Ylang-Ylang Essential Oil

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Ylang-Ylang Essential Oil
Ylang-Ylang Essential Oil – Uses And Benefits – image to repin / share
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Essential oil pic – amazon.com (click here to buy)

Ylang Ylang is the name given the tree Cananga odorata – and in particular to the essential oil made from its yellow flowers. The tree is native to rainforest regions in Indonesia and the Philippines but has been grown successfully in other locations. It its native climate it can grow 15 feet per year, and trees can reach over 40 feet tall. [1]

Ylang Ylang essential oil has a unique, strong, exotic, floral scent and has long been considered an aphrodisiac and enhancer of sensuality. It almost inevitably finds its way onto lists of aphrodisiac essential oils and fragrances –
but true scientific research investigating these claims is very limited.

Ylang Ylang is listed as one of the “cornerstone materials” in the famous perfume Chanel No. 5 – along with several other essential oils. No. 5 is said to contain (in addition to many other ingredients) jasmine, rose, lily of the valley, vetiver, sandalwood, patchouli, cinnamon, Vanillin and violet. [2]

In the areas of the pacific in which it grows, Ylang Ylang is traditionally associated with marriage: Ylang Ylang flowers are spread on the beds of newlyweds. It’s also said that the fragrance has a euphoric, relaxing effect on the nervous system. It is soothing and mood elevating. [3]

Ylang-Ylang – History

Ylang Ylang does not seem to have been mentioned in western literature before the 19th century, though it was undoubtedly used before that in its native regions.

It is mentioned briefly, as Alangilan, or Unona odoratissima, in the “Chemical News and Journal of Industrial Science, Volume 28” of 1873 as follows:

“Researches on the Essence of Alangilan (Unona odoratissima).—This essence, lately introduced into the market, commands the price of 2500 francs per kilog. It is extracted by distillation from the flower of a tree found in Jamaica. The specific gravity of the essence at 0-150 is 0980. A column of 5 cm. in depth deflects a ray of polarised light 14° to the left. It distils over entirely between the temperatures of 160° and 300°, without leaving a carbonaceous residue behind. It is insoluble in water, partially soluble in alcohol, and entirely soluble in ether. After partial saponification with potassa it yields benzoic acid.”

By 1890 it was certainly being used in Parisian perfumery: It is mentioned in “Loitering through the Paris Exposition” – an account of the World Fair of 1889. [4]

Ylang-Ylang Essential Oil – Scientific Studies And Research

Cananga Odorata

Cananga Odorata – Ylang Ylang

Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata) essential oil is among the few essential oils extracted from the mature fresh flowers of the plant they are derived from. It is exploited in a variety of means, from high-grade perfumery and soap manufacture to aromatherapy, and its production distinctly relies on a fractionation based on distillation times. [5]

Ylang-ylang for mood elevation and mood elevation: The usage of ylang-ylang essential oil in aromatherapy to promote relaxation and relieve depression and stress is scientifically supported by the study data of Hongratanaworakit and Buchbauer (2006). In their study, it was established that ylang-ylang essential oil notably influenced human physiological parameters (i.e., significantly decreased blood pressure and increased skin temperature) after transdermal absorption among forty study participants. Moreover, a feeling of being more calm and relaxed was expressed among those belonging to the treatment group. [6] Earlier in 2004, Hongratanaworakit and Buchbauer characterized the effect of ylang-ylang essential oil as “harmonization” rather than relaxation or sedation and observed significant improvement in subjective attentiveness and alertness among healthy study volunteers after fragrance inhalation. [7]

Ylang-ylang as bladder control agent: Ylang-ylang essential oil also relaxes the urinary bladder muscle and reduces urinary bladder contractility in vitro and in vivo through a mechanism that involves a pathway mediated by c-AMP, as evaluated by isometric tension changes of muscle strips in one South Korean study. The results of this study indicated that ylang-ylang essential oil inhibited all stimulation associated with electrical field stimulation and all drugs to contract the bladder and the contractility of strips was significantly reduced. Only a transient and mild blood pressure drop was noted upon the intravenous administration of up to 0.5 mL of ylang-ylang essential oil. [8] The bladder-relaxing property of ylang-ylang essential oil may therefore be of symptomatic benefit for patients with overactive bladder, a condition characterized by urinary urgency (i.e., compelling desire to urinate that is difficult to stop or postpone) linked to bladder-storage function. [9] Because of their efficacy to block muscarinic receptors at the detrusor muscle and hence to diminish bladder contractility, anticholinergic drugs are the first-line pharmacotherapy for an overactive bladder;
however, their total utility in the management of overactive bladder is remarkably hampered by the adverse effects that ensue from the muscarinic receptor blockade at other sites, necessitating the advent of new agents with better bladder selectivity and less adverse effects. [10]

Ylang-ylang as antioxidant: Wei and Shibamoto (2007) investigated the antioxidant activity of thirteen essential oils, including jasmine, parsley seed, rose, and ylang-ylang essential oils, and found that germacrene (19.1%) is the chief constituent of ylang-ylang essential oil that shows high antioxidant activity. Also, the study had demonstrated that ylang-ylang essential oil inhibited hexanal oxidation by over 95% after 40 days at a level of 500 μg/mL in the aldehyde/carboxylic acid assay. [11]

Ylang-ylang as stress reducer and blood pressure reducer: Ylang ylang is also considered to have a relaxing effect – and there is some science to support this. A 2006 study found that transdermal absorption (i.e. via use, diluted, in massage oil) of ylang ylang led to test subjects rating themselves as more calm and relaxed than the “control” group. their blood pressure was also found to be lower than that of the control group. [12] A 2004 study found similar effects using inhalation as opposed to skin absorption. [13]

Ylang-ylang as yellowjacket repellent: A 2013 study found 17 essential oils which showed significant repellency on yellowjackets [mainly Vespula pensylvanica (Saussure)] and paper wasps [mainly Polistes dominulus (Christ)] – one of the oils was ylang ylang. [14]

Ylang-Ylang Essential Oil – Molecular Components and Chemistry

Using different extraction methods (steam distillation, simultaneous distillation-solvent extraction, and supercritical (CO2) extraction) to isolate volatile secondary metabolites from fresh Colombian ylang-ylang flowers, Stashenko, Prada, and Mart’nez (1996) arrived at the following values for the main constituents of ylang-ylang essential oil:

linalool (16.5–28.0%)
germacrene-D (3.1–20.3%)
benzyl benzoate (2.9–14.1%)
benzyl acetate (6.2–17.0%)
caryophyllene (2.9–3.9%)
ρ-methyl anisole (2.7–6.8%). [15]

Ylang-Ylang Safety:

Ylang Ylang has a long history of use in fragrance and aromatherapy – but the fragrance is strong and restrained use is often advised –
as, when overpowering, it could cause headaches. It’s also said that in rare cases, skin sensitization may occur and it should not be used undiluted on skin.

Ylang ylang has also been used in the food industry as a flavor ingredient. A toxicology test from 2007 showed that “at the current level of intake”, ylang-ylang oil posed no health risk to humans – but it should be noted that the amount used was absolutely microscopic.
Essential oils should not be taken internally.

Ylang Ylang is listed in the AHPA’s “Herbs of Commerce”, p.32. [16]

Ylang Ylang – Other Names

Yland ylang is also known as Cananga odorata, Cananga tree, Alangilan, Unona odoratissima, ilang-ilang, Kenanga (Indonesia), fragrant cananga, Macassar-oil Plant or Perfume Tree


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ylang-ylang

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chanel_No._5

[3] https://web.archive.org/web/20080715101236/https://nepspeed82.blogspot.com/2006/12/ylang-ylang-aphrodisiac.html

[4] https://books.google.com/books?id=-mgRAAAAMAAJ (p.369)

[5] Brokl M., Fauconnier M. L., Benini C., Lognay G., du Jardin P., & Focant J. F. (2013). Improvement of ylang-ylang essential oil characterization by GCxGC-TOFMS. Molecules, 18(2): 1783–1797. doi: 10.3390/molecules18021783. Retrieved 7 April 2013 from https://mdpi.com/1420-3049/18/2/1783

[6] Hongratanaworakit T. & Buchbauer G. (2006). Relaxing effect of ylang ylang oil on humans after transdermal absorption. Phytotherapy Research, 20(9): 758–763. Retrieved 7 April 2013 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16807875

[7] Hongratanaworakit T. & Buchbauer G. (2004). Evaluation of the harmonizing effect of ylang-ylang oil on humans after inhalation. Planta Medica, 70(7): 632–636. Retrieved 7 April 2013 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15303255/

[8] Kim H., Yang H., Kim D., Kim H., Jang W., & Lee Y. (2003). Effects of ylang-ylang essential oil on the relaxation of rat bladder muscle in vitro and white rabbit bladder in vivo. Journal of Korean Medical Science, 18(3): 409–414. Retrieved 7 April 2013 from https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3055052/pdf/12808330.pdf

[9] Overactive bladder. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Retrieved 7 April 2013 from https://mayoclinic.com/health/overactive-bladder/DS00827

[10] Kuteesa W. (2006). Anticholinergic drugs for overactive bladder. Australian Prescriber, 29: 22–24. Retrieved 7 April 2013 from https://australianprescriber.com/magazine/29/1/22/4#.UWB0HDfhGA4

[11] Wei A. & Shibamoto T. (2007). Antioxidant activities and volatile constituents of various essential oils. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 55(5): 1737–1742. Retrieved 7 April 2013 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17295511

[12] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16807875

[13] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15303255

[14] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23081867

[15] Stashenko E. E., Prada N. Q., & Mart’nez J. R. (1996). HRGC/FID/NPD and HRGC/MSD study of Colombian ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata) oils obtained by different extraction techniques. Journal of High Resolution Chromatography, 19: 353–358. Retrieved 7 April 2013 from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jhrc.1240190609/abstract

[16] “Herbs of Commerce” (AHPA) (2000 edition) – Michael McGuffin, John T. Kartesz, Albert Y Leung, Arthur O. Tucker p.32

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