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What is Cananga?

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  • Written By: M. Haskins
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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Cananga commonly refers to cananga oil, an essential oil derived from the flowers of the Cananga tree, which is native to Asia. The oil is used as an herbal remedy and as aromatherapy oil and has a sweet, floral, slightly woody aroma. In aromatherapy, this oil is ascribed several beneficial properties, including being an antidepressant, a sedative, an aphrodisiac and able to stimulate the circulatory system. As a home herbal remedy, cananga oil is used for various purposes, such as treating dandruff, insect bites and wounds. It is always used topically, meaning it is applied externally, to the skin or hair.

In aromatherapy, essential oils are thought to have beneficial therapeutic properties, both because of their scent and because of their effect on the body when they are applied to and absorbed by the skin. Cananga is commonly used to add fragrance to various aromatherapy products such as massage oils, body lotions, scented sprays, face creams and shampoos. Aromatherapists recommend this oil to improve circulation, eliminate toxins, treat high blood pressure and insomnia, and to relieve anxiety and stress. As a home herbal remedy, this oil is often used for its various calming and moisturizing properties and as a treatment for oily skin and hair, split ends and itchy scalp. It is also used to treat wounds and some skin diseases because of its supposed antiseptic and antibacterial properties.

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The Cananga tree is a common garden tree in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines and is also grown specifically to harvest the flowers. Steam distillation is then used to extract the light-yellow to amber colored oil from the flowers. Cananga oil is nontoxic and usually non-irritating, but as with all essential oils, excessive use can cause nausea and headaches. Skin irritation can occur after applying the oil to the skin, and if this happens it is advisable to wipe the affected area with regular vegetable oil. This oil is not a medically approved substance, and its use for various therapeutic and medicinal purposes is not based on scientific research.

Pregnant women should check with their physician before using this oil. Like all essential oils, it should be stored away from heat and sunlight in a colored glass bottle. It should be kept out of reach of children, and not be applied near the eyes or the genitals. Cananga oil is not meant to be ingested, but is only for external use.

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