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.
Table Of Contents
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
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
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)
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)
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)
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)
- Add the essential oils and the salt in a glass bowl.
- 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.
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.
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).
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.
- Mallavarapu, G.R., et al. “Ylang–Ylang (Cananga Odorata) Oils.” Essential Oils in Food Preservation, Flavor and Safety, Academic Press, 30 Oct.2015
- Tan, Loh Teng Hern et al. “Traditional Uses, Phytochemistry, and Bioactivities of Cananga odorata (Ylang-Ylang).” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2015 (2015): 896314.
- Gnatta, Juliana Rizzo et al. “Aderência ao tratamento por estatinas e fatores associados em usuárias do Sistema Único de Saúde” [Aromatherapy with ylang ylang for anxiety and self-esteem: a pilot study]. Revista da Escola de Enfermagem da U S P vol. 48,3 (2014): 492-9.
- Hongratanaworakit, Tapanee, and Gerhard Buchbauer. “Relaxing Effect of Ylang Ylang Oil on Humans after Transdermal Absorption.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 28 June 2006.
- “MODULATION OF COGNITIVE PERFORMANCE AND MOOD BY AROMAS OF PEPPERMINT AND YLANG-YLANG.” Taylor & Francis.
- Kim, et al. “Essential Oil Inhalation on Blood Pressure and Salivary Cortisol Levels in Prehypertensive and Hypertensive Subjects.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Hindawi, 19 Nov. 2012.
- Jung, Da-Jung et al. “Effects of Ylang-Ylang aroma on blood pressure and heart rate in healthy men.” Journal of exercise rehabilitation vol. 9,2 (2013): 250-5.
- Kfoury, Miriana, et al. “Essential Oil Components Decrease Pulmonary and Hepatic Cells Inflammation Induced by Air Pollution Particulate Matter.” Environmental Chemistry Letters, vol. 14, no. 3, 2016, pp. 345–351.
- Han, Xuesheng, et al. “Chemical Composition Analysis and in Vitro Biological Activities of Ten Essential Oils in Human Skin Cells.” Biochimie Open, Elsevier, 26 Apr. 2017.
- Khan, TH, et al. “Isoeugenol Accelerates Wound Healing by Attenuating pro-Inflammatory Markers and Chemokine Expression in Diabetic Mice.” Planta Medica, 9 Apr. 2015.
- Burdock, George A., and Ioana G. Carabin. “Safety Assessment of Ylang–Ylang (Cananga Spp.) as a Food Ingredient.” Food and Chemical Toxicology, Pergamon, 29 Sept. 2007.
- Kaur, Gurpreet, and Sarwat Sultana. “Evaluation of antiarthritic activity of isoeugenol in adjuvant induced arthritis in murine model.”Food and chemical toxicology 50.8 (2012): 2689-2695.
- Kim, Hyung-Jee, et al. “Effects of Ylang-Ylang Essential Oil on the Relaxation of Rat Bladder Muscle in Vitro and White Rabbit…” ResearchGate, Korean Academy of Medical Sciences, July 2003.
- Yang, et al. “Effects of Ylang-Ylang Oil on the Relaxation of Rat Bladder Muscles.” Journal of the Korean Continence Society, Korean Continence Society, 30 June 2002.
- Soonwera, Mayura, and Siriporn Phasomkusolsil. “Efficacy of Thai Herbal Essential Oils as Green Repellent against Mosquito Vectors.” Acta Tropica, Elsevier, 28 Nov. 2014.
- Soonwera, Mayura. “Efficacy of Essential Oil from Cananga Odorata (Lamk.) Hook.f. & Thomson (Annonaceae) against Three Mosquito Species Aedes Aegypti (L.), Anopheles Dirus (Peyton and Harrison), and Culex Quinquefasciatus (Say).” Parasitology Research.
- “Ylang Ylang Oil.” Ylang Ylang Oil – an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics
- Srivastava, Pk, and Ak Bajaj. “Ylang-ylang oil Not an Uncommon Sensitizer in India.” Indian journal of dermatology vol. 59,2 (2014): 200-1.
- White, I R et al. “Isoeugenol is an important contact allergen: can it be safely replaced with isoeugenyl acetate?.” Contact dermatitis vol. 41,5 (1999): 272-5.
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