It makes perfect scents

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 October, 2009, 12:00am

Although ylang ylang (pronounced ee-lang ee-lang) is rather humbly nicknamed 'poor man's jasmine' due to its similar floral fragrance, it is also one of the most important raw materials used in perfumes.

The ylang ylang tree is native to Indonesia and the Philippines but commonly cultivated in the temperate climates of Pacific island regions. Its leaves are long, smooth and glossy with greenish-yellow flowers that yield their strongest scent during the afternoon and early evening. The essential oil is extracted from the flowers through steam or water distillation and is used in various ways. In aromatherapy, it is used to regulate heartbeat and breathing and stabilise mood swings, while having a toning and stimulating effect on the skin. The oil's soothing and calming effect helps hyper-active children, induces sleep and relieves stress. When taken internally, it reduces fever and symptomatic manifestation of malaria. It is also blended in hair care products to stimulate growth.

In many places today, the flower is symbolic of sensual pleasure and seduction. In some parts of Indonesia, it is still customary to spread the petals across the newly wed couple's bed.