Why Does Ylang Ylang Smell Bad?

Ylang ylang is a flowering tree native to Southeast Asia, known for its sweet and exotic fragrance. Its essential oil is widely used in perfumes, cosmetics, and aromatherapy for its soothing and calming properties. However, some people find the smell of ylang ylang unpleasant, even similar to the smell of a sweaty gym bag.

So why does ylang ylang smell bad to some people? In this article, we will explore the various factors that can affect the perception of ylang ylang scent, from individual sensory preferences to environmental factors and cultural associations. We will also delve into the different varieties of ylang ylang and their unique aromas, and discuss the potential benefits and drawbacks of using ylang ylang in different contexts.

Quick Summary
Ylang ylang does not necessarily smell bad, but it has a distinct and strong fragrance that some people may find overpowering or unpleasant. Additionally, the quality of the ylang ylang oil can play a role in its scent – lower quality oils may have a more pungent or artificial smell. Lastly, individual preferences and sensitivities to certain fragrances can also influence how someone perceives the scent of ylang ylang.

The science behind the unique scent of ylang ylang

Ylang ylang is a tropical flower native to Southeast Asia and has been used for centuries for its various health benefits. The flower has an exotic smell, which is why it is widely used in perfumes, aromatherapy, and cosmetics. The unique scent of ylang ylang is attributed to the presence of various chemical compounds such as esters, phenols, and terpenes, all of which are responsible for its sweet, floral, and slightly spicy aroma.

One of the primary components of ylang ylang’s scent is linalool, a terpene that is also found in lavender. Linalool is believed to have a calming effect on the mind and body, which is why ylang ylang is often used in aromatherapy as a stress-reliever. Esters, on the other hand, give ylang ylang its fruity and sweet aroma. Phenols, which are known for their antimicrobial properties, are also found in ylang ylang and contribute to its medicinal properties.

The history of ylang ylang and its use in perfumes

Ylang ylang, which translates to “flower of flowers” in Tagalog, is a sweet and spicy floral fragrance derived from the flowers of the Cananga odorata tree. The tree is native to Southeast Asia and has been used by indigenous cultures for centuries for its medicinal properties. The plant also holds significant cultural and spiritual significance in some regions.

The plant gained popularity in the West during the 19th century when French perfumers began using it in their fragrances. It became a favorite among high society due to its complex floral aroma and was often used as a key ingredient in luxury perfumes. Today, ylang ylang is still used in perfumery but has also found its way into other industries such as aromatherapy and skincare due to its relaxing and soothing properties.

The different fragrance chemical compounds in ylang ylang

Ylang ylang essential oil is obtained from the flowers of the Cananga odorata tree. It is widely used in perfumes and personal care products for its sweet, floral scent. However, the smell of ylang ylang has been considered unpleasant by some people. The odor can be overpowering, and some describe it as musty or medicinal.

The smell of ylang ylang depends on the different fragrance chemical compounds present in the oil. Scientists have identified more than 160 compounds, including esters, terpenoids, and alcohols. However, a few of these compounds, such as beta-caryophyllene and germacrene D, have a strong odor. Not everyone may find these fragrances appealing. Moreover, the way these compounds interact with other ingredients in a scent blend may also affect the overall aroma of ylang ylang.

The cultural significance of ylang ylang and its role in traditional medicine

Ylang ylang has a significant cultural and historical importance in many countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, and Comoros. It is commonly used in traditional medicine for various purposes, including addressing skin conditions like eczema and acne. Its antiseptic properties also make it a popular choice for treating cuts and bruises. Additionally, ylang ylang oil is often used to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression due to its calming effect on the body and mind.

In Indonesia, ylang ylang is commonly used as a natural remedy for rheumatism and inflammation. On the Comoros Islands, ylang ylang oil is used as a traditional remedy for digestive disorders like upset stomach and nausea. In the Philippines, it is used to treat asthma and head lice. Through its cultural and traditional medicinal uses, ylang ylang has gained a reputation as a valuable plant with a host of health benefits.

The potential health benefits of ylang ylang

Ylang ylang may have a strong and polarizing smell, but it also has a host of potential health benefits. One of the primary benefits is its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. The scent of ylang ylang has a calming effect on the nervous system, which can help to promote relaxation and reduced feelings of stress. In fact, ylang ylang is often used in aromatherapy as a natural way to ease symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Another potential benefit of ylang ylang is its ability to act as a natural antidepressant. The essential oil contains compounds that have been shown to enhance mood and promote feelings of happiness and well-being. This makes it a popular choice for those dealing with depression or anxiety. Additionally, ylang ylang has anti-inflammatory properties and may help to reduce inflammation in the body, which has been linked to a variety of health problems. Overall, while ylang ylang may smell bad to some, its potential health benefits make it a valuable natural remedy worth exploring.

The environmental impact of ylang ylang cultivation and harvesting

The cultivation and harvesting of ylang ylang have a considerable environmental impact. The demand for ylang ylang oil has resulted in extensive monoculture plantations that replace natural habitats. This deforestation contributes to the loss of biodiversity, soil degradation, and water scarcity. Furthermore, intensive use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers in ylang ylang cultivation poses a severe threat to the ecosystem, polluting water sources and causing harm to non-targeted wildlife.

Aside from land degradation and ecosystem disruption, ylang ylang farming also has social implications. The work is labor-intensive, and laborers are often subjected to poor working conditions, low wages, and child labor. Moreover, because ylang ylang is grown primarily in developing countries, some of these countries’ rules and regulations regarding farming practices may not be enforced. Consumers who are interested in supporting sustainable farming practices should pay attention to the source of their ylang ylang products and opt for companies that support ethical practices in their supply chain.

Tips for minimizing the unpleasant aspects of ylang ylang fragrance.

Ylang ylang oil is a popular ingredient in perfumes and other fragrances due to its strong, floral scent. However, some people may find the aroma of ylang ylang unpleasant or overpowering. Fortunately, there are several tips to help minimize the unpleasant aspects of this fragrance.

One way to reduce the intensity of ylang ylang’s scent is to dilute it with a carrier oil such as jojoba oil or sweet almond oil. This can make the fragrance milder and more subtle. Additionally, using smaller amounts of ylang ylang in your fragrance blends can also help to lessen its pungency. Mixing it with other essential oils like bergamot, lavender, or jasmine can also help to balance out its scent. Experimenting with different combinations can help you create a fragrance that is enjoyable to wear without being overpowering.


In conclusion, the reason why ylang-ylang smells bad to some people is due to its strong and complex aroma. This fragrance is a combination of various chemical compounds, some of which may be perceived as unpleasant or overpowering. However, for others, ylang-ylang is a delightful scent that is used in a wide range of products, from perfumes and cosmetics to food and beverages.

Despite its divisive aroma, ylang-ylang remains a fascinating and versatile plant with many medicinal and therapeutic properties. It has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat various ailments, and modern scientific research has found evidence to support some of these uses. Therefore, whether you love or hate the smell of ylang-ylang, it is worth appreciating the unique qualities of this exotic plant and the benefits it can offer to our health and well-being.

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