Family • Anonaceae - Ylang-ylang - Cananga odorata (Lam.) Hook f. & Thomson - PERFUME TREE - Yi lan

Scientific names

Cananga odorata (Lam.) Hook f. & Thomson
Cangangium odoratum (Lam.) Baill. ex King
Unona odorata  (Lam.) Baill.

Common names

Ilang-ilang (Tag.)
Ylang-ylang (Tag.)
Perfume tree (Engl.)
Fragrant cananga (Engl.)
Macassar oil plant (Engl.)

Other vernacular names

BURMESE: Sagasein.
CHINESE: Guo luo shi, Xiang shui shi, Jia na kai, Yi lan xiang.
FRENCH: Canang odorant, Ilang-ilang en arbre.
GERMAN: Ilang-Ilang, Ilang-Ilangbaum.
GUAM: Alang-ilang.
HAWAIIAN: Lanalana.
INDIA: Apurvachampaka, Chettu sampangi, Karumugai.
INDONESIA: Kernanga.
JAPANESE: Iraniran noki, Ban reishi.
LAOTIAN: Ka dan nga thay.
MALAY: Kananga, Kenanga utan, Bungan sandat.
PORTUGUESE: Cananga, Ilanga.
RUSSIAN: Ilang-ilang, Zheltyi ilang-lang, Kananga duchistaia.
SPANISH: Alangilán, Cadmia, Cananga, Ilang-ilang.
THAI: Fereng, Kradang nga thai.

General info
Ylang ylang means “flowers of flowers.”
A variety, Cangana odorata macrophylla (Cannagium odoratum macrophylla) yields Cananga oil, also used in the manufacture of cosmetics and soap, flavoring of foods as gelatins and puddings.

Yellow fragrant flower, Ylang-Ylang flower (Cananga odroata), isolated on a white background

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Cytotoxic Constituents of the Fruits of Cananga odorata / J. Nat. Prod., 2001, 64 (5), pp 616–619 / DOI: 10.1021/np0005208

(2) Relaxing effect of ylang ylang oil on humans after transdermal absorption / Tapanee Hongratanaworakit and Gerhard Buchbauer / Phytotherapy Research, Vol 20 Issue 9, Pages 758 – 763 / DOI 10.1002/ptr.1950

(3) Composition of the essential oil of Ylang-Ylang (Cananga odorata Hook Fil. et Thomson forma genuina) from Madagascar / Emile M. Gaydou et al / J. Agric. Food Chem., 1986, 34 (3), pp 481–487 / DOI: 10.1021/jf00069a028

(4) Unusual Lactones from Cananga odorata (Annonaceae) / Eric Caloprisco et al / J. Agric. Food Chem., 2002, 50 (1), pp 78–80 / DOI: 10.1021/jf0105079

(5) Impact of feeding ethanolic extract of root bark of Cananga odorata on reproductive functions of male rats/ P Anitha & M Indira / Indian Journ Exp Biol, Dec 2006

(6) Relaxing effect of ylang ylang oil on humans after transdermal absorption / Tapanee Hongratanaworakit and Gerhard Buchbauer / Phytotherapy Research, Vol 20 Issue 9, Pages 758 – 763 / DOI 10.1002/ptr.1950

(7) Cananga odorata (ylang-ylang) / Harley I. Manner and Craig R. Elevitch / Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry

(8) Sorting Cananga names / Authorised by Prof. Snow Barlow / Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / Copyright © 1997 – 2000 The University of Melbourne.


Ilang-ilang is a medium-sized tree growing 10 to 30 meters in height, with pendulous branches, with drooping, leafy twigs. Flowers are fragrant, axillary, in umbellate hanging clusters, with three sepals and six petals, twisted when young and drooping when mature. Leaves are dark green, up to 20 centimeters in length, alternate, simple, entire. Fruit is black in color, 1.5 to 2 centimeters in length, in axillary clusters, fleshy and olive-like, with six to 12 seeds in each fruit.

– Cultivated for ornamental purposes.
– Introduced.

• The oil extracted from fresh flowers has a floral fragrance.
• The oil is distilled from freshly harvested flowers.
• Fractionation of essential oil isolated 17 compounds. From the volatile, oxygenated and hydrocarbon fractions, 52 compounds were identified, among them: (alpha)-cedrene, (alpha)-amorphene, (gamma)-gisabolene and cadinols.
• From the leaves and branches, two unusual lactones were isolated: one already known, isosiphonodin; and the other, canangone, a new terpenoid spirolactone.

• Sedative, antidepressant, and nervous system tonic.

Cultivated for ornamental purposes.

Parts used
Flowers, bark, oil.


– Oil Used for a variety of infectious and skin diseases, acne and scalp conditions.
– Sedative and antidepressant.
– Reduces sebum in oily skin.
– Use for insect bite.
– Reportedly used to decrease blood pressure.
– In Tonga and Samoa, bark used to treat stomach ailments and as a laxative.
– In Java, flowers used for malaria, and fresh flowers, pounded into a paste, used for asthma.

• Oil / Fragrance: Primary commercial product is the oil distilled for the perfume industry. Oil is used as a fragrance for cosmetics (1% in perfumes), soaps, shampoos, creams and lotions. (2) Oil also used as flavoring agent for beverages, ice cream, candies and baked goods.
• Aromatherapy: Essential oil used in aromatherapy, with claims of usefulness for depression, breathing problems, hypertension, and anxiety..
• Also regarded as an aphrodisiac. In some Asian countries, the flowers are laid out in matrimonial beds.
• An ingredient in motion sickness medicine, MotionEaze.
• Ornamental: Fragrant flowers used in making lei and headdresses.
• Wood: Wood is used in making small canoe parts, furniture, fuelwood and cordage.

Study Findings
• Cytotoxic / Anticancer: Cytotoxic constituents of the Fruits of Cananga odorata: A new guaipyridine sesquiterpene alkaloid, cananodine, and two new eudesmane sesqiuiterpenes were isolated from the fruits of CO and were evaluated for cytotoxicity against two human hepatocarcinoma cell lines.
• Antibacterial and cytotoxic compounds from the bark of Cananga odorata: Isolated compounds from the bark showed antibacterial activities, as well as antifungal and cytotoxic activities.
• Relaxing Effect / Aromatherapy: Using human physiological parameters and self-evaluation after transdermal absorption In a study of 40 healthy volunteers, ylang ylang oil caused a significant decrease of blood pressure and increase of skin temperature with subjective ratings of being calmer and more relax than in the control group. Study suggests some evidence of usage of the ylang ylang oil in aromatherapy for relief of depression and stress in humans.
• Antifertility / spermatotoxic: The study of ethanol extract of Cananga odorata possesses antifertility effects with statistically significant alterations in sperm morphology as well as activity of HMG CoA reductase and G6PD activities and serum testosterone. Study of 50% ethanolic extract of root bark of C odorata resulted in spermatotoxic effects, ie, decreased epididymal sperm motility and sperm count in male albino rats.

Safety / Allergy concerns
– Probably safe in the amount found in foods.
– No known interactions with herbs and other dietary supplements.
– In cosmetics, used in moderation, the oil is non-toxic and a non-irritant. However, the oil is considered as an allergen, and has been removed from some cosmetics.

Cultivated for ornamental use.
Essentials oils from the cybermarket.