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Ylang Ylang 2

Ylang 2

The subject of Ylang Ylang is a fascinating one and in this one small article it can only be briefly touched on. It remains on of the finest affordable natural perfume materials for people involved in natural perfumery and cosmetics, etc. Personal involvement began when I read through the accounts of its distillation by Ernest Guenther and Stephen Arctander. As all of you know Ylang is one of the only essential oils that is fractionated meaning that during the distillation process, according to the knowledge of the distiller, Superior Extra, Extra, 1st, 2nd and 3rd fractions are taken off. From an olfactory standpoint the odor of the Superior and Extra fractions are considered to be the finest.

But what interested me even more was a comment from Stepphen Arctander:
"It was a very good idea (and who was actually the originator)? When in the mid-1950's, a "new" ylang-ylang oil was marketed under the name of Ylang Ylang Complete. It was claimed that the oil was a natural distillate. To be quite true to its name, the oil should be the total result(uninteruppted distillation as compared to the fractionation process) of a water-and-steam distillation of ylang-ylang flowers. The distillation was carried out in the Comoro Islands by a large French company which had good modern equipment at its disposal. If such an oil was ever distilled on a commercial scale, the undertaking was rapidly abandoned. Consumers were not willing to pay the high price which obviously has to be high enough to include the equivalent of the "extra" oil contained in the total distillate. The "true" complete oil would cost about half the price of the "extra" oil. Consequently another "complete" oil was "produced" on the spot,; a mixture of all the fractions which were difficult to sell at the same rate as the quick-selling "ylang-ylang extra. (particularly the oils of the 1st and 2nd fractions were used to make a so-called "complete")

The above may seem a bit confusing but should be clearer by the time you finish the newsletter. Basically what it amounts to is that generally Ylang is produced as a series of separated fractions whereas true complete would be the result of a continuous distillation for 15 hours of the flowers and not a reconstituted oil. When I read Arctander's description I felt the longing to find a distiller that would really do the true distillation of the "complete" oil. This eventually led to the interaction with Clive Teubes in South Africa who took on this work and also had the Ylang groves certified organic and the distilled oil certified organic as well. It is such a lovely exquisite oil. A true delight to the heart.
Arctander describes the true complete thus-
a yellowish, somewhat oily liquid, with a powerful and intensely sweet, but also soft balsamic floral odor and an unusual tenacity in its floral woody undertone.

Some notes from Ernest Guenther-Essential Oils Volume 5-Written in 1952
At the moment of blossoming the flowers are green and thickly covered with hairs, which give them a greenish-whitish appearance. The flowers matures quickly and then assumes a yellow color. When fully developed (about 20 days after blossoming) the flower has a deep yellow color. It is at this period that the flower contains the maximum amount of oil and that the quality of the oil is highest. At this point the flowers should be harvested

The ylang trees bears fruit throughout the year; harvesting therefore continues all year around, and hardly a day passes during which the large distilleries are idle for want of flower material. There are however, three harvesting seasons which can be clearly distinguished:

1. The principal harvest, from April through June, right after the rainy season
2. A moderate harvest during the dry season, from the end of September to November. This coincides with the spring season on the islands of the Indian Ocean. The flowers are drier and contain more essential oil than during the rainy season. The quality of the oil is also higher.
3. The season of heavy rains (January through March) At this time the flowers are heavy with moisture, and weigh more than they do during other periods. Yield of oil, therefore, is subnormal, and the quality none to good.

These harvesting periods, however, are by no means clearly defined; they fluctuate from year to year with the arrival of the rains.
Apparently ylang flowers contain more essential oils during the night(particularly just before daybreak) than during the day: a visitor driving through the countryside at night, or at dawn, will be surprised by the sweet fragrance which pervades, groves, fields and villages. Obviously the flowers cannot be gathered in the dark; the best time to pick them is therefore in the early morning, from just after sunrise up to about 9 or 10 AM at the latest.
The flowers are picked by crews of women and girls. Who collect them in baskets which they carry on their heads. Only the fully developed yellow flowers should be gathered, because the green undeveloped flowers contain less essential oil than the yellow ones. Moreover their oils of poor quality, possessing a low specific gravity and exhibiting a "green," flat odor, the result, chiefly, of the absence of the volatile ethers and esters, for which the oil from fully matured ylang flowers is so highly appreciated. Great care must also be exercised not to crush the flowers during their picking. Damaged flowers readily fade, turn black, and cause fermentation of the sound material in the same basket. This point is of particular importance in the rainy season, when the flowers are usually wet and tend to ferment during transport to the distilleries.

Since the harvesters are paid by the weight of the material they bring to the distillery, they are in general tempted to pick the flowers rapidly and indiscriminately, and to collect green flowers along with the fully developed ones. Careful distillers therefore check every basket on arrival, and on finding green or crushed flowers, insist on the woman's emptying the basket and selecting only yellow and undamaged flowers, for which alone she is then paid. If this procedure is strictly followed then the harvesters soon learn to be careful, and the quality of the oil will benefit greatly. Green and yellow flowers cannot always be clearly distinguished, but there is a simple test that eliminates any doubt as to shade or color: on the inner base fully matured flowers have two small reddish spots, caused probably by the presence of traces of indole....
The yield of flowers per tree and year depends upon location of the plantation, its age, and the care exercised in its cultivation, as well as upon the climate, soil, and altitude. The yield per year and tree varies from 5-20 kilos of flowers, the average being 10.

Distillation of one charge in directly fired stills lasts up to 22 hours (although 15 hours is common). It starts usually at 10 AM and is completed early the following morning, when the last runs of the "Third" quality are collected. This leaves just enough time to clean the stills before the new flower supply arrives and the distillation of the new batch starts...

In the case of the ylang flowers it so happens that the first fractions of oils carried over by steam contain the most aromatic and valuable constituents of the oils (esters and ethers) whereas the later fractions consist mainly of sesquiterpenes which have little or no odor value. A gradual lowering of the quality of the oil thus takes place from the first to the last fraction in the process of distillation.... Some distillers cut their fractions according to the specific gravity, the majority according to time (hours of distillation). In the former case the value of the fractions stands in direct relation to their specific gravity's, where in the latter case the value of the fraction is inverse to the time of distillation. In other words, specific gravity is highest in the top fraction and diminishes as the distillation proceeds... The simplest although not most exact method consists in fractionation according to the hours of distillation. It is the process applied by most of the larger, and nearly all of the smaller distilleries

1.5 hours yields the Extra Fraction
2-2.5 hours the First Fraction
3.5 hours the Second Fraction
6 hours the Third Fraction
(This is just a brief summary of a very individualized process. The distillers each have their own guidelines which they follow and much depends on the expertise of the people managing the stills. It is as much an art and craft as a science with many small factors determining how the distillation is done, when the fractions are to be removed, etc.)
English: perfume tree
French: canang odorant
Other: moso'oi (American Samoa and Samoa); pwanang, pwuur, pwalang (Chuuk); ylang-ylang, lengileng; (CNMI); moto'oi, mata'oi, mato'oi (Cook Islands, Niue, Tahiti); makasoi, makosoi, makusui, mokohoi, mokosoi (Fiji); moto'i (French Polynesia); ilang-ilang, alang-ilang (Guam, CNMI, Philippines); lanalana (Hawai'i); ilanlang, ilahnglahng (Kosrae); ilanilan (Marshall Islands); motoi (Niue); chiráng, irang (Palau); pur-n-wai, pwurenwai, sair-n-wai, seirin wai, seir en wai (Pohnpei); mohoki, mohokoi (Tonga
Description:  "A tree to 10-15 m tall; leaves alternate, simple, entire, ovate-oblong, acuminate, puberulent below, medium green; flowers rather larger, the petals yellowish, narrow, linear; stamens numerous; connective produced; ovaries several to many, free, style oblong; fruiting carpels stipitate, short-ovoid, black, 6-12-seeded"  (Stone, 1970).
Habitat/ecology:  Favors moist valleys to 800 m. Cultivated as an ornamental, from which it often escapes.  "The plants are commonly grown, becoming weedy occasionally, and spread into the forests where they become established"  (Welsh, 1998).  In Fiji, "cultivated and also extensively naturalized in gullies and on slopes, in forest and on its edges, at elevations from near sea level to about 800 m"  (Smith, 1981).

http://www.life.uiuc.edu/plantbio/ 263/image/Cananga.jpeg
http://www.toptropicals.com/ pics/garden/cat_2/5641.jpg


The kenanga is a common village tree in Malaysia. Its fragrant flowers are worn for personal adornment. It was introduced to the island of Réunion in the western Indian Ocean in the late 18th century, and from there to Nossi-Bé and the Comoro Islands about a century ago (Klein 1975). The oil distilled from the flowers is known as cananga oil or more commonly ylang-ylang oil, and is used in perfumery (Arctander 1960, Klein 1975). This oil, when added to coconut oil
and other ingredients makes the Macassar oil (Corner 1952) so familiar to the well groomed Edwardian male. The term Macassar oil is also applied to a product of Schleichera Willd. species (fam. Sapindaceae).
Ylang ylang-it sounds like a children's game or a toy. It's not, but it is one of the most important essential oils used in perfumes. The oil comes from the flowers of a ylang ylang tree or, cananga odorata, and has had many uses in different cultures over the centuries. In many places today, ylang ylang is symbolic of sensual pleasure and seduction. The tongue-twisting name means "flower of flowers" in Malay. The Philippine origin of the word comes from alang ilang, which means "flowers that flutter in the wind." People have used ylang ylang in a variety of ways throughout history. Muslim women would burn the oil to scent their harems, which in Muslim society, is the part of the house or palace that is reserved for women. In China the fragrance was used to purify the robes of the mandarin (a member of an elite or powerful group or class). The purified robes were then placed into a chest made from fragrant wood. Only when a special occasion required their use did the robes come out from the chest. When they were removed, the scent was still strong, in fact, some of these chests have been found in modern times, and the scent, although faint, can still be detected centuries later. In Indonesia there is an ancient tradition that continues today of spreading the ylang ylang flowers across the beds of newlywed couples.
Ylang ylang did not find its way into modern European perfumery until the 19th century. It surfaced there first as an ingredient in macassar oil. This oil was a highly popular hair preparation product that was used primarily in Victorian times (c. 1840-1900).

A cultivated tree will grow to about 60 feet, while wild trees can grow upwards of 80 to 95 feet. They have long hanging stems with about 18 leaves on each stem. If you want to produce the oil, the tree requires a tremendous amount of care. Every two months workers must prune the branches. In the fall, when the flowers are ready, they are handpicked, so as not to lose any of the precious fragrance. The timing of the harvest is very important. It is important that the flowers are picked at the time when they will yield the greatest amount of oil. The fragrance of the flower is narcotic, floral, sweet and jasmine-like. However, the aroma of the flowers is not evident until 2-3 weeks after they have blossomed. The color of the flowers can be pink, mauve (pale bluish purple), or yellow. The yellow flowers are considered the finest for extracting the oil because they yield the most and best quality oil. The flowers are ready to be harvested when the yellow of the flower is at its most extreme and a slight red tinge emerges in the middle of the petals.


Ylang ylang trees are native to Indonesia and the Philippines. The oil is generated primarily in Madagascar, Reunion, the Comoro Islands and Sumatra. Steam or water distillation is the technique used to detach the oil from the freshly picked flowers (yield: 1.5-2.5 percent).Ylang ylang oil is extracted into different grades. Ylang ylang extra is the name of the first distillate. This is the grade used in many high-class perfumes. Grades 1, 2 and 3 are the names of the three following distillates. Blending ylang 1 and ylang 2 together produces a 'complete' oil. Different grades of ylang ylang have different uses. You can find ylang ylang 3 in soaps and detergents, for example. Alcoholic drinks, soft drinks and desserts also use ylang ylang as an ingredient. Ylang ylang oil can be very expensive because, like many other essential oils, it takes many flowers to extract a small amount of oil. In fact, it takes about 350-400 kilos of flowers to extract one kilo of oil, and each tree renders only about 10 kilos of flowers per year.

A Ylang Project

Ylang ylang growers get help from FPRDI

If there was a contest for the country's sweetest smelling municipality, the town of Anao in Tarlac could bring home the trophy, thanks to the 10,000 ylang ylang (Cananga odorata) trees planted in its 2,500-hectare land. And to help make sure that the trees bring sweetness not just to the air, but also to the livelihood of the town people, an agency of the DOST has designed an essential oil extractor.
The smallest town in Tarlac, Anao transformed into an ylang ylang territory in 1989 when the local government started to establish ylang ylang plantations to augment the people's income from rice and corn.
It was not hard convincing the townsfolk to follow. In no time, they were planting seedlings in their backyards and helping care for the trees the government has planted in public orchards. They harvested the first mature blooms five years after and sold these to the Anao Ylang ylang Primary (now Multi-purpose) Coop which operated an oil extraction plant.
The oil, in turn, was sold to Bioessence, a major beauty products and spa company that to this day remains the coop's sole buyer.
Mr. Rogelio Felipe, coop president says, "Our trees produce a total of 2,400 kilos of flowers a year which yield 27 liters of oil which we sell for P 10,000 per liter."
Ylang ylang is one of the most valued aromatic oils, because of its delicate fragrance.
"We are aware of our advantage," Mr. Felipe says, "That's why we have plans to expand our plantations. We want to penetrate the big European market."
While waiting for the expansion plans to push through, Mr. Felipe and his group make sure that the townspeople get the most out of the enterprise. He says, "The families here are thankful for the extra income they get from selling flowers. Not only the adults are involved. It is heartening to see many of our young people helping their parents harvest the flowers when they are not in school."
Mr. Felipe counts as another blessing the steam distillation machine designed for them by the DOST's Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI).
"This is an improvement on our old oil extractor," he says. "It uses less wood fuel and requires only one operator, instead of the usual three, because it has a lifter that makes it easier and safer to load and unload the flowers in the trays and into the machine."
FPRDI's Engr. Belen B. Bisana adds, " The FPRDI unit also consumes less water and yields more oil than the old one. With the improvement, there is an over-all increase in net profit of about P1,300 per batch of flowers processed."
Oil quality likewise passed the standard of the Plant Resources of Southeast Asia (PROSEA), an international research and documentation program. "These features ," Engr. Bisana concludes, "make the unit more efficient than the steam distillators currently being used by the local industry."
Aside from FPRDI, other government groups have also thrown in their support for Anao. The Tarlac College of Agriculture, for instance, gives technical advice on tree production and helps prepare feasibility studies. Along with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Region III, the college has committed to share some of its idle land to the coop.
"More land for our plantations means we can produce more oil to meet the huge volume required by the export market," says Mr. Felipe. Speaking of going global, a visiting German businessman recently brought home oil samples for quality testing. "He plans to buy from us and wants to see if we pass ISO standards," Mr. Felipe beams.
With all these good news, it looks like more perfumed days are up ahead for the hardworking people of Anao, as well as for people in other towns who may want to follow their example.
(If you would like to know more about the FPRDI steam distillation unit for essential oil, please contact us: FPRDI-DOST, UP College Forestry and Natural Resources Campus, College, Laguna 4031; phone: 049 5362377, 2360, 2586; fax: 049 5363630; email: fprdi@laguna.net).

gc on ylang
The constituents of ylang-ylang oil include geraniol and its acetate, linalool, eugenol, isoeugenol, Éø- and É¿-pinenes, p-cresyl methyl ether, various methylbutenols, etc., together with the sesquiterpenes caryophyllene, humulene, various isomers of cadinene, etc. (Greenberg & Lester 1954, Klein 1975). Cananga oil extracted from the flowers of plants growing in Java is said to contain fewer esters and more sesquiterpenes than ylang-ylang oil extracted from flowers growing in Réunion, Madagascar, and the Comoro Islands (Nakayama 1973)
oil of ylang ylang 10 minims oil of neroli 5 minims oil of rose 5 minims oil of bergamot 3 minims alcohol 10 oz. One grain of musk may be added Dilute with distilled water to make a toilet water.

-- From "Manual of Formulas, Recipes, Methods, and Secret Processes"
edited by Raymond B. Wailes, B.S.
(Popular Science Publishing Co., New York, 1932)
ylang ylang oil 45 minims rose oil 15 minims cassie oil 5 minims almond oil 1/2 minims tincture of orris rhizome 1 fluid ounce tincture of storax 3 fluid drachms grain musk 3 grains civet 1 grain tonka beans 3 (chopped) alcohol (90%) 9 fluid ounces Mix, and digest one month, then filter. The above is a very delicious perfume. N.B. Cassie oil, also called cassie otto, is derived from the flowers of Acacia farnesiana, a.k.a. Mimosa farnesiana, L. (N.O. Leguminosae, sub-order Mimoseae). It must not be confounded with cassia otto, the essential oil obtained from Cinnamomum cassia.

-- From "Fortunes in Formulas For Home, Farm, and Workshop"
edited by Garner D. Hiscox, M.E. and
Prof. T. O'Conner Sloane, A.B., A.M., Eum., ph.D.
(The Norman B. Henley Publishing Company, 1937)