Five Philippine indigenous crops that yield essential oils

Ylang-ylang flower (Mufid Majnun/Unsplash)


Essential oils are concentrated extracts from plants that capture their natural fragrance, flavor, and beneficial properties. They have been cherished for centuries for their potential to promote relaxation, alleviate stress, and promote physical relief. 

In the Philippines, there are several indigenous crops that are sources of essential oils.  Indigenous plants are those that are native to a specific region and have evolved over time within the local ecosystems. Indigenous crops yield essential oils with unique aromatic profiles that cannot be replicated elsewhere. This distinctiveness enhances the appeal of the oils, positioning them as premium products in the global market that cater to discerning consumers seeking authenticity. Here are five of them:

Ylang-Ylang (Cananga odorata)

Ylang-ylang is a tree native to the Philippines. It bears elegant drooping flowers that exude a sweet, floral fragrance. The blossoms are harvested to produce the essential oil that exudes an exquisite aroma used in perfumery and aromatherapy. The oil’s calming and mood-enhancing properties make it a popular choice to reduce stress and anxiety.

Ylang-ylang flower (Mufid Majnun/Unsplash)

Sambong (Blumea balsamifera)

Sambong is an aromatic herb native to the Philippines that is known for its medicinal properties. The plant’s leaves are harvested for their fragrant oil, which emits a fresh and earthy scent. Sambong oil is believed to have diuretic and anti-inflammatory effects, contributing to its use in traditional healing practices.

Sambong (Daramlagon/Wikimedia Commons)

Pili (Canarium ovatum)

The pili tree is native to the Philippines and is esteemed for its nutritious nuts and fragrant oil. Pili oil, derived from the pili nut, has a mild, nutty scent that captures the essence of the tree’s abundant offerings. Rich in antioxidants and essential fatty acids, pili oil is valued for its skin-nourishing and moisturizing effects. Elemi oil can also be extracted from the pili tree resin. Elemi oil has long been recognized for its potential to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and soothe minor discomforts. Elemi oil’s benefits extend to skincare as well. With its rejuvenating and toning properties, it is often included in skincare formulations.

Pili nuts (Obsidian Soul/Wikimedia Commons)

Calamansi (Citrofortunella microcarpa)

Calamansi, or Philippine lime, is a small citrus fruit widely cultivated in the Philippines. The oil extracted from calamansi peels offers a zingy, uplifting citrus aroma that revitalizes the senses. Its invigorating scent makes it a popular choice for enhancing mood and promoting a sense of freshness.

Calamansi (Ruben Sukatendel/Unsplash

Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus)

Citronella is a fragrant grass native to tropical regions, including the Philippines. The essential oil extracted from this plant is renowned for its strong, lemony scent that acts as a natural mosquito repellent. It’s often used in candles, sprays, and diffusers to create a mosquito-free environment.

Citronella (Ryan Art Graphic/Shutterstock)

Appreciating indigenous crops that produce essential oils holds great significance as it honors nature’s gifts and cultural heritage, bolsters local economies, fosters sustainable practices, preserves ancestral culture, and introduces the world to the unique essence of the Philippines.

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