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Litsea cubeba


Litsea cubeba  

[span class=alert]In regards to the Traditional Use and Therapeutic Action sections of Essential Oils, the oils are rated as is standard practice in the French school of aromatherapy and others. The ratings ranked from one (+) to four (++++) with four indicating the highest value, indicate the oil’s therapeutic value from a practicing clinician’s point of view. The French rating system mentioned are obtained from this book reference entitle ‘Les Cahiers Pratiques D'Aromatherapie Selon L'Ecole Francaise’ (Authors: Francine Baudry, Pascal Debauche & Dominique Baudoux). However, further clarification might be required and will be updated once additional information of the rating system is obtained.[/span]

Family Name


Genus Name


Vernacular Name

Litsea, may chang, aromatic litsea, China litsea, exotic verbena

Original Habitat

Native to China and Indonesia and is cultivated in various regions of the world. It requires well-drained moist soil with adequate sunlight and cannot survive in fully shaded areas. It is typically found growing in mountain thickets.

Plant Part Used

Fruits and leaves


The essential oil of Litsea cubeba is used as a flavour enhancer in the foods and beverages industry. In the fragrance industry it is used for the production of citral which is a starting material for many fragrances.[1] In therapeutic Aromatherapy it is more often found in blends than as a single oil.


Litsea oil is thin in consistency and greenish-yellowish in colour. Both the leaves and flowers has a fresh, sharp lemon-like scent and is somewhat similar to citronella.

The plant is a smallish, aromatic tree which produces fruits with an appearance that is similar to peppers. The tree grows from 5 to 10 metres tall in mountain areas.

Chemical Constituents

Citral (up to 80%)
n-transnerolidol [2][3][4][5]

Medicinal Uses


Antifungal: Citral, an active constituent of litsea essential oil, has strong antifungal activity. This is seen against Aspergillus flavus spores, making it an important antifungal food additive.[3] Other studies have confirmed the antifungal activity.[4]

Insecticidal: Litsea oil is a powerful insecticidal. Topical application of the oil was shown to be toxic to Trichoplusia ni (Cabbage Looper) therefore showing potential as a botanical insecticide.[2]

Traditional Use

Anxiety and Stress+++

Insect repellant: Litsea oil was among the top five repellants when tested on human volunteers against yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti (Linnaeus), the malaria vector, Anopheles stephensi (Liston), and the filariacsis and encephalitis vector, Culex quinquefasciatus. The repellency was 100% effective for 8 hours.[6]

Clinical studies on Litsea oil to substantiate the traditional use are lacking. However, it is used regularly in therapeutic aromatherapy and has a long history of use in Asia.

Contraindications and Precautions

Litsea oil contains citral which can cause a rise in ocular tension. It should be avoided by those with glaucoma or other ocular disorders.[7]

Animal studies have indicated that Litsea oil may compete with steroid receptors and have an estrogenic effect even at low doses.[7] Toxicity of this oil has been identified at high (5g/kg) levels via inhalation, dermal and oral application.[8]

Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women.

Not to be used by children.


[span class=alert]Keep out of reach of children as oils are highly concentrated.Essential oils are irritating to the eyes.  Avoid contact with eye area.Always dilute essential oils with carrier oil, lotion, cream or gel even when using in diffuser or bath.Essential oils are sometimes prescribed to be used internally, but should only be used internally under professional supervision.[/span]

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  1) Botanical Info


1.     Lis-Balchin M. Aromatherapy Science. Pharmaceutical Press: Great Britain; 2006.

2.     Jiang Z. Comparative toxicity of essential oils of Litsea pungens and Litsea cubeba and blends of their major constituents against the cabbage looper, Trichoplusia ni. J Agric Food Chem.10 Jun 2009;57(11):4833-4837.

3.     Luo M. Effects of citral on Aspergillus flavus spores by quasi-elastic light scattering and multiplex microanalysis techniques. Acta Biochim Biophys Sin (Shanghai). Apr 2004;36(4):277-283.

4.     Wang F, Yang D, Ren S, Zhang H, Li R. Chemical composition of essential oil from leaves of Litsea cubeba and its antifungal activities. Zhong Yao Cai. Aug 1999;22(8):400-402.

5.     Juntarajumnong W, Chandrapatya A. Repellency, Fumigant and Contact Toxicities of Litsea cubeba (Lour.) Persoon Against Sitophilus zeamais Motschulsky and Tribolium castaneum (Herbst). Kasetsart J 2009;43:56 - 63

6.     Amer A. Repellency effect of forty-one essential oils against Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex mosquitoes. Parasitol Res. Sep 2006;99(4):478-490.

7.     Tisserand R. Balacs T. Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. Churchill Livingston; 1995:149.

8.     Luo M. Acute and genetic toxicity of essential oil extracted from Litsea cubeba (Lour.) Pers. J Food Prot. Mar 2005;68(3):581-588.



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