Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata) is one of the most popular floral oils having a wide variety of applications in aromatherapy and fine fragrance, however it is one of the essential oils which can cause confusion for the less experienced person as it comes in varying grades which are not altogether clear indications of the quality.

Basically Ylang Ylang is one of the few essential oils which is distilled and collected in fractions” with the raw plant material being continually distilled for many hours and the oil collected at varying time periods stages in the process.  This is normally conducted four times giving the following grades:

Ylang Ylang Extra – this is the oil which is drawn off after the first hour of distilling giving a very high quality oil which is usually reserved for fine fragrance use. The scent of the extra (or Superior as it is sometimes called) is heady and almost Jasmine like with slightly spicy overtones.

Ylang Ylang 1 – this is drawn from the second and third hours of the distilling process and this is the cosmetic grade which is used in massage oils and skin care products. This is the best  therapeutic grade to use and it still contain the whole spectrum of compounds in meaningful amounts.

Ylang Ylang 2 – this is produced from the distilling hours three through five and although still a  high grade oil it will contain a higher proportion of sesquiterpenes lacks that real punchy floral fragrance of the higher grades. This being considerably cheaper than the higher grades is a good choice for wash off products such as shampoos and shower gels, and it still carries a nice bouquet which can be enhanced by blending it with other complimentary oils.

Ylang Ylang 3 – is the final oil which is produced by continuing the steam distilling process for up to 20 hours. This grade tends to lack the powerful floral bouquet and chemically wise it comprises mainly sesquiterpenes. Given it lacks that real heady aroma this grade is best used for blending and is a good choice of ingredient for cheaper toiletries and soap production. However this grade still retains its sebum balancing and bactericidal therapeutic properties so it remains a valid and cost effective alternative to the more expensive grades when the fragrance is not the most important consideration.

Just to confuse things further it is also possible to get another grade of the oil called Ylang Ylang Complete which is a full distillation of the oil with no fractions removed. This grade is also “manufactured” by some producers by blending the various grades to give an approximation of the complete oil.

It is also important to note that there is no set in stone definition of when the various fractions should be drawn off and the quality of the various grades can vary. This means that it is possible for unscrupulous producers and suppliers to try and pass off the lower grades as the more expensive higher ones. So when buying Ylang Ylang oil it is both wise and cost effective to have  the intended final use in mind, and if you are after one of the higher grades choose a reputable supplier who will have batch tested the oils to ensure they are what it says on the label.