Raw Materials Litsea cubeba – May Chang

Litsea cubeba – May Chang

08/11/13 05:15:48

by: Dr. Chandra Shekhar Gupta

Scientific name:
Litsea cubeba

Common names:
May Chang, Mountain Pepper

Family: Lauraceae

Plant parts used:
Fruits and leaves

Method of Extraction:
The essential oil is steam distilled from the fruits of the tree.

Aroma: Sweet citrus, heavy and spicy.

Strength: Strong

Color: Yellow

Consistency: Thin

Note: Top, Middle

Blends well with: basil, chamomile, clary sage, coriander, geranium, orange, grapefruit, sandalwood, black pepper, rose, rosemary, rosewood and ylang-ylang essential oils.

Litsea cubeba is a small tree, 5-12 m high with a stem diameter of 6-20 cm. The  flowers are lemon-scented, small, and white or pale yellow in color. Fruits are small and similar to pepper fruits in shape. Primarily fruits become green in color but turning red, then dark brown upon ripening.

It is native to China, Indonesia and some other parts of Southeast Asia, and it grows in mountainous regions. In China it is successfully domesticated and largely cultivated areas are found in the central and eastern regions of China, south of the Yangtze River. As a famous spice among Taiwanese aborigines, a proposed National Park at Yilan country is named "Magao" after the spice. In Indonesia the species grows wild in Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Litsea cubeba oil is distilled from the small,  pepper-like fruits of the tree of Litsea cubeba. Litsea essential oil of Chinese origin is the only source of internationally traded material, which is rich in citral (about 70 percent) and has an intensely lemon-like, fresh and sweet odor. Litsea essential oil competes in a limited extent with lemongrass, another citral-rich oil, in fragrance applications such as household sprays and fresheners, although it is less suitable for use in soaps than lemongrass oil since it has less fixative power. Its major use, however, both in China and in international markets, is as a raw material source for the isolation of citral.

Citral is used in its own right for flavor and fragrance purposes or converted by the chemical industry to a number of important derivatives such as Ionones, which possess a violet-like fragrance, and vitamins. The chemical compounds present in the litsea essential oils are neral, geranial, apinene, ß-pinene, methyl heptenone, ß-myrcene,  D-limonene, cineole, linalool, citronellal, verbenol, isopulegone, a-terpineol, (R)-citronellol, piperitone, geraniol, ß-caryophyllene and caryophyllene oxide.

Litsea essential oil has antibiotic, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, insecticidal, sedative and deodorant properties. It is used in the aromatherapy and fragrance industries. It is also known for its antifungal and antibacterial properties. May Chang essential oil also blends beautifully with lotions and soaps to help treat acne, eczema and problematic skin.

An example of a perfume with Litsea essential oil is Malibu Lemon Blossom by Pacifica, a floral fragrance for women. The fragrance features lemon blossom, Litsea cubeba, angels trumpet, herbal notes and sea notes. Similarly,  Cologne 8 Essences is a delicate floral, fruity and aromatic fresh blend, composed of eight natural essences: sweet orange, lemon and bergamot, litsea cubeba from China, lavender, rosemary and petit-grain from Paraguay.

Photos: Bettaman, Bettaman, mutolisp, Bettaman


Dr. Chandra Shekhar Gupta

Dr. Chandra Shekhar is a botanist, plant pathologist and nature-loving person. Dr. Shekkar works as an Assistant Scientific Officer at the National Institute of Plant Health Management, Ministry of Agriculture, Hyderabad, India.

A Fragrantica writer since 2011, Dr. Shekhar contributes educational content about raw materials (plants).








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