Botanist's Glossary

Ylang-ylang - Cananga odorata

  • Description
    • Ylang-ylang (Annonaceae family) is an evergreen tree from South-east Asia that has spread to the islands of the Pacific and Indian Ocean. It has very fragrant yellow flowers with 6 long trailing petals. The essential oil extracted from these flowers by steam distillation is highly sought after. In Mayotte, the trees are kept cut down to a particular height to make it easier to collect the flowers. The branches look like arms and the trees have a distinctive "upside-down tree" appearance. The scent of the flowers fills the heavy air of the tropics. The essential oil from here is of a very exceptional quality.
  • Traditions
    • The name "ylang-ylang" is derived from a Malaysian word and means "flower of flowers". The plant was introduced into the islands of the Indian Ocean in the 18th century. Réunion, the Comoro islands and Mayotte became the major producers of this essential oil (Cananga odorata, var. genuina), which is obtained by steam distillation. The oil is used in perfumery and beauty products, and is also finding new uses in aromatherapy. Its fragrance has a soothing effect on the nerves (anxiety, stress, depression), while the essential oil is still reputed to be an aphrodisiac.
  • Properties
    • Ylang-ylang essential oil is effective on both oily and dry skin, since it balances sebum production. It is also excellent for damaged hair. It leaves the skin soft, supple and delicately perfumed. L'OCCITANE chose to use this essential oil primarily for its sensual scent.