What Is Another Name For Litsea Essential Oil?

What is Litsea Essential Oil?

Litsea essential oil, also known as Litsea cubeba or May Chang essential oil, is extracted from the fruit of the Litsea cubeba tree. The Litsea cubeba is an evergreen tree native to tropical regions of East Asia including China, Indonesia, Taiwan and Japan [1].

Litsea has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic practices. The essential oil is extracted from the pepper-like berries of the tree through steam distillation. Litsea essential oil has a powerful, crisp lemon aroma and is pale yellow to clear in color. It contains high amounts of citral, a naturally occurring compound that gives it antimicrobial and insect repelling properties [2].

Litsea essential oil is commonly used in aromatherapy, skin care, household cleaning, and perfumery. It blends well with floral, citrus, spice and woodsy oils. Litsea has cleansing and purifying effects and is known for its ability to restore emotional balance. It’s considered an uplifting and rejuvenating oil [2].

Other Common Names for Litsea Oil

Litsea essential oil is also commonly known by a few other names, including:

  • May chang
  • Tropical verbena
  • Lemongrass verbena

The most popular alternate name for litsea is May chang, which refers to the plant’s native growing region in parts of Southeast Asia. In Chinese medicine, May chang has been used for centuries and translates to “change of weather” referring to the plant’s tendency to adapt to different climates and elevations.

Tropical verbena and lemongrass verbena are other names that call out the citrusy, lemony aroma of litsea oil. The oil does share a close similarity in scent to lemongrass essential oil due to containing high amounts of citral and limonene constituents.

Sourcing and Production

The Litsea cubeba or May Chang tree is native to Southeast Asia and is commonly found growing in mountains and open fields in China, India, Indonesia, and other countries in the region. The tree produces small, pepper-like fruits that contain essential oil in the pericarp or outer layer of the fruit [1].

Litsea cubeba oil is extracted from the fruits primarily using steam distillation. The fruits are collected and placed in a distillation unit where steam is passed through the plant material to extract the volatile essential oils. Condensers are used to cool and liquefy the extracted vapor which is then separated into oil and water fractions. This gentle distillation method helps preserve the delicate aromatic molecules in the oil [2]. Other newer methods like solvent-free microwave extraction are also being studied to optimize oil yields [3].

Chemical Composition

The main chemical constituents of litsea essential oil include monoterpenes like citronellal, citronellol, geraniol, and limonene (Wang et al., 1999). It also contains high amounts of sesquiterpenes such as caryophyllene and alphacadinol (Hammid et al., 2015). The therapeutic compounds in litsea oil include neral and geranial, which together can make up 78-87% of the oil’s composition (Si et al., 2012). These aldehyde compounds give litsea oil its lemony, citrusy aroma that is useful in aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy Uses

Litsea essential oil is valued in aromatherapy for its fresh, uplifting scent that can provide an energizing boost. When diffused, the bright, lemon-like aroma of litsea can be invigorating and help improve mood.

Litsea is also considered to have respiratory benefits when inhaled. The vapors may help open airways, promote clear breathing, and provide relief for symptoms of colds, allergies, asthma, and bronchitis. Some research suggests litsea has anti-inflammatory effects that can benefit the respiratory system.1

Additionally, litsea oil can be an effective natural bug repellent. It contains compounds like citronellal and geraniol that bugs tend to dislike. Diffusing litsea or applying it diluted to the skin can help deter flying insects like mosquitos. This makes it a good option for enjoying warmer weather outdoors.

Skin Care Applications

Litsea essential oil is often used in skin care products and DIY recipes thanks to its toning, astringent, and cleansing properties. When applied topically, litsea can help control excess oil production, making it useful for oily and acne-prone skin.[1] Litsea’s antimicrobial components such as citral also make it helpful for reducing breakouts and blemishes.[2]

The cooling, soothing nature of litsea cubeba can provide relief when applied to irritated skin, helping calm conditions like rosacea, eczema, and dermatitis. Litsea is also beneficial for soothing insect bites when diluted and applied topically.[1] Its anti-inflammatory abilities help decrease redness, itching, and swelling caused by bites and stings.

When using litsea essential oil for skin care, it should always be diluted properly with a carrier oil or lotion to avoid sensitivity. Popular choices are coconut, jojoba, or olive oil. Only use litsea externally and perform a patch test before wider application.

Hair Care Benefits

Litsea essential oil has numerous benefits for hair care due to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show litsea can help with scalp irritation, dandruff, and adding shine to hair.

The anti-inflammatory effects of litsea cubeba make it beneficial for soothing irritation and itchiness on the scalp. A 2015 study found that applying litsea diluted with a carrier oil helped reduce inflammation that leads to irritated, flaky scalps.[1]

litsea essential oil in a glass bottle with a dropper on a wooden background

In terms of dandruff, one study demonstrated that litsea cubeba essential oil was effective against the fungus Malassezia furfur, which contributes to dandruff. [2] By controlling this fungus, litsea can help prevent and treat dandruff.

Additionally, litsea has been shown to make hair smoother and shinier. A small 2016 study found that applying a shampoo with litsea oil increased glossiness and decreased roughness of hair. [3] So using litsea in hair products can enhance shine and texture.

Safety and Precautions

When using litsea essential oil, it’s important to take some safety precautions. Litsea oil should always be diluted before use on the skin, as it can cause sensitization in some individuals. According to the European Food Safety Authority, litsea oil is generally safe when used appropriately, but there are some precautions to keep in mind (EFSA):

Dilute litsea oil with a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba oil before applying it to the skin. Litsea should be diluted to 0.5-1% for adult skin. For children or those with sensitive skin, a maximum dilution of 0.3% is recommended.

Do a patch test before wider use, as litsea can cause skin irritation in some. Apply a diluted amount to a small area of skin and look for any adverse reactions over 24 hours.

Avoid getting undiluted litsea oil near the eyes and mucous membranes, as it can cause irritation.

Pregnant women should use litsea oil with caution and avoid certain application methods. Consult your doctor before use.

Ingestion of litsea oil is not recommended, as there is limited safety data for internal use. The oil is meant for topical application.

Litsea oil may increase photosensitivity, so avoid sun exposure after application. Do not use litsea if you have an allergy or sensitivity to citrus fruits.

As with any essential oil, conduct a patch test before wider use and properly dilute litsea oil before applying to skin. With careful use, litsea oil can be safely used and enjoyed.

How to Use Litsea Essential Oil

There are a few primary ways to use litsea essential oil:

Aromatherapy Diffuser

Add a few drops of litsea oil to your diffuser to fill the air with a fresh, uplifting aroma. Litsea has a bright, lemony-herbal scent that can boost energy and mood. Diffuse litsea alone or combine 2-3 drops with complementary oils like lemon, grapefruit, or rosemary.

Topical Dilution

Litsea can be applied topically when diluted with a carrier oil. For a 2.5% dilution, mix 5 drops of litsea oil per teaspoon (about 5mL) of carrier oil like coconut, jojoba, or almond oil. Test on a small area first to check for sensitivity. Litsea is gentle enough for most skin types when properly diluted.

Complementary Oils

Litsea combines well with citrus oils like lemon, lime, grapefruit, and bergamot. Its bright, uplifting aroma also blends nicely with mint, rosemary, and pine essential oils.

Bottom Line

Litsea essential oil, also known as May Chang, is derived from the leaves of the Litsea cubeba plant. It has a lemony, uplifting aroma and offers many benefits. Litsea contains high levels of geranial, neral, and limonene, which give it antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.

Some of the top uses for litsea oil include:

  • Boosting mood and energy
  • Cleansing and purifying skin
  • Soothe muscle aches and pains
  • Cleansing surfaces and purifying the air
  • Adding an uplifting aroma to perfumes and cosmetics

Litsea should always be diluted with a carrier oil before topical use. When inhaled or diffused, it is generally safe for most people. Those with sensitivity to citrus oils should use with caution.

100% pure litsea essential oil can be purchased from reputable brands like doTERRA. High quality litsea oil ensures you receive the full benefits and safety profile of this versatile oil.

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