Welcome back to our series, Common Scents! Common Scents is a collection of articles exploring the history of commonly used essential oils, and how they became so popular in modern day soap and cosmetic crafting. This week, we’ll talk about ylang ylang!
This month we are going to talk about everyone’s least favorite essential oil to pronounce: ylang ylang! Pronounced ee-lang ee-lang, this sweet oil is versatile and mysterious, with a heady, floral aroma.
Ylang ylang has been popular throughout history for its purported therapeutic and medicinal qualities. The first official documentation of its use as a medicine came early in the 20th century, when two French chemists working on research on the island of Reunion discovered the healing properties of ylang ylang oil. They reported that they believed it to be an effective treatement for malaria, as well as other digestive and intestinal complaints. The chemists also believed that ylang ylang oil had a calming effect on the heart during times of distress or anxiety. They were hardly the first to come to this conclusion though; in the Philippines, healers turned to ylang ylang oil for treatment for snake and insect bites, as well as commonplace injuries such as burns and cuts and cardiac complaints. The cardiac benefits of ylang ylang oil were also noted in Oriental medicine, where healers used it most commonly for calming the heart.
Ylang ylang oil is derived from the ylang-ylang (cananga odorate) tree, sometimes referred to as the Cananga tree. This tree can grow up to 60 feet tall! Ylang ylang oil is steam distilled from the fragrant flowers of the tree; these flowers do not bloom until at least the fifth year of the tree’s life. It takes approximately 45-50 pounds of flowers to make one pound of oil; special care must be taken in regards to the timing of the distillation to ensure the desired quality.
There are three different grades of ylang ylang oil; extra, first, second and third. Extra grade refers to oil that is taken within an hour of distillation, and is considered the most fragrant; this grade is used most frequently in the perfume industry. First is taken up to four hours after distillation begins, second after approximately seven hours, and third can be taken up to ten hours after distillation begins. Typically, first through third grades are used in soap and cosmetic manufacturing.
Medicinal and Therapeutic Uses
Ylang ylang enjoys a reputation as a versatile healing oil. Let’s take a look at some of its medicinal and therapeutic uses throughout history:
Muscle spasm relief
Lowers blood pressure
Reverses insect and snake bites
Nerve and muscle relaxer
Remember: the HSCG is providing this information for informational and entertainment purposes only. The FDA has not approved ylang ylang for medicinal use, and we are not providing this information as a recommendation for medicinal use.
Ylang Ylang in Modern Times
Ylang ylang is a popular fragrance for soaps and cosmetics; its sweet, floral scent is appealing to a wide variety of audiences in an equally wide variety of products. Considered a base note, ylang ylang mixes well with grapefruit, vetiver, marjoram, sandalwood, bergamot, and many others.
Ylang ylang has a rich history and makes a great addition to any citrusy or warm scents you already have in your products! Be creative with this versatile oil; your customer will love it.
Need a little more inspiration to blend your fragrances? Check out our How-To article called Fantastic Fragrances and How to Blend Them: https://www.soapguild.org/how-to/ingredients/beginners-guide-to-fragrance-blending.php