A variety of essential plant oils are used to mix perfumes, including the flowers from the tropical Asian ylang-ylang tree. These flowers yield a strong floral aroma, which is used as the dominant scent, or top note, by the perfume industry.
Harvesting plants for perfumes is time consuming and expensive. However, with a global value over 75 billion dollars, the fragrance industry can afford the expense.
Historic records indicate that the Egyptians had a sophisticated perfume industry. Balms scented with aromatic plants and flowers were used in religious ceremonies and also as aphrodisiacs. In the 10th century, an ancient method of distilling essential oils from plants was rediscovered, reviving the perfume industry. Another boon to the industry came in the late 19th century with the invention of synthetic compounds that replaced some plant oils.