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The ylang ylang is the fastest growing, tall evergreen tree in the world. Pronounced ‘ee-lang ee-lang’, it can grow over one hundred feet high. Large, twisted, yellow, flowers hang all year round from its branches, on which tropical doves nestle to feed from clusters of black berries.
The pale yellow, sweet scented oil pressed from the ylang ylang’s buds has earned it the pseudonym ‘the perfume tree’. Much like olive oil, each pressing creates a different grade. The first pressed ‘virgin oil’ is the most intense, its sweet, spicy scent popular in perfumery. The second and third pressings reap softer, more floral, woody tones that add a fragrant lift to soaps and detergents.
Ylang ylang grows wild in the Indonesian Moluccas ‘Spice Islands’, where the locals mix its oil with coconut to cleanse their skin and condition their hair. This same blend of oils was exported to Europe over 100 years ago and used by Victorian and Edwardian Englishmen who believed it encouraged strong, silky hair growth.
Ylang ylang is the flower of seduction. Its petals are scattered across the beds of honeymooners in Indonesia to bring passion to their first night as newlyweds. Aromatherapists use ylang ylang as an aphrodisiac to treat low libidos of emotional origin. They say its sensual scent reconnects the body and mind, creating feelings of euphoria.
The ylang ylang’s sweet aroma seduces the senses and soothes the spirits. Its calming powers are hailed to slow a swift heartbeat. Its fragrance is said to clear the heart of heat rooted in anger and frustration. It’s no wonder the Spice Islanders also call the ylang ylang’s blossom the ‘flower of flowers’.