Litsea Cubeba Essential Oil – An Ancient Chinese Remedy

Litsea Cubeba

Litsea Cubeba, more commonly known as May Chang, is a small tree native to Southern China and tropical Southeast Asia. The essential oil is derived from the small, pepper-like fruits. The healing properties and benefits of this plant have been known for thousands of years. 

Litsea Cubeba essential oil can be used both topically and aromatically for a wide variety of ailments, from treating infections to revitalizing the skin, to calming digestive upsets.1

The History of Litsea Cubeba

Litsea Cubeba belongs to the Lauraceae family and produces small white or pale yellow flowers that develop into pepper-like fruits. The tree is also referred to as “Chinese Pepper” or “Mountain Pepper.” Although it is native to Southern China and other parts of tropical Southeast Asia, it is most widely cultivated in Japan, Taiwan, and China.2

Litsea Cubeba has been used throughout history in traditional Chinese medicine to treat digestive problems, muscle pain, asthma, chills, and backaches. It was also widely used as an antispasmodic to treat asthma attacks.3

The essential oil was not introduced to the Western world until the 1950s when it became a competitor of lemongrass as a source of citral. It then began to be widely used in fragrances, flavorings, and soaps. 4 Today, the healing properties of this essential oil have become more well-known, and it is used in aromatherapy to treat a variety of symptoms.

Chemical Properties

Litsea Cubeba essential oil is steam distilled from the pepper-like fruits of the tree. The resulting oil is pale yellow in color and has a refreshing citrus aroma. Although the scent can be compared to citrus fruits or lemongrass, Litsea Cubeba is actually a spice.

This healing essential oil has antiseptic, astringent, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, stimulant, and carminative properties. These properties all come from its chemical composition, which is primarily citral, Geraniol, and neral.

These three terpenes make up approximately 85 percent of Litsea Cubeba essential oil and account for its wide range of healing properties.

Uses for Litsea Cubeba Essential Oil

Litsea Cubeba essential oil can be used aromatically to alleviate stress and anxiety and relieve respiratory conditions or topically to reduce chances of infection, keep skin healthy, disinfect surfaces, and more.

Treats Digestive Upsets

Litsea Cubeba essential oil was widely used in ancient Chinese medicine to treat digestive problems. Its carminative properties help relieve flatulence and the discomfort caused by it. The stomachic properties tone and strengthen the digestive system. Additionally, its antispasmodic properties help with of painful cramps.

To improve digestion and reduce nausea, cramps, and indigestion, mix a few drops of Litsea Cubeba essential oil with a carrier oil and gently massage onto the stomach and lower abdomen.

Maintains Healthy Respiratory Function

The antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties of this oil work together to calm a wide variety of respiratory conditions. This includes conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, cold, cough and allergies. Additionally, the antimicrobial properties help fight harmful pathogens. 

To breathe easier, diffuse Litsea Cubeba essential oil throughout your home. Alternatively, mix with a carrier oil and massage onto the chest and neck.

Reduces Chance of Infection

The powerful antiseptic and antimicrobial properties in Litsea Cubeba essential oil make it especially effective against cold, cough, flu, and other common illnesses. It is also effective against athlete’s foot, acne, and can reduce infection in minor wounds.

To reduce airborne pathogens, diffuse Litsea Cubeba throughout the home. To treat minor wounds, athlete’s foot or acne, mix with a carrier oil and dab onto the affected area.

In addition to being used topically or aromatically, it can also be mixed with water or white vinegar and used as a surface disinfectant in the home.

Keeps Skin Healthy

Litsea cubeba does wonders for the skin, from removing excess sebum to cleansing pores, to treating conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis. It is also a wonderful natural deodorant and can reduce body odor without the use of harmful chemicals.

To keep your skin looking young and healthy, add a few drops of Litsea Cubeba essential oil to your daily cleanser or moisturizer. You can also mix it with a fragrance-free lotion or use it in recipes for homemade soaps and deodorants.

Reduces Muscle Pain

Using Litsea Cubeba essential oil in a massage oil can help increase circulation and reduce pain and inflammation. To relieve sore muscles or reduce arthritic pain, mix a few drops of Litsea Cubeba essential oil with a carrier oil and gently massage onto the sore areas. You can also add a few drops of this essential oil to a warm bath.

Alleviates Stress

Litsea Cubeba has an uplifting scent that can reduce fatigue and improve mood. Its stimulating properties also help alleviate stress and anxiety.

To calm a worried mind and promote general wellbeing, diffuse Litsea cubeba essential oil throughout the home.

Litsea Cubeba Infographic 

Safety and Precautions

Litsea cubeba essential oil can be used both topically and aromatically to treat a wide variety of ailments. It should not be used internally.

When using topically, be sure to conduct a patch skin test before use and mix with a carrier oil before applying directly to the skin.

If pregnant or breastfeeding, avoid the use of essential oils unless directed by a doctor. You should not use Litsea cubeba essential oil to treat a chronic condition before speaking with a medical professional.

When stored correctly in a cool, dark place, Litsea cubeba essential oil will last for approximately three years.


Litsea cubeba essential oil may not be the most well-known essential oil in the aromatherapy world, yet its healing powers should not be overlooked. It has been a powerful healing plant throughout history. Moreover, it can be used in a wide variety of natural medicines, cleaning products, and beauty products to promote overall health and wellbeing.

Whether you’re looking to treat infections, ease the mind, or reduce digestive or respiratory issues, Litsea cubeba will not disappoint.

Kiri Rowan

By Kiri Rowan

Kiri Rowan is a writer, photographer, and traveler with a strong interest in alternative medicine. She helps friends, family, and other travelers treat their symptoms with essential oils and medicinal plants.

Favorite MONQ blend: Private: Vibrant

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The above information relates to studies of specific individual essential oil ingredients, some of which are used in the essential oil blends for various MONQ diffusers. Please note, however, that while individual ingredients may have been shown to exhibit certain independent effects when used alone, the specific blends of ingredients contained in MONQ diffusers have not been tested. No specific claims are being made that use of any MONQ diffusers will lead to any of the effects discussed above.  Additionally, please note that MONQ diffusers have not been reviewed or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. MONQ diffusers are not intended to be used in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, prevention, or treatment of any disease or medical condition. If you have a health condition or concern, please consult a physician or your alternative health care provider prior to using MONQ diffusers. MONQ blends should not be inhaled into the lungs.

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