What is Ylang Ylang Essential Oil and Why You Should Care
First it was copaiba essential oil, now it’s Ylang Ylang! Why I am writing about so many strange sounding essential oils?! Well, you discovered a lot of reasons to pay attentnion to copaiba essential oil last week. Now, the focus is on the essential oil of Ylang Ylang. Read on and learn more on the wellness properties of this “aromatic life energy of the plant” and I’m certain you’ll become very familiar with the citrusy scent of Ylang Ylang soon!
In the past few weeks of writing I’ve been focused on powerful, yet strangely named, essential oils. By “strange,” I mean “not familiar,” uncommon, or “new to the scene” of “everyday” household essential oils.
However, as more people experience their benefits, I am hoping the name recognition of these two volatile aromatic compounds from plants will become more popular. I just posted on copaiba last week. To my delight, many people are becoming more familiar with this essential oil since I first wrote about in 2014. This may be due to its inclusion in a widespread oils starter kit or that controversial receptor site it modulates.
Today, I want to focus on the sweet smelling plant essence of flower from the tree Cananga odorata, Ylang Ylang. Let’s start out with some background and a brief view of this plants major constituents. This way, we can better understand why this essential oil earns more prominent places in my essential oils database.
Ylang Ylang is More Famous Than You May Realize…Just Ask Marylin!
It’s intoxicating, in a good way. This plant exudes a citrusy scent and an alluring, feminine, odor! The very fact that the plant’s odor is strongest from dusk to dawn suggests a certain magnetism, doesn’t it?
It appears I am in good company with many women who have found ylang ylang’s scent appealing. In fact, this essential oil was deemed to be one of the three ingredients in Chanel #5, the well-known perfume of Marilyn Monroe and preference of other famous celebrities.
The very fact that ylang ylang essential oil’s smell is generally admired by both sexes may make its biological properties more effective. If you remember, pleasant associations that one has with an odor synergizes with the effects of an essential oil. This combination of the impact of sense of smell with the essential oils’ constituents can make the physiological influence more profound.
Don’t let me lose you all though in contemplation, this oil has so much more to it than making for more sweet-smelling ladies!!
Read on, because below I discuss an overview on ylang ylang and provide a link to learn some of more amazing properties and potential uses for this beautiful essential oil!
What Makes Up Ylang Ylang?
According to an article in the Journal of Experimental Biology, ylang ylang’s most dominant constituent is the monoterpene linalool. Other major compounds belong to the category of sesquiterpenes. In geek terms, you can you note by this the calming and immune supportive effects from the biochemistry alone. The paper provides some more detail on the background on ylang ylang’s origin and composition. If you want the details, here’s an excerpt:
Cananga odorata, commonly called ylang ylang, is a tropical evergreen tree of the family Annonaceae that produces fragrant flowers and is widely cultivated throughout Southeast Asia. Essential oils obtained by steam distillation from mature fresh ylang ylang flowers are used in the cosmetic industry as major components of perfumes and fragrances, in the food industry as ingredients of aromas and flavours, and in the pharmaceutical industry as active components of antibacterials and in aromatherapy (Gaydou et al., 1986; Burdock and Carabin, 2008; Benini et al., 2010). The chemical composition of floral VOCs produced by ylang ylang varieties has been reported previously (Gaydou et al., 1986; Benini et al., 2010, 2012; Brokl et al., 2013). These studies showed the presence of the volatile terpenes benzenoid and phenylpropanoid in floral VOCs. Gaydou et al. (1986) described the composition of essential oils of ylang ylang flowers originating from Madagascar (C. odorata Hook Fil. et Thomson forma genuina). These authors found that the primary component was the monoterpene linalool (19%), and the other major compounds were two sesquiterpenes, ?-caryophyllene (10.7%) and germacrene D (10.3%). Additionally, this variety of ylang ylang from Madagascar contained more than 20% of other aromatic compounds such as p-methylanisole, benzyl benzoate, methyl benzoate, and benzyl salicylate (Gaydou et al., 1986). C. odorata var. fruticosa, or dwarf ylang ylang, is another variety that is popularly grown in Southeast Asia as a small, compact shrub with highly scented flowers. Its essential oil is also used in the perfume industry. Despite the economic and social importance of this species, biosynthetic pathways leading to the production of the floral scent of this ylang ylang variety are not yet fully understood.
A 2015 article in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports more on the complexity of compounds that make up ylang ylang:
In 1986, a total of 52 compounds from the volatile, oxygenated, and hydrocarbon fractions of first grade ylang-ylang essential oil from Madagascar were identified by combined gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and proton nuclear magnetic resonance (1H NMR). The study revealed that the main components identified from the oxygenated fraction of ylang-ylang essential oil were p-methylanisole (1), methyl benzoate (2) and benzyl benzoate (3), benzyl acetate (4), geranyl acetate (5), cinnamyl acetate (6) and (E,E)-farnesyl acetate (7), linalool (8), geraniol (9), and benzyl salicylate (10) and their molecular structures are shown in (Figure 2). Linalool (8) was shown to be main component present in oxygenated fraction (28%) that is responsible for the floral smell of ylang-ylang. Meanwhile, the hydrocarbon fraction of ylang-ylang oil consisted of mainly sesquiterpenes and monoterpenes whereby both germacrene D (11) and ?-caryophyllene (12) represented 63% of the total hydrocarbon fraction of ylang-ylang oil . ?-Muurolene (13) and (E,E)-farnesyl acetate (7) were both sesquiterpenes identified for the first time in ylang-ylang oil in . In 2012, Benini and colleagues  demonstrated a total of 32 compounds which were not previously reported in ylang-ylang oil were detected from the C. odorata flower samples obtained from Grande Comore, Mayotte, Nossi Be, and Ambanja (Table 3).
More on Discovering the Biochemical Soup of Swirling Pleasant Odorants in Ylang Ylang
It’s important to remember there are many factors influencing the chemical composition of any of the essential oils you buy. Research studies aim to control for quality and standards. This is not true for the unknowing essential oils consumer. For this reason, different results can come from the “same” essential oils. However, the “same” oil may only be identical in its label’s name.
For starters, the plant’s environment, manufacturing and distillation practices will affect which constituents are present in your ylang ylang bottle. Furthermore, there are two species (C. odorata and C. latifolia) with different chemical makeups, and their chemotypes (constituents within a species) can vary. This can further alter its scent and biological effects.
Another influence of ylang ylang’s essential oil composition is the part of the plant used for distilling. The flower, fruit, or leaf can differ in their biochemistry. It seems that the flower and leaves are more similar. However, the fruit contains more monoterpenes and only the flower contains phenylpropanoids.
As far as the alluring smell, the perfume industry classifies ylang ylang into four grades of Extra, First, Second, and Third. The Extra quality oil is higher in strongly odoriferous molecules such as linalool, and this is the elite in perfumery.
The more we learn about ylang ylang, the more interesting and complexity of the oil is revealed… it’s not a dull oil, that’s for sure!
(You can read more on quality and standardization here. If you want even more, scroll down the article on rosemary essential oil to read “A Little Background on Rosemary’s Makeup and Why We Care” to get the nitty gritty.)
Reasons Why You All Will Be Saying “Ylang Ylang!” In No Time
Now, to the practicality of this essential oil’s benefits.
Ylang ylang has very beneficial heart, mood, and healing properties. I did a quick synopsis of this oil awhile back. You may recall it has also had honorable mentions in several of my blogs including one on essential oils on the brain and another regarding its potential protective effects on our lungs from the negative effects of pollution.
Click here to read more about this essential oil and learn why you will want to implement it into your wellness regime.
This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin.
This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
The research studies do not necessarily reflect a specific brand or manufacturer of essential oils. You are responsible for obtaining the quality and type of essential oils in your cabinet!