang Ylang is a calming, soothing essential oil that helps alleviate stress. It also helps high blood pressure and decreases nervous tension. Is an excellent balancing oil for oily or dry skin. Ylang ylang has been reputed to stimulate hair growth and is a natural conditioner. Julia Lawless, author of "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils," writes: "In the Victorian age, the oil was used in the hair treatment Macassar oil."
Aromatherapy author Colleen K. Dodt wrote: "My sister found ylang ylang helpful during her pregnancy when high blood pressure threatened. The scent calmed and relaxed her, which naturally lowered her blood pressure."
As with any natural product, common sense is the first defense. If you or someone you know has a strong dislike for a certain scent, then don't use it. If concerned about safety, always check with your healthcare practitioner.
Uses for Ylang Ylang:
Bath soak ~ All you need is one or two drops in your bathtub of warm to hot water and you should find yourself relaxing.
Candle ~ Add a few drops to a candle, next to the wick, not on it as essential oils are flammable. Ylang ylang will fill the room with its exotic floral aroma and relaxation should follow.
Hair ~ Add one or two drops to your hairbrush and brush your hair. Not only will it smell great, doing this helps to condition it naturally. Also, Ylang ylang is believed to stimulate hair growth.
Blending with Ylang Ylang:
Ylang Ylang can greatly enhance sandalwood, rosewood, or any citrus oil such as: grapefruit, bergamot, lemon, lime, orange, petitgrain, and other florals like lavender, jasmine, tuberose and rose. To offer a marvelous contrast, use black pepper, Peru balsam, patchouli or vetivert.
Ylang ylang is a fragrant year round reminder for those of us living in colder regions. Slip away on a tropical vacation as you inhale the heady floral bouquet. While not all of us can board a plane and benefit from a tropical vacation, for only a few dollars we can buy a ylang ylang scented product and transport ourselves there via the imagination.
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