Inhaling ylang-ylang boosts your testosterone

My Hormonology

Inhaling ylang-ylang boosts your testosterone



  • Key findings: Inhaling the scent of the ylang-ylang flower increases testosterone in women, which then may increase libido, confidence, ambition, energy, spatial skills, competitiveness and mood.

JULY 27, 2021—Although testosterone is often associated with men, truth is, women produce testosterone, too. During your menstrual cycling years, your ovaries and adrenal glands churn out the same low amount throughout your menstrual cycle, except during ovulation, when production increases a bit.

While estrogen usually hogs the spotlight as the important hormone for women, testosterone deserves its fair share of accolades, too. That’s because this hormone has a wide range of beneficial effects: Testosterone increases your confidence, boosts ambition, lifts energy, improves spatial skills, ups competitiveness and revs mood.

But, what testosterone might be most famous for is its effect on your sex life. Testosterone is a key component to firing up your sex drive, increasing arousal and intensifying orgasms. In women, testosterone works hand-in-hand with estrogen to amplify these sexual effects. In fact, research on post-menopausal women with low libido has shown that supplementing only with estrogen or only with testosterone doesn’t increase sex drive nearly as much as combining the two.1

What’s all this got to do with you?

Well, if you’re doing the math, this means that getting an extra dose of testosterone during your menstrual cycling years–when you’ve usually got estrogen aplenty–means you’d get a boost in everything that testosterone impacts: You’d have greater confidence, you’d take more risks, you’d be bursting with pep, you’d park your car in the tightest of spaces with the greatest of ease, your libido would be spiking and your orgasms would be toe-curlingly satisfying.

Unfortunately, getting a prescription for testosterone cream, patches, gel or pills to take advantage of these hormonal benefits isn’t the best idea. That’s because continuous supplementation with testosterone can have unwanted side effects, such as acne and excess hair growth on the face, arms and other areas. Some health experts are also concerned that supplemental testosterone can raise the risk of breast cancer and have other long-term health complications.2 On top of all that, testosterone supplements suppress ovulation, throwing your whole menstrual cycle out of whack. As a result, testosterone prescriptions for women are typically reserved for those who have undergone menopause nMy Hormonologyaturally or as a result of ovary removal and who are experiencing side effects that interfere with everyday life, such as fatigue, depression and lack of libido.

Does that mean enjoying an occasional testosterone booster is off the table? Maybe not!

Japanese researchers think they’ve discovered a natural way to spur your body to create a temporary spike in testosterone. And it’s all thanks to the fragrant Southeast Asian flower ylang-ylang.

How ylang-ylang boosts testosterone

In 2020, scientists from Japan’s Nagasaki University were inspired by a hunch. As the researchers explain, Indonesian folklore has linked ylang-ylang (cananga odorata) to an increase in sexual desire in women. So, they set out to test if there was any truth to the legend and, if so, why.3

The researchers recruited 19 women who were in the follicular phase of their menstrual cycle. This is the cycle phase between menstruation and ovulation when estrogen is rising. This timing was ideal since, as noted above, estrogen and testosterone work together to increase libido more effectively than either hormone alone.

The female volunteers were invited to a lab where they inhaled a safe common alcohol used in cosmetics (dipropylene glycol) as the control for 20 minutes. Then, they inhaled a diluted aroma of ylang-ylang essential oil for 20 minutes.

The study results

  • After breathing in the alcohol, the women experienced no change in their testosterone level.
  • After inhaling the ylang-ylang, the women experienced a nearly 16.5% rise in testosterone. 

While this seems like a small increase, testosterone is a potent hormone, which means even a slight rise could amplify its many effects. In fact, you’ve likely experienced this yourself already: At ovulation, your body’s level of testosterone naturally rises a little, which is one key reason behind a sharp increase in libido, more intense climaxes, a spike in confidence, revved energy, a boost in competitiveness, improved spatial skills and rise in mood on these days in your cycle.

How ylang-ylang increases testosterone

The study authors credit the rise in testosterone to the compound beta-caryophyllene that helps give the bright yellow ylang-ylang flowers their scent.

As other studies on fragrances have shown, aromatic molecules become absorbed in nasal passages, then pass through to the brain where they exert certain effects, for example, some may calm you and some may energize you. In this case, beta-caryophyllene prompts the body to produce more testosterone.

Based on earlier research, the study authors suspect this testosterone-boosting effect may last around 60 minutes.4

What this means for you

The researchers point out that have not yet tested how this boost in testosterone impacts women’s sex lives. This study’s goal was to prove that simply breathing in a certain aroma could lead to an increase in this hormone. But, since they know upping testosterone enhances libido and intensifies orgasms, armed with the positive results from this study, they’re planning a clinical trial to examine how breathing in ylang-ylang impacts women’s sexual satisfaction.

By this logic, a bump in testosterone from ylang-ylang would not only increase libido. It would also intensify all the other benefits that come with this hormone: confidence, ambition, energy, spatial skills, competitiveness and mood.

Therefore, it’s safe to conclude that if you want a natural, temporary boost in testosterone to take advantage of this hormone’s many effects, try dabbing on a ylang-ylang essential oil or inhaling it on a cotton ball and breathing in its aroma for 20 minutes. Try it when you want to…

  • Boost confidence before a presentation, job interview or performance or when negotiating a contract, salary or fee
  • Increase physical oomph, say, when paddleboarding or moving boxes
  • Get an edge when competing against one person or a team by ratcheting up a desire to win
  • Ramp up libido or intensify orgasms
  • Do activities that require spatial skills, such as playing a 3D game or building a doghouse
  • Improve mood

Keep in mind that a little goes a long way: In this study, the ylang-ylang oil was diluted to a 3% solution to avoid skin and nose irritation. You can create this yourself by blending 3 drops of ylang-ylang essential oil to about one teaspoon of a carrier oil, such as jojoba oil.

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(1) Susan R. Davis, et al., “Testosterone for low libido in postmenopausal women not taking estrogen”, New England Journal of Medicine, 359 (2008): 2005-2017
Debra L. Barton, et al., “Randomized controlled trial to evaluate transdermal testosterone in female cancer survivors with decreased libido; North Central Cancer Treatment Group protocol N02C3”, Journal of National Cancer Institute, 99 (2007): 672-679
Susan Rako, “Testosterone supplemental therapy after hysterectomy with or without concomitant oophorectomy: estrogen alone is not enough”, Journal of Women’s Health & Gender-Based Medicine, 9 (2000): 917-923
(2) Leslie R. Schover, “Androgen therapy for loss of desire in women: is the benefit worth the breast cancer risk?”, Fertility and Sterility, 90 (2007): 129-140
(3) Wataru Tarumi, Kazuyuki Shinohara, “Olfactory Exposure to β-Caryophyllene Increases Testosterone Levels in Women’s Saliva”, Sexual Medicine, 8 (2020): 525-531
(4) Ana Lilia Cerda-Molina, et al., “Changes in Men’s Salivary Testosterone and Cortisol Levels, and in Sexual Desire after Smelling Female Axillary and Vulvar Scents,” Frontiers in Endocrinology, Published online October 28, 2013


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