How To Use Litsea Cubeba Essential Oil

by Raksha Hegde last updated -

Litsea cubeba essential oil can be quite a mouthful to say and perhaps, that is why this wonderful lemony oil is better known as the ‘Oil of Tranquility’. You may also find it marketed as May Chang oil or mountain pepper oil as it is extracted from the small round pepper berry-like fruits of the aromatic litsea tree. These fruits only have hints of pepper, with a stronger fragrance of lemongrass and citrus oils. Let us find out more about the essential oil extracted from the litsea cubeba fruit.

Litsea Cubeba Essential Oil

Litsea cubeba essential oil is a sweet citrus essential oil steam distilled from the tiny fruits of the litsea cubeba tree or shrub. The essential oil is used in natural cleaning products, body care, perfumes, and aromatherapy. Its fragrance has a calming effect, which is why it is often used as a diffuser during meditation.

The litsea tree (Lauraceae family) is an evergreen tree that grows in the tropical regions of India, Southeast Asia, southern China, Taiwan, and Japan. It gets its name cubeba because its round green fruits look similar to the climbing shrub piper cubeba, a plant native to Java. [1]

Litsea cubeba leaves and flowers on the tree

Litsea cubeba essential oil is extracted from the fruits of the litsea cubeba tree. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The white aromatic flowers, roots, bark, fruits, and leaves of the litsea tree are used in Chinese traditional medicine and folklore remedies to treat gastrointestinal conditions like diarrhea, stomach cramps, and indigestion. The roots and leaves are known to heal wounds due to their antimicrobial properties. However, litsea cubeba is best known for its essential oil, a pale yellow liquid with an intense lemon-like spicy aroma with a woody-floral undertone. [2]

How To Use Litsea Cubeba Essential Oil?

You can use litsea cubeba (may chang) essential oil in aromatherapy to create a calm and tranquil atmosphere. If you are using it topically, it is important to dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil as it has a strong lemon fragrance and compounds that may potentially cause skin and eye irritation. Let us look at the top uses and benefits of litsea cubeba essential oil.

Antibacterial Household Cleaner

Litsea cubeba essential oil can be added to natural household cleaning products or used to disinfect surfaces as it contains powerful citric elements that have an antibacterial effect. These compounds account for over 70 percent of the essential oil’s phytonutrient content, of which the predominant ones are neral and geranial. According to research studies, the essential oil has exhibited antimicrobial properties against E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Candida albicans, and A. niger – all of which are a serious cause of a variety of common community infections. [3] [4] [5]

Mood Enhancer in Aromatherapy

A 2020 report published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal suggested that litsea cubeba oil could improve mood and reduce stress in healthy individuals. Fifteen participants in a study who were exposed to an aromatherapy session using the oil showed improvements in total mood disturbances and a significant reduction in the salivary cortisol levels. [6] [7]

Try diffusing or applying a few drops on your shawl or your bed linen to promote feelings of balance throughout the day.


Due to its powerful antibacterial properties and antioxidant content, litsea cubeba oil is often added to facial cleansers as a good pore cleansing oil. It is known to be especially good for acne-prone skin. You can also combine it with neutral carrier oils like grapeseed oil or apricot kernel oil for a natural body care cleaner. [8]


May chang oil can be diluted with a carrier oil to reduce joint pain and muscle aches as studies have shown that the essential oil has anti-inflammatory properties. The essential oil is traditionally used to ease the symptoms of gastrointestinal problems, edema, and rheumatic arthritis. [9] [10]

You can use litsea cubeba essential oil to make the following household products:

  • Perfumes and body fragrances
  • Insect repellants
  • Natural skincare products
  • Potpourri
  • Deodorizers
  • Laundry cleaners
  • Shampoos and conditioners
  • Massage oils
  • Bath oils and lotions
  • Air fresheners
  • Candles and soaps

While litsea cubeba essential oil is also known to improve digestion and reduce blood pressure, there are no scientific studies as yet to prove the same.

Side Effects

As mentioned above, always dilute may chang oil before using it topically as it is a potent oil. You can dilute a few drops in a carrier oil of your choice and test a small patch of skin before using it. For more on how to choose a carrier oil, you can visit Top Carrier Oils & How To Use Them.

A report from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) revealed that household cleaners that contain the oil may cause skin allergy in certain individuals. Contact with the oil may also cause serious eye irritation. It is always better to use a little oil on surfaces to gauge any allergic reaction. Also, the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (2011) reported this substance shows some evidence of causing contact allergy in people. It is advisable to exercise caution if you are pregnant or diabetic. It should be kept away from children. [11] [12] [13] Protection Status
About the Author

Raksha Hegde is the content director at Organic Facts and helps oversee a team of brilliant, dynamic content writers. She completed her MS in Broadcast Journalism from Boston University, US. A former business news journalist and editor, Raksha followed her passion for wellness to become a certified Yoga teacher and a wellness festival curator. She believes that learning is a life-long process; she did a certificate e-course on “Introduction to Food and Health” in 2019 from Stanford University, US. 

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