11 Benefits And Uses Of Ylang Ylang Essential Oil For Health, Skin, Hair

Medically reviewed by Vd. Naveen Sharma, Ayurveda Physician
by Annie Jangam

Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata) is a tropical plant native to southeast Asia. The essential oil is derived from the yellow flowers of the plant through steam distillation. It has a sweet floral fragrance that is used widely in many cosmetic products, including perfumes and flavoring agents (1).

Folk remedies use Ylang ylang essential oil for treating various maladies, such as headaches, digestive distress, gout, and even malaria (2). Studies on the health benefits of this oil have been conducted. Research states that the oil may have anti-anxiolytic, antimicrobial, and hypotensive properties. In this post, we will look at them in detail.

Benefits Of Ylang Ylang Essential Oil

1. May Help Reduce Anxiety

A study has shown that this essential oil has a soothing effect and helps in reducing anxiety and improving self esteem (3). Another study had shown that ylang ylang oil relieves stress and helps lower depression. The study was based on physiological parameters, such as changes in skin temperature, pulse rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure. The essential oil could significantly lower both the skin temperature as well as blood pressure. This eventually made the subjects feel relaxed (4).

Ylang ylang oil may also have an impact on cognitive functions. Although research is limited, the oil has been observed to improve calmness in human volunteers (5). However, ylang ylang oil was also found to decrease memory in some patients (5).

2. May Have Antimicrobial Properties

Ylang ylang contains an antibacterial and antifungal compound called linalool (2). The essential oil also exhibits an antimicrobial activity towards Staphylococcus aureus strains (2). A blend of ylang ylang and thyme essential oils showed a synergistic effect on microbial infections (2). More studies are needed to further understand the antimicrobial properties of ylang ylang essential oil.

3. May Help Lower Blood Pressure

Ylang ylang essential oil, when absorbed by the skin, may help lower blood pressure (4). The oil may help manage hypertension. A study on an experimental group that inhaled a blend of essential oils with ylang ylang reported to have lower levels of stress and blood pressure (6). In yet another study, ylang ylang essential oil aroma was found to reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels (7).

4. May Have Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Ylang ylang essential oil contains isoeugenol, a compound known for its anti-inflammatory properties (8). The compound may also help reduce oxidative stress. This process may eventually reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as cancer or cardiovascular disorders.

5. May Help In Wound Healing

Studies on skin fibroblast cells reported that essential oils, including ylang ylang, have anti-proliferative properties. The essential oil also inhibited tissue remodeling, suggesting a potential wound healing property (9). Isoeugenol is a compound in ylang ylang essential oil (8). It has been reported that isoeugenol accelerates wound healing in diabetic mice (10).

6. May Act As An Aphrodisiac

Ylang ylang essential oil is traditionally used to decorate the beds of newly weds in Indonesia for its soothing and aphrodisiac nature (11). The scientific evidence behind this claim is limited.

7. May Help Treat Rheumatism And Gout

Traditionally, ylang ylang oil has been used to treat rheumatism and gout. There are no scientific studies to back this claim, however. Ylang ylang contains isoeugenol (9). Isoeugenol (extracted from clover oil) was found to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity. In fact, isoeugenol has been suggested as an antiarthritic treatment in mice studies (12).

8. May Help Fight Malaria

Studies have backed the traditional use of ylang ylang in treating malaria. A Vietnamese research group has found that the oil has or anti-malarial activity (2).  However, further studies are required to establish the role of ylang ylang as an alternative treatment for malaria.

9. May Improve Skin And Hair Health

Traditionally, ylang ylang has been used in skin care for treating acne. It has been reported that it can inhibit the activity of bacteria responsible for causing acne (2).

Although scientific evidence is scarce, ylang ylang oil has been used in many cosmetic skin care products. The oil is a common ingredient found in many commercial skin and hair care products. It is used in creams, perfumes, massage oils, and moisturizing creams (2).

It is claimed to have a moisturizing effect on dry skin and improve the regeneration of skin cells. The oil may also reduce fine lines and wrinkles. It may promote a healthy scalp through aromatherapy. It may rejuvenate the scalp and potentially reduce hair fall. Traditionally, the oil was used for its anti-sebum properties. However, there is no research to prove it yet.

10. May Help Relax Bladder Muscles

Animal studies have shown that ylang ylang essential oil may help relax the bladder muscles (13). Rats with overactive bladders were found to experience relief with ylang ylang oil (14).

These were some of the health benefits of ylang ylang essential oil. The oil can also be used in a few other ways. We will explore them in the next section.

Uses Of Ylang Ylang Essential Oil

Insect Repellent

Ylang ylang oil has been suggested as a green repellent for mosquito control. It controls mosquitoes and is safe for humans and the environment. Studies have reported that the oil, when mixed with coconut oil, could offer 98.9% protection from the Aedes aegypti mosquito for upto 88.7 minutes (15).

Another study explored the ovicidal and insecticidal activities of this oil towards three mosquito species – Aedes aegypti, Anopheles dirus, and Culex quinquefasciatus (16). Anecdotal remedies have used ylang ylang essential oil to kill head lice, especially in children. It is a safer alternative to chemical compounds that may sometimes cause adverse effects.

Here’s how you can use the oil as a mosquito repellent.

What You Will Need

  • Ylang ylang essential oil (2 drops)
  • Distilled water (enough to fill a spray bottle)

Process

Add the EO to a spray bottle with water. Mix thoroughly and spray around to keep mosquitoes at bay.  

  • Anti-Aging Massage Oil For Skin

What You Will Need

  • Ylang ylang essential oil (2 drops)
  • Coconut or jojoba carrier oils (1 tablespoon)

Process

Mix the essential oil with the carrier oil. Gently massage the mixture into the face. Regular use will make the skin soft and supple.

  • Hair Conditioner

What You Will Need

  • Ylang ylang essential oil (3 drops)
  • Jojoba carrier oil (2 tablespoons)

Process

Mix the essential oil with the carrier oil. Gently massage the mixture into the hair and scalp. Regular use will make your hair shiny and healthy. The antimicrobial properties of the essential oils may help fight dandruff.

  • Relaxing Bath Salt

What You Will Need

  • Ylang ylang essential oil (10-15 drops)
  • Geranium essential oil (10 drops)
  • Lavender essential oil (10 drops)
  • Dead sea salt or Epsom salt (1-2 cups)

Process

  1. Add the essential oils and the salt in a glass bowl.
  2. Mix thoroughly and use this mixture as a bath salt. It will rejuvenate your skin and relax your mood. It is claimed to help treat insomnia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • Mood Enhancer

Apply a few drops of ylang ylang essential oil to your wrists and neck to reduce fatigue and improve mood. It also may help in the treatment of acute depression.

  • Aphrodisiac

Add a few drops of the oil to your diffuser. You may also apply it to your neck and wrists. It may help reduce sexual anxiety.

In the following section, we will look at the different types of ylang ylang oil.

Types Of Ylang Ylang Essential Oil

The ylang ylang flowers are used to extract different types of essential oil. The extraction is done by steam distillation. Depending on the number and order of these distillations, there are five types of ylang ylang oil (17).

The first fraction from the distillation is the most potent and concentrated which is labeled “Extra”. The subsequent distillations are “First”, “Second”, “Third”, and “Complete”. The “complete” type contains all the other four distillates. Hence, it has the closest composition to the ylang ylang essential oil (17).

How To Use Ylang Ylang Essential Oil

Most essential oils are in a potent concentrated form. Hence, diluting them with carrier oils (such as jojoba or coconut oils) is important before applying them topically.

Ylang ylang oil is usually used in aromatherapy diffusers. Its aroma can also be inhaled from the bottle. It is advisable to do a patch test by applying the essential oil to a small area to test for its sensitivity.

Recommended Dosage

There are no scientific guidelines for the appropriate dosage of ylang ylang oil. It is dependent on multiple variables, including one’s age and the underlying medical conditions. However, for the purpose of flavoring in food, an estimated consumption of (0.0001 mg/kg/day) has been determined to be safe (11). But even this amount of the oil could cause adverse effects in some people.

Ylang Ylang Side Effects

The Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) has approved this essential oil to be “generally recognized as safe (GRAS)” (2).

However, case studies have reported that ylang ylang essential oil may cause skin irritation in subjects (18). Ylang ylang oil contains isoeugenol. This compound has been identified as a contact allergen (19). It can cause skin irritation and contact dermatitis (18).

Conclusion

Ylang ylang essential oil is used popularly in aromatherapy for its relaxing and mood enhancing properties. It has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and wound healing properties. Traditionally, it has been used to treat acne-prone skin and improve hair quality. It is used in skin care products, perfumes, candles, and food for its subtle exotic smell.

However, the oil may cause allergies in some people. The isoeugenol in ylang ylang oil may cause contact dermatitis. Always consult a medical practitioner before using it.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

What oil goes well with ylang ylang?

Ylang ylang blends well with lavender, jasmine, rose, bergamot, and frankincense essential oils.

How does ylang ylang smell?

It has a sweet, fruity, and floral smell.

How do you use ylang ylang for sleep?

Add a few drops of ylang ylang essential oil to a diffuser to create an environment conducive to sleep. You can also add other essential oils of your choice.

Is ylang ylang good for treating acne?

Yes, it has been reported that ylang ylang oil can inhibit the growth of acne causing bacteria. The oil has antimicrobial properties.

Can ylang ylang be taken internally?

Information is limited in this regard. Most essential oils are not recommended for oral intake. However, ylang ylang has been used as a flavoring agent in certain foods. Consult your doctor before you plan to ingest the oil.

19 sources

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Annie Jangam

Annie Jangam is a Molecular Biologist with 7 years of research experience in Rice Functional Genomics and Nutrient Signalling with International Publications in Abiotic stress, Nitrogen, and G-protein signaling. She specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. She has been an avid reader since childhood and is passionate about stories that help decipher life and its meaning. She believes in Human Rights for all and that one should "love others like we love ourselves."
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