Cananga odorata or ylang ylang, is a member of the annonaceae family of plants growing in tropical Asia. Some botanists recognize two varieties of the tree; Cananga odorata var. genuina (true ylang ylang) and Cananga odorata which produces an essential oil labeled simply as cananga.
There are several grades of ylang ylang essential oil which are extracted at different times during the flower's lengthy distillation. The superior ylang extra is drawn off during the initial phase. Next, ylang II is extracted and finally ylang III. Products known as "ylang complete" are available which can be either a blend of the three grades of ylang or the complete oil that results from the full, uninterrupted distillation of the flowers.
No uniform standard exists as to when the distillation is suspended and each grade of ylang drawn off. This results in a notorious inconsistency of aroma across the three grades; an experienced nose is required for accurate evaluation. If ylang extra is taken too soon, for instance, many of its outstanding aroma characteristics could show up in the secondary ylang II oil -- thereby creating an outstanding ylang II but a weak ylang extra. If the secondary ylang II distillation is allowed to go too long, some of the less fine aroma characteristics of ylang III might show up in the ylang II.
The standard bearer of all ylang grades is ylang extra, which has a creamy, delicate aroma, never overpowering or too densely sweet. Aroma-sensitive individuals sometimes experience headaches when inhaling the potent ylang III, but usually don't when inhaling the subtle sweetness of ylang extra.
Ylang oil is distilled from the cananga tree's greenish-yellow, starfish-shaped flowers, produced year-round. The fresh blossoms have traditionally been used to infuse coconut oil with their heavy fragrance. This scented coconut oil, known as Macassar oil, is used as a hair dressing in the South Pacific.
Personal fragrance manufacturers are the primary users of ylang oil today. Ylang is a component of many men's fragrances, probably because its floral sweetness is so unlike rose, which is often used as a modifier in feminine perfumes.
In aromatherapy, ylang evokes feelings of deep, languid calm that melt away anxiety, tension and stress. Ylang tends to predominate, so it should be used in small amounts on its own or when blending with other oils. Too much of a good thing might evoke negative effects; restraint is the key to working successfully with ylang. When creating blends, start with amounts that seem too small. Let the blend age for several days before evaluating the aroma, so the power and radiance of the ylang can expand through the blend and reach its ultimate presence. You may find that a blend comprised of as little as 5 to 10% ylang smells like 20 to 30%.
Exotic Island Potpourri
This is a fun way to use ylang is as a scent for an Exotic Island Potpourri