Ylang Ylang - Cananga odorata

Ylang Ylang

Cananga odorata

In aromatherapy, ylang ylang essential oil is valued for its ability to reduce hypertension, enhance mood, and promote relaxation. Its oil is also applied topically to improve skin conditions, given its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Plant Family: Annonaceae
  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Other names: Cananga tree, Macassar Oil Plant, Perfume Tree, Unona Odorant
  • Medicinal: Yes
  • Culinary: No
  • Ceremonial: No
  • Parts Used: Flowers
  • Side Effects:
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About Ylang Ylang

Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata) is a perennial tropical tree native to Southeast Asia, specifically the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The tree is known for its fast growth and can reach up to 40 feet in height. It has large, glossy, oval-shaped leaves and produces clusters of fragrant, yellow-green flowers that are often used in perfumery. 

In Ayurvedic medicine, it is used to balance the mind and body. It is often employed to alleviate stress and anxiety due to its calming properties. Traditional Chinese medicine uses ylang ylang to treat conditions such as headaches and digestive issues. c

The therapeutic effects of ylang ylang are primarily attributed to its active ingredients, which include linalool, geranyl acetate, and caryophyllene. Linalool has well-documented sedative and anxiolytic effects. Geranyl acetate contributes to the floral scent and is known for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, making it useful in treating skin infections and inflammation. Caryophyllene, a sesquiterpene, has analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects, which help in pain relief and reducing swelling. 



In tropical and subtropical regions, ylang ylang should be planted in late spring or early summer to allow the tree to establish its roots before the onset of any cooler weather. In regions with distinct wet and dry seasons, it is beneficial to plant ylang ylang at the beginning of the rainy season. The increased rainfall helps the young tree establish itself more quickly by providing ample moisture, which is crucial for its initial growth phase. 

For those growing ylang ylang in containers or as indoor plants in non-tropical areas, planting can be done at any time of the year, provided the tree is kept in a warm, humid environment with sufficient light. Ensuring these conditions will help the ylang ylang tree thrive and produce its characteristic fragrant flowers.

It takes weeks to months for ylang ylang seeds to germinate. It develops initial roots and leaves, needing high humidity and partial shade. In the juvenile stage, lasting a few years, the trees grow rapidly, needing full sunlight, water, and nutrients.

It reaches its maturity in three to five years, marked by continuous fragrant flowering. During the reproductive stage, flowers attract pollinators, leading to fruit and seed production, which can start a new life cycle. Each stage demands specific care to ensure healthy growth and prolific flowering.


The ideal time to harvest ylang ylang flowers is in the early morning, just after they have fully opened. At this time, the flowers are at their most fragrant and contain the highest concentration of essential oils.

Ylang ylang flowers are mostly sought after. They are harvested by hand as hey are delicate and can be easily damaged. It's important to monitor the trees closely, as the flowers can quickly lose their peak aroma and oil content if left too long on the tree. 

For short-term storage, place the flowers in a cool, dark, and well-ventilated area. Avoid exposure to direct sunlight and excessive heat, as these can degrade the essential oils within the flowers.

If the flowers need to be stored for a few days, they can be placed in the refrigerator. Wrap them loosely in a damp cloth or paper towel and place them in a perforated plastic bag to maintain freshness.



  • Tincture - Fill a jar with ylang ylang flowers and cover them with high-proof alcohol. Seal the jar and let it sit in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks, shaking occasionally. Afterward, strain the mixture and store the liquid in a dark glass bottle.
  • Tea - Simply steep a teaspoon of dried flowers or a tablespoon of fresh flowers in boiling water for 5-10 minutes. Strain and enjoy the aromatic infusion.
  • Decoction -  Boil ylang ylang flowers in water for 20-30 minutes, then strain. This concentrated liquid can be used for various purposes.
  • Salve - Melt beeswax with carrier oil in a double boiler, then stir in ylang ylang essential oil. Pour the mixture into containers and let it cool and harden.
  • Syrup - Create a ylang ylang syrup by making a decoction, then adding an equal amount of sugar or honey to the strained liquid. Heat gently until dissolved, then cool and store in the refrigerator.
  • Infused Oil - For infused oil, fill a jar with ylang ylang flowers and cover them with carrier oil. Let the mixture sit in a sunny spot for 2-4 weeks, shaking occasionally. Strain and store the oil in a dark glass bottle.