Ylang ylang (pronounced EE-lang EE-lang) is a tropical tree native to Asia, or the flower of the tree and the essential oil produced from the flowers. The tree is the Cananga odorata, and the oil is extensively used in making perfumes and in aromatherapy.
In parts of the Pacific Rim, ylang ylang, with its heavy and sweet scent similar to jasmine, is associated with weddings and honeymoons. Its essential oil comes in four grades: ylang extra, ylang I, ylang II, and ylang III. The grades vary based on when the oil is removed in the steam distillation process. The lengthier the distillation, which generally can take up to 24 hours, the lighter the scent of the oil — ylang extra has the strongest scent and ylang III has the weakest. All grades have a fairly heavy scent compared to lighter scented oils, so they should be added carefully to a blend. Ylang ylang can easily overpower less exuberant scents.
The scent of ylang ylang, like jasmine and rose, has long been considered an aphrodisiac. This may account for its popularity in perfume blends. Of course, the so-called aphrodisiac scents also simply smell wonderful, which may be why they are attractive to the opposite sex. In aromatherapy, this scent is used for its stress-relieving properties — a few drops of ylang ylang oil in a hot bath can melt the day's cares quickly away. Some people find the scent overpowering, however, and it may cause headaches in people sensitive to heavy floral scents.
Ylang ylang is also thought to reduce anxiety and perhaps even relieve depression. Sexual dysfunction or simple lack of interest might be addressed with this scent in an aromalamp or blended in a massage oil. Use in perfume recipes that call for jasmine, if your budget cannot support the purchase of the much more costly jasmine essential oil.