If frankincense is the King of Essential Oils, then ylang ylang essential oil benefits make this his Queen! Simply put, the healing efficacy of this potent remedy is absolutely remarkable and the research supporting therapeutic claims is impressive. Ylang ylang oil is widely known and you will commonly find it in food, body care and cleaning products.
Table of Contents
Grades of Ylang Ylang Essential Oil
Scientifically referred to as Cananga odorata, this evergreen produces the wonderfully fragrant blossoms that we distill to get the essential oil. Also known as the “perfume tree,” it is native to tropical Asia – Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and islands of Indian Ocean.
Although steam distilled, the process required to extract ylang ylang oil is interestingly similar to pressing olives for oil in that the essential oil is collected at various stages of the process and graded. Through a method known as fractional distillation (the separation of volatile components of different boiling points in a mixture by the gradual increase of temperature and the separate collection of each component) each successive collection of oil produces varying grades containing a wide array of chemical constituents. (1) This is something of an anomaly in essential oil manufacturing, therefore, ylang ylang essential oil is sold in various grades: Extra, 1, 2, 3, Complete.
- Extra Grade: Regarded by many as containing the finest notes from the distillation process, the first collection after an hour or two of steam distillation. Contains roughly 30 different chemical constituents, it is usually the most expensive.
- Grade I – III: As the steam distillation process continues, essential oil collections are taken every few hours, which make up less potent (and expensive) oils in descending order: Grade I, then II and finally III.
- Complete: Represents the whole distillate encompassing all the collections from the entire distillation process. This synergy oil offers maximum fragrance potency.
7 Ylang Ylang Essential Oil Benefits
Ylang ylang has had many uses in traditional medicine ranging from a skin tonic to help relieve insect bite irritation to treating more serious health concerns like malaria, asthma, gout, and digestive issues. Here are 7 that stand out:
1. Soothes Inflammation
This is a big one.
Inflammation is arguably one of the most destructive processes that can destroy your health known today, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been introduced as the answer. Unfortunately, prolonged use has been linked to, “Renal problems, gastrointestinal irritation, and even myocardial infarction and strokes have been reported due to the prolonged use!” (2)
Is there a solution?
- Eating an anti-inflammatory diet
- Practicing anti-inflammatory activities like deep breathing and meditation
- Exercising regularly
- Getting sound sleep
- And using natural remedies like essential oils!
In a study evaluating the antioxidant properties of essential oils, ylang ylang interestingly stood out as containing substantial anti-inflammatory properties. (3) Most likely due to its ability to calm the senses and stop anxiety in its tracks, regular topical use is key to enjoying the anti-inflammatory therapeutic benefits as is inhaling the volatile organic compounds via diffusion.
2. Decreases Blood Pressure & Heart Rate
In a comprehensive study that appeared in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation researchers evaluated whether inhaling ylang ylang essential oil in a closed room for 20 minutes is an effective tool to lower blood pressure in healthy men. The results were not only tested using the traditional blood pressure cuff but also tested using a 12-lead EKG. The results show that there was a marked difference between the control group and the test group.
More specifically, the ylang ylang oil group had significant decreases to both their systolic and diastolic blood pressure. (4) Further, the results of the 12-lead EKG showed that the test subjects who inhaled ylang ylang oil experienced a slower heart rate following the application.
If you’d like to take advantage of the heart healthy properties of ylang ylang, but do not enjoy the aroma, don’t worry!
Research suggests that you’d be well served by blending ylang ylang oil with others like lavender and lemon. (5) Evidently, mixing with key oils help produce a synergistic effect that produces reduced systolic blood pressure and sympathetic nerve system activity via heart rate variability.
Application: To enjoy heart healthy benefits, add 3 drops ylang ylang, with 2 drops of lavender and lemon into your diffuser and enjoy for at least 30 minutes!
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3. Calming Applied Topically
In addition to the sedative properties mentioned above via inhalation, studies also suggest that topical application is exceptionally calming as well. The results of one 2006 study uncovered that simply massaging a 20% solution of ylang ylang oil in sweet almond oil over the abdomen for 5 minutes resulted in a “significant decrease of blood pressure and a significant increase of skin temperature.” (6) A rise in skin temperature, by the way, is an indication of muscle relaxation and, therefore, a decrease in sympathetic nervous system function.
It is interesting to note that the study participants had their abdomen wrapped with plastic film to prevent evaporation. In addition to these physical measures, ylang ylang oil had a direct effect on their feelings and emotions: participants reported more “calm,” “relaxed,”
Application: To enjoy the calming effects and to start your day on a stress-free note, mix 2 drops of ylang ylang essential oils with 1 tablespoon of sweet almond oil and massage over abdomen first thing in the morning. Use just enough to cover the skin and store until used completely. Note that while the study above used a higher concentration, we recommend observing the dermal limit of 0.8%.
It has been well-established that terpenoid derivatives and flavonoids isolated from the flower buds of C. odorata can reduce the effects of aldose reductase; an enzyme that changes glucose to sorbitol. (7) This is important because the accumulation of intracellular sorbitol can lead to diabetes complications such as: (8)
- Diabetic neuropathy
Application: Try applying a 0.8% dilution over the abdomen twice a day for 2 weeks and monitor results with physician.
5. Insect Repellent & Insecticidal
Traditionally, ylang ylang has been used to treat bites, repel biting insects (like mosquitos) and can also kill their eggs. One study revealed that a 10% dilution serves as a potent egg control agent against these types of mosquitos: Aedes aegypti, Anopheles dirus, and Culex quinquefasciatus. (9).
That is significant as Aedes aegypti is a known carrier for the Zika virus. (10) Hopefully, essential oils will one day be on the forefront of the public health eye as humanity faces emerging diseases spread by insects such as the Zika virus where the best course of action is prevention. Note, the study did not mention that ylang ylang oil could treat the Zika virus, simply that it kills the mosquito eggs that spreads it.
6. As a Surface Treatment
Along with oregano, eucalyptus, tea tree oil, cinnamon oil and lemongrass, ylang ylang essential oils has been shown to exhibit potent anti-biofilm activities. Biofilm, the slimy film of bacteria that adheres to slick surfaces is becoming more of a public health concern because of its role in infectious disease and importance in a variety of device-related infections. (11)
Biofilm formation of Staphylococcus aureus is also a mechanism of drug resistance. Of 83 essential oils that were evaluated in a 2014 study published in Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, ylang ylang oil was a Top 3 performer, destroying upwards of 80 % of the biofilm produced by S. aureus. . (12) The implication is that ylang ylang may make a good home-based topical oil for protecting against certain types of bacteria and potentially virus and other microbial organisms
Application: Add ylang ylang to your favorite homemade dusting spray and all-purpose cleaners!
7. An Aphrodisiac (Or is It?)
Ending on a passionate note, you most likely know of ylang ylang as an aphrodiasiac. But is this true?
Actually not really. Traditionally used to enhance sexual function, inhaling ylang ylang oil is actually proven to reduce the anxiety related to sex. (13) This is not to say that our ancestors were misled in using it for sexual enhancement, but just that there is little modern research to substantiate it.
Either way, using ylang ylang oil can help enhance your sexual experience, so I give it a thumbs up!
Side Effects of Ylang Ylang
When 140 people were evaluated after smelling peppermint and ylang ylang aroma, something interesting was discovered.
- Peppermint was found to enhance memory
- Ylang ylang impaired memory and lengthened processing speed.
- Peppermint increased alertness
- Ylang ylang decreased alertness
- Additionally ylang ylang significantly increased calmness (14)
What does this mean?
Well, the effects are not long-lasting so ylang ylang essential oil uses aren’t going to make you stupid. However, I wouldn’t want it around me before taking an important exam or when I’m about to speak in public!