Ylang Ylang Is the Floral Essential Oil To Add to Your Anti-Stress Kit—And 4 Ways To Use It

Photo: Getty Images/ triocean

If you fancy yourself an essential oil connoisseur, your collection is likely to include staples like lavender, bergamot, peppermint, and eucalyptus. One more essential oil you definitely want to add is ylang ylang. Don’t know her? Allow us to introduce you. 

Ylang ylang (pronounced “ee-lang ee-lang”) is a flowering tree native to tropical climates in Southeast Asia. It can grow up to 100 feet tall, and its yellow-green flowers are known for exuding a sweet, sensual aroma in the evening. 

“Ylang ylang is often interpreted as ‘flowers of flowers’ from the duplication of the word ‘ilang’ from the Tagalog language,” says Melissa Medvedich, a certified aromatherapist and founder of Supernal, an organic facial oil brand. “But, the root word technically translates to ‘wilderness,’ potentially a nod to the natural habitat of the tree.” 

Experts In This Article
  • Hellen Yuan, Hellen Yuan is an LA-based certified NAHA aromatherapist, certified Usui Reiki practitioner, wellness practitioner, designer, and long-time entrepreneur in the luxury, ready-to-wear fashion industry. She's the founder of Hellen, a collection of ritual-based modern healing products.
  • Melissa Medvedich, Melissa Medvedich studied at the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies, she became a certified aromatherapist. She's the founder of skin-care line Supernal.

In the Victorian age, Medvedich says, ylang ylang was used as an ingredient in the Macassar oil hair treatment, which became popular for its stimulating effects on the scalp. In the Indonesian culture, she adds, ylang ylang petals were spread on the beds of couples on their wedding night because it was believed they contained aphrodisiac qualities. 

Today, however, ylang ylang is usually cultivated in Madagascar and most commonly used in perfumery, thanks to its warm and seductive scent, or as an essential oil for its aromatherapeutic benefits. The dreamy, floral oil, Medvedich says, is a fractionated essential oil, meaning the tree flowers undergo a steam distillation process. There are five different grades of ylang ylang available (in order of potency: extra, I, II, III, and complete), and each varies in aroma and chemical composition.

 Intrigued? Keep reading to learn the benefits and uses of ylang ylang oil that make it worthy of a spot in your essentials collection. 

Benefits of ylang ylang oil

1. It could help with anxiety

Move over lavender: Ylang ylang can be a great holistic tool to add to your anti-stress kit. “Some of the research has shown that ylang ylang helps reduce anxiety when applied to the skin or inhaled,” says Hellen Yuan, a certified aromatherapist and founder of HELLEN, a line of bath brews. 

2. It has a sedative effect

Ylang ylang oil also has sedative effects, which helps lower blood pressure and can potentially help manage hypertension. “Research shows it lowers blood pressure if used through the olfactory system via nasal inhalers,” Yuan says.

3. Ylang ylang oil could promote sexual function

Want to spice things up in the bedroom? Ylang ylang could help. While this benefit hasn't been proven in clinical trials, in Indonesia, the oil is used to help reduce sexual anxiety and boost pleasure. 

4. Boosts self-esteem

One pilot study found that using ylang ylang on the skin or via inhalation can also elevate your self-esteem perception and impact physiological parameters, including blood pressure and temperature. So the next time you need a quick confidence boost before a date or a big meeting, take a whiff of ylang ylang to add some pep to your step. 

All that said, Medvedich adds that no matter how juicy the benefits of ylang ylang (or any other essential oil for that matter), if the scent repels you or you have a negative memory associated with it, you’re less likely to reap the benefits, despite what the research shows. So always go with the oils that smell the loveliest to you personally. 

How to use ylang ylang oil

Use it as a hair tonic

Ylang ylang oil is best known for being used as a tonic to help strengthen hair texture, calm the scalp, and regulate oil production, Yuan says. To DIY your own, she recommends mixing eight drops of ylang ylang with five drops of peppermint oil, five drops of rosemary, two teaspoons of coconut oil, three tablespoons of aloe vera, and one teaspoon of castor oil. Massage the tonic into your hair and leave it in for 10 to 15 minutes or overnight to really lock in moisture.

Make a massage oil

Since ylang ylang is known for its purported aphrodisiac qualities, it works great as a massage oil. “It works well to increase sexual desires and stimulation in foreplay,” Yuan says. To make, mix a few drops of ylang ylang with coconut oil or sweet almond oil. 

Put it in a diffuser

Using your good old diffuser is another way to reap the aromatic benefits of ylang ylang oil. Just add a few drops of it to your diffuser with water and turn it on.You can also blend it with different oils: According to Medvedich and Yuan, oils that blend well with ylang ylang include clary sage, bergamot, rose, cardamom, sweet orange, jasmine, sandalwood, neroli, and ginger. 

Add it to your pulse points

If you want to bring ylang ylang with you on-the-go, Medvedich suggests blending a few drops of it with your favorite carrier oil and putting it in a rollerball bottle. Then you can apply it to your preferred pulse points and sniff away. “My favorite pulse points to enjoy the aroma of essential oils are similar to where you might apply perfume: the wrists or behind the ears and neck,” she says. “I also enjoy and recommend applying to the temples of the head.” 

Side effects of using ylang ylang oil

As with all essential oils, using ylang ylang oil comes with a risk of skin sensitization. Medvedich recommends always following the dilution guidelines from your oil supplier. “Per Robert Tisserand (co-author of Essential Oil Safety), a maximum dermal level of 0.8 is recommended for skin application,” she says. This roughly translates to 1 drop of essential oil for a little over 1 tsp of carrier oil. 

Yuan adds that ylang ylang should never be used as a straightforward facial oil, and if you have furry friends at home, be very cautious with it. “It is poisonous to dogs and cats, so do not use this in an infuser if you have pets, or in any lotions if your pet may lick you,” Yuan says. 

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