Taken from Tagalog, the native language of the Philippines, Ylang-Ylang means either “wilderness” or “rare”. The delicate fragrance is often compared to Jasmine, and we use the exquisite essence of Ylang-Ylang in many of our aromatherapy blends for the shower.

This member of the custard-apply family, which flourishes across South Asia, is prized in aromatherapy formulation for its reputed ability to lower blood-pressure. However, anthropologist Margaret Mead told a somewhat different story. In her landmark cultural study, “Coming of Age in Samoa”, Mead noted that Ylang-Ylang blossoms were used as an aphrodisiac and strewn across the beds of newlywed couples.

Also known as Cananga Odorata, Ylang-Ylang was the source of Macassar oil used in men’s hair pomades a century ago and more, when guys took far fewer showers than they do now. Those lacy, doily-ish things that were draped over the backs and arms of upholstered love-seats and parlour chairs were thus called anti-Macassars, used to sop up all of that perfumed hair-oil.