What Does Ylang Ylang Smell Like? Oil Uses & Benefits

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What does Ylang Ylang Oil smell like? Well, without knowing, you’ve probably smelled Ylang Ylang before in a perfume, lotion, or other product.

Its sweet, rich, and spicy aroma is commonly used in the perfume and fragrance industry. The aroma is sometimes compared to jasmine.

Ylang ylang is an evergreen tree from the Philippines, India, and Java, also known as Cananga, to the Annonaceae family (flowering plants).

It is characterized by being a fast-growing tree, exceeding 16ft of height and up to 40ft; of grayish-white smooth bark and hanging branches extending as long as 15ft.

Within the parts that compose the ylang-ylang tree, yellow-colored flowers grow in the form of axillary clusters (inflorescences), stuck to the leaf’s armpit, with a star shape whose base has small glands containing essential oil, of an agreeable floral aroma.

This essential oil has been used in natural medicine to treat malaria.

What is ylang ylang oil?

It is a substance extracted from the tree flower petals.

The essential oil of ylang ylang has a strong smell reminiscent of jasmine and neroli. It will be used in small quantities as its fragrance can become too penetrating

Due to its composition, this oil is precious in the cosmetic industry, especially in the elaboration of fine French perfumes. It is cataloged as the main ingredient in the manufacture of the famous Chanel perfume N° 5.

Origin of ylang ylang oil

what does ylang ylang smell like

It is native to Malaysia and cultivated in Sumatra, Java (Indonesia), Reunion (France), Comoros Islands, and Madagascar, specifically in the Indian Ocean.

The tree is found in Seychelles, Tahiti, Mauritius, and the Philippines, where the best oil is produced.

Until the mid-1900s, the Philippines had a monopoly on this oil, which was sometimes called “the poor man’s jasmine.”

Nowadays, it is used abundantly, in the elaboration of top-quality perfumes.

History of ylang ylang oil

The terminology ylang ylang, “flower of flowers,” comes from the Malay language “Alang-ilang,” which means “the way the flowers hang.”

In the southern islands, women used to put a mixture with coconut oil in their hair to keep it healthier.

what does ylang ylang smell like

Over the years, it has been used in Europe to make a hair tonic known as Macassar oil; ever since antimacassar wipes are presented on the backs of chairs and prevent them from being stained grease.

It is customary to cover the bed on the wedding day with ylang ylang flower petals in Indonesia due to the aphrodisiac qualities that it possesses.

What does ylang ylang smell like, and what are its characteristics?

It has an intense yellow color, which gives off a floral and sweet balsamic smell, with notes of neroli, jasmine, gum, and cream.

Its essence is widely used in the cosmetic industry for perfumes, face creams, shampoos, body lotions, and scrubs.

Likewise, it can be added as a food preservative for sweets, ice cream, cookies, candies.

In aromatherapy, it is used due to its beneficial effects on the nervous system, reducing stress and panic attacks, acting as a sedative and stimulant.

It has potentiating properties, and as such, is widely used for massages as well.

Other names for ylang ylang oil

Its scientific name is Cananga odorata; the name ylang ylang comes from the Austronesian language Taglo, which means wild (relative to its natural habitat).

In Indonesia it means “flower of flowers”.

Chemical composition of ylang ylang oil

Essential oil chemical composition: benzoic acid, alpha-pinene, caryophyllene, cadinene, methyl-salicylate, methyl-benzoate, methyl-paracrethol, eugenol, cresol, linalool, geraniol, methyl anthranilate, monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, alkaloids, lactones; flavonoids, gossypol; gossypol flavonoids.

How is ylang ylang oil extracted?

what does ylang ylang smell like

It is obtained through steam distillation of the flower petals because it allows the maintenance and conservation of the volatile compounds in the oil.

The beginning of the process is the most important because the first extraction allows obtaining better quality oil and with greater properties to be used.

The quality of the oil will depend on the crop used for the flowers, specifically when they are harvested. This affects greatly how it will smell like.

If it’s done in the morning, it is more beneficial because the night butterflies pollinate them. Therefore, the most intense aroma is released between dusk and dawn and is more conducive to distilling the oil.

Ylang ylang oil recommended dosage

  • For culinary use, the dose of ylang ylang oil should not exceed 1 gram per day (30 drops)
  • In case of external use, do not exceed 2 drops, combined with another conductive oil
  • For use in a relaxing bath, a maximum of 5 drops in the water

Ylang ylang oil uses and benefits

Among the benefits are:

  • Supports hair growth and fights dandruff
  • Controls excess oil on the skin
  • Acts as a skin regenerator
  • It is antiseptic because it prevents acne and pimples, acting against bacteria that affect the skin and keeps the pores open
  • It is relaxing and stimulating in cases of depression
  • It has aphrodisiac effects
  • It improves circulation and helps regulate heart rate
  • Promotes better breathing
  • It acts as a hypotensive because it controls blood pressure

Among the uses attributed to this oil are:

  • Cosmetic: it is used in the production of perfumes, body and face lotions, for hair care, as a natural treatment against acne, as well as being used as a tonic for nail care
  • Health: used against insect bites, helps the nervous system, is energizing, muscle relaxant, and aphrodisiac
  • Home: When combined with cleaning products, it helps to keep your home disinfected and insect free

Benefits for the skin

what does ylang ylang smell like

Ylang ylang oil has beneficial properties for all skin types:

  • It helps regulate excess oil in the skin (sebum), toning it
  • It fights wrinkles, expression lines, and spots, allowing them to be noticeably lighter
  • Prevents the formation of stretch marks
  • Regenerates aged and dehydrated skin
  • In cases of dry skin, it prevents flaking or cracking, providing hydration

Studies have shown that thanks to the active components called terpenoids (antioxidants), it acts favorably against skin oxidation due to stress and consequent DNA damage, leading to cancer cells’ possible formation in the skin.

Benefits for your hair

As for the properties that ylang ylang oil provides for the hair:

  • Promotes hair growth and prevents its loss
  • Controls excess oil (sebum), prevents seborrhea and dandruff formation
  • It prevents hair ends from splitting
  • Acts as a hair tonic

Another important benefit of ylang ylang oil is that it helps control anxiety.

For this reason, it makes you eat less and control unhealthy cravings, which favors weight management and, therefore, collaborates naturally in the weight loss process.

Recommended for the bust

Ylang ylang oil is a plant hormone (phytohormone), similar to human hormones, that promote breast growth, which has been affected either by breastfeeding, weight loss, or simply because they are small. It’s a beneficial ingredient for that purpose.

One way to achieve this result is to combine it with almond oil, and geranium oil, which is applied by massaging around the breasts (no nipples) at night and in the morning.

During pregnancy


It is best if not taken during pregnancy. This is because its safety level has not yet been studied and may cause adverse effects such as nausea and migraine.

Can it be used during breastfeeding, and why?

As with pregnancy, the use of ylang ylang oil during the breastfeeding period is not recommended because of the lack of evidence on how safe and beneficial it can be at that stage.

Cosmetic uses of ylang ylang oil

Important for cosmetic uses:

  • Because of its regenerating properties, it helps to treat scars and skin blemishes
  • Promotes healthy hair, used as a hair tonic
  • It is anti-bacterial and helps maintain healthy nails and cuticles
  • It regulates oily skin and helps acne; it can be used together with your personal face cream to reinforce its benefits
  • It acts as a natural relaxant for the body
  • Body lotions used in massages helps prevent the formation of stretch marks

Medicinal uses

  • Thanks to its composition in salicylic acid, it helps lower blood pressure, hypotensive
  • It is antiseptic (contains sesquiterpenes and geraniol), prevents the formation of pimples and acne
  • It acts as an antispasmodic, controlling muscle pain or muscle contracture
  • It favors the nervous system because it controls stress, anxiety, depression, decreases palpitations due to mild panic attacks
  • Its curcuminoid and beta-carotene components nourish the scalp, preventing the fall and formation of dandruff and seborrhea

Culinary uses

what does ylang ylang smell like

This fancy flower is widely used in kitchens around the world as an additional ingredient. Its sweet flavor is mainly for sweet dishes such as salads, jam, cake, smoothies, etc.

It should be noted that this oil should be 100% organic and of good quality, not exceeding 1 gram (30 drops) of oil per day.

You can safely consume it by mixing it with honey, butter, egg yolks, melted chocolate, etc. You can also add it to your favorite recipes.


Due to its composition, it is used in aromatherapy thanks to its anxiolytic, antidepressant, calming, stimulating, relaxing, hypnotic, sedative properties.

Therefore, it helps relax the central nervous system and calms you down during emotional states such as anger, rage, and jealousy.

It stimulates positive feelings, relieves insomnia, soothes anxiety, shyness, and sadness.

It is used to fill the environment with a relaxing and pleasant smell. A diffuser is placed in the most tranquil place used to rest or conduct massage therapy.

This way, its aroma will be perceived by the nose, and once it reaches the brain, it will cause the desired tranquilizing effect.

Aphrodisiac properties

It is said, although not fully proven, that it’s an excellent aphrodisiac. This is probably true because of its mild and spicy aroma that stimulates the senses, awakening sleeping desires and activating sensuality and sexuality in couples.

Contraindications and risks of ylang ylang oil

Within the contraindications and risks presented by the use of ylang ylang oil, the following considerations must be taken into account:

  • It should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Due to its sweet smell, it may cause uncontrollable nausea
  • It should not be applied to children under 6 years of age because adverse effects may result
  • Patients with hypersensitivity to the components
  • People with heart treatments, anticoagulants, thrombi, etc. can increase the risk of adverse effects
  • Patients who have suffered from dermatitis, because it can cause irritation and formation of skin rash and blisters


  • Scientific name: Cananga odorata
  • Part of the plant used: Flower
  • Oil extraction process: steam distillation, when the yellow flowers are ripe, the best oil is produced
  • Properties: Antidepressant, sedative, nervous relaxant. Hypotensive, aphrodisiac. Antispasmodic, analgesic, regenerating, tonic, anti-inflammatory
  • Traditional indications: palpitations, extrasystoles, hypertension, skin tonic and hair treatment, depression, insomnia, stress, anxiety, panic, impotence, stiffness
  • Contraindications: Not recommended for pregnant or nursing women
  • Preservation: Glass container with a drip. Store with the container tightly closed, in a dry and cool place, away from light and moisture

What does ylang ylang smell like: BONUS

facial cream

If you’re looking for a moisturizing face cream with antioxidant effects that delay the onset of aging, look no further!

We’ll share this little secret formula with you that consists of 1 or 2 drops of Ylang Ylang essential oil that you can combine with your regular face cream.

So, get a blender and mix the following ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of shea butter & coffee
  • 2 tablespoons rose floral water
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable glycerin

Blend everything until a creamy whitish consistency is obtained. Pour the emulsion into an amber glass bottle (which will protect the mixture from the effects of light) and keep it at room temperature.

Then you wanna add:

  • 5 drops of ylang ylang essential oil
  • 5 drops of lavender essential oil
  • 3 drops of geranium essential oil

Stir with a wooden stick (like that of a skewer), mix all the oils in the cream completely.

To apply, gently massage a pea-sized amount into the skin. If stored in a clean, cool, dry place when not in use, this cream should last 6 to 12 months.

To create a massage oil that soothes tired muscles, combine:

  • 4 drops of ylang ylang essential oil
  • 4 drops of sandalwood essential oil
  • 4 drops of sweet orange essential oil
  • 2 drops of bergamot essential oil
  • 60 ml of carrier oil of your choice**

**In addition to the popular coconut oil, other wonderful carrier oils such as argan, macadamia, olive, sesame, or sweet almond can be used as well.

Then, cover the bottle and shake it gently to combine all the oils.

Finally, the combination should rest for a couple of days to ensure a complete and consistent blend.

When the preparation is ready to be used in a massage, pour an amount the size of a dime into the palm of one hand, rub both hands together, and massage the oil onto the body.

what does ylang ylang smell like
What Does Ylang Ylang Smell Like? Oil Uses & Benefits

Joel & The Wellness Team

Hey! Joel here; A graduate of Herbalism & Naturopathic Medicine School. My team and I are passionate about finding ways to improve our lives on a daily basis and truly believe in natural alternatives of doing so before seeking traditional medications. However, always consult with your Doctor/Physician first before taking any actions regarding your health. Stay Safe and Healthy!

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The information on this website has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease.
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