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Close-up of a tree branch with clusters of small, white bell-shaped flowers and new green leaves against a blurred green background. These fragrant blossoms of Litsea Cubeba, also known as May Chang, add both beauty and therapeutic benefits to the scenery.


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Some women collect shoes, handbags or cosmetics, me, I collect essential oils so imagine my excitement when a parcel containing a new oil arrived.

The Joy of Discovering May Chang: An Aromatherapy Experience

So what was the this new essential oil that got me so excited, it was Litsea cubeba also known as May Chang. I first came across May Chang in college as it was one of the oils that we were studying as part of the HND but it wasn’t part of the kit that we purchased.

Introducing Litsea Cubeba (May Chang): Its origin and the extraction process

Litsea cubeba or May Chang is a small tree native to Asia, the oil is extracted from the leaves and pepper like fruits of the tree (the shape of these fruits give rise to the alternative names of the tree, Mountian Pepper or Chinese Pepper). It wasn’t until the 1950’s that the steam distillation extraction of the essential oil began and became known to the Western world. China remains the largest producer of the oil.

Aromatic Profile: How does May Chang compare with similar scents?

The aroma of Litsea cubeba I would describe as a sweet lemon citrus with floral undertones. It is often compared to lemongrass as both essential oils have similar chemical constituents, but lemongrass has a more ‘fatty’ note and the aroma tends to linger longer and can be nauseating if too much is used.

Healing Properties of May Chang:

The properties of this oil are, Antidepressant, Antiseptic, Astringent, Bacteriacide, Carminative, Galactagogue, Insecticide, Stimulant and Tonic.

The Commercial Uses: From cosmetics to home care

It is widely used in many commercial cosmetic pereparations not only because of the lemony scent but as a skin tonic to help with oily and acne prone skin and is known to help reduce excessive perspiration and can be used as a deodorant.

Therapeutic Qualities: Uplifting, rejuvenating, and mood-enhancing

Due to the antiseptic, antiviral and deodorising properties of Listsea cubeba makes it a very good oil to use for vapouring and spraying in the house. Not only does it leave an amazing smell around the home but can help clean the air if there are Winter bugs about.

Dealing with ‘Winter Blues’: The potential emotional and psychological benefits

These are great and very useful properties of the oil but they weren’t the reasons for me adding it to my collection. Citrus based oils are all very uplifting and rejuvenating and can help with emotional and psychological issues. Research by Tissetand and Balacs has shown that Litsea cubeba can help control arrhythmia (a common sign of stress and anxiety) and induce relaxation. The aroma can help soothe the nervous system reducing stress, anger and irritability. It helps release negative emotions and improves mental clarity and excellent oil if you are wanting to combat the ‘Winter Blues’.

A Personal Perspective: Chronic pain, emotions, and the holistic treatment approach

For me personally it was the properties of helping to uplift a persons mood which drew me to the oil. What people don’t understand about chronic pain is that it’s not just the physical symptoms that take over someone’s life but the emotional issues can be more devastating. I myself suffer from anxiety, frustration, irritability and mood swings due to the constant pain I am in everyday. Yes I am on painkillers but they only take the edge off enough to carry out what I need to do each day, I could go on stronger analgesics but it’s known that you can get caught up in a vicious cycle of needing stronger drugs as the body gets use to the dosage you are on. From a holistic point of view, prescription medication works like a plaster and only masks the problems and that the whole person should be treated not just the symptoms. I know from personal experience that emotional issues can manifest themselves as physical pain, so I look for ways of treating this and using essential oils is just one ways.

Crafting a Perfect Blend: May Chang’s synergy with Neroli, Rose, and Jasmine

As much as I love the citrus oils such as Orange, Lemon, Grapefruit etc they can be over stimulating especially if used at night. I often use Neroli in a blend with Rose and Jasmine which is added to an Epsom salt bath to help improve my mindset and emotional healing. May Chang makes an excellent alternative to Neroli, they are similar as they both have citrus undertones, but instead of a floral lemon scent that May Chang has, Neroli is orange based. Changing to May Chang in my well loved blend was definitely a good choice, I found myself becoming more relaxed and mentally soothed. The aroma of all three essential oils together was divine. Litsea cubeba is also said to help with digestive issues, I am not sure if it was because I was relaxing or the essential oil but my digestive system was certainly making music of its people whilst I soaked in the bath.

Exploring Further Uses: The potential and versatility of May Chang in aromatherapy

I am really pleased with the new addition to my collection and am already looking at other uses and essential oils it can be belended with.

If you would like more information about aromatherapy and how it could help you, just drop me a message.

You can also email me directly:

Picture of Helen Cresswell

Helen Cresswell

Ymlacio Life Founder & Therapist in Swansea


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