The Fascinating History and Production of Litsea Essential Oil

Wild pepper(Litsea cubeba) flower bloom, spire stone in Hsinchu, Taiwan

If you’re familiar with aromatherapy, you may have heard of litsea essential oil, also known as may chang oil. This fragrant oil has a refreshing citrus scent and a long history of use in traditional medicine and cultural practices. In this post, we’ll explore the fascinating history and production of litsea essential oil.

The Origins of Litsea Essential Oil

Litsea is a small tree or shrub that grows in tropical and subtropical regions, particularly in China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. The plant belongs to the Lauraceae family, which also includes other well-known aromatic plants like cinnamon, camphor, and bay laurel.

Litsea has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive issues, respiratory problems, and skin conditions. In traditional Thai medicine, litsea is known as a natural remedy for colds, coughs, and headaches.

Cultivation and Harvesting

Litsea is a hardy plant that can grow in a range of soils and climates, but it thrives in warm, humid environments. The plant is typically propagated from seeds or cuttings and can take several years to reach maturity.

Once the litsea plant is mature, the fruits are harvested by hand or by shaking the branches of the tree to release the ripe fruits. The fruits are then dried in the sun or using a dryer, after which the oil is extracted from the fruits through steam distillation.

Composition and Properties

Litsea essential oil is composed primarily of citral, a compound that gives the oil its characteristic citrusy scent. Citral is also responsible for many of the oil’s therapeutic properties, including its antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory effects.

Litsea oil is also high in other bioactive compounds like limonene, linalool, and geraniol, which contribute to its aromatic profile and potential health benefits.

Uses and Benefits

Litsea essential oil has a wide range of potential applications in aromatherapy, skincare, and household cleaning products. Some of the most commonly cited benefits of litsea oil include:

  • Uplifting mood and reducing stress and anxiety
  • Supporting respiratory health and relieving congestion
  • Fighting bacteria and fungi on the skin and in the environment
  • Promoting clear, healthy skin and reducing the appearance of blemishes
  • Enhancing focus and mental clarity

Precautions and Conclusion

As with any essential oil, it’s recommended to dilute the oil in a carrier oil and perform a patch test before using it topically or inhaling it.

Litsea essential oil is a fascinating and versatile oil with a rich history of use in traditional medicine and aromatherapy. From its origins in Southeast Asia to its current popularity in the global market, litsea oil continues to captivate and inspire aromatherapists and essential oil enthusiasts alike.


  1. Yang, L., Jiang, J. G., & Ma, Y. B. (2019). The medicinal value of Litsea plants: a review. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 241, 111956.

  2. Holmes, P. (2016). Aromatica: A Clinical Guide to Essential Oil Therapeutics. Singing Dragon.

  3. Tisserand, R., & Young, R. (2014). Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals. Churchill Livingstone.