May Chang Essential Oil: Benefits and Uses

may chang (litsea) essential oil

Some essential oils are remarkable chameleons. With a scent remarkably similar to lemongrass, it’s odd that may chang is known as Chinese Pepper around the world. May chang essential oil is comprised of some potent compounds which benefit the body in numerous ways. Here we will take a look to the most studied compounds found in litsea cubeba, as well as highlight the most promising benefits of may chang essential oil.

May Chang: A History of Use

The Litsea cubeba tree which may chang essential oil is created from is a deciduous tree from China; which grows up to 25 feet tall and produces lemony fragrant flowers ranging in color from white to pale yellow. The berries the tree produces are small, pepper like fruits, which are then steam distilled to create pure may chang essential oil.

May chang has been enjoyed for centuries in the Asian subcontinent as a mood enhancer, and the sweet, refreshing aroma is said to treat fear, anxiety, stress, and mental fatigue. In both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, litsea cubeba is used to not only enhance the mood, but also treat asthma, skin conditions, and indigestion.

Modern science has found even more uses for the tree, especially through the creation of may chang essential oil. As more of the beneficial compounds are discovered and studied, more uses for this potent oil appear.

Compounds in May Chang Essential Oil

When we look at the compounds most commonly found in May chang essential oil, there is really no wonder that the oil gives off a delicious lemon scent; it contains many of the same compounds as lemon essential oil and lemongrass essential oil. Four main compounds make up the bulk of the oil; and provide the most benefits to the body when used.

Citral – The main constituent in may chang essential oil, the levels of citral in may chang essential oil are similar to that of lemongrass essential oil, giving may chang it’s familiar scent.

Nerol – A terpene alcohol, nerol is often called a “friendly molecule”, as it helps eliminate bad cells from the body while keeping the good ones intact. Nerol is also a very important antimicrobial compound, as it is not as harsh as other antimicrobial agents such as phenols.

Geraniol – Another terpene alcohol, geraniol is used in the perfume industry for its potent scent. In aromatherapy, geraniol is found in oils such as geranium, rose geranium, and litsea cubeba, where it is valued for its gentle antimicrobial actions.

Citronellal – A terpene aldehyde, citronellal is found mainly in citronella and lemongrass. It has a more pungent smell, and has an antiviral and antimicrobial effect on the skin. It also acts as a sedative for the mind.

D-limonene – Limonene has been studied for its antioxidant and anti-cancer abilities, as well as the believed ability to inhibit tumors. It is also a potent antiviral compound.

Benefits of May Chang Essential Oil

Because of the various compounds working together within may chang essential oil, there are actually many benefits to the body when inhaled or applied topically. When taken in conjunction with other essential oils with similar properties, they can have a synergistic effect, producing some incredible results.

In the Body

Whether inhaled from an aromatherapy diffuser or applied topically, may chang oil enters the bloodstream with ease. As the compounds in may chang oil distribute themselves throughout the body, some great things can take place.


As cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, people are often scrambling to look for the “silver bullet” which cures every form of cancer, every time. In reality, it’s likely never going to be found. As cancer is heavily influenced by lifestyle and dietary choices, it is mainly these choices that will help to prevent cancer from growing. In addition to making strong lifestyle changes, there are many natural compounds which can help in the prevention of or relief from cancer cells.

For instance, the anti-cancer abilities of may chang essential oil were recently studied. Both essential oils extracted from the leaves and berries of litsea cubeba were tested. While the oil distilled from the plant matter showed no signs of anticancer activity, the oil from the berries exerted a significant toxic effect on lung, liver, and oral cancer cells.

Reduces Pain

Thanks to the effect of citronellal in may chang essential oil, the oil may help to reduce the sensation of pain in the body. Coupled with its anti-inflammatory abilities, this shows promise against causes of inflammatory pain, such as that from arthritis. Add that to may chang’s ability to reduce the fungal infections which often lead to inflammatory flare-ups, and it may just be the most helpful anti-inflammatory essential oil on the market.

Respiratory Problems

The high levels of citral in may chang essential oil make it especially useful for diffusing in the room of someone with respiratory problems such as coughs and colds. Nerol and geraniol are strong antimicrobial agents which are also gentle on the body. They will not promote further irritation of the throat, and can actually help to quickly reduce bacteria in the lungs and airways, helping to break up plegm and empower the immune system. Adding the mentholated power of essential oils such as camphor, and you have the perfect blend for alleviating coughs and colds. Next time you are feeling congested, or hacking your way through a cough, try this blend in your diffuser:

  • 2 drops may chang essential oil
  • 2 drops thyme essential oil
  • 2 drops camphor essential oil
  • Diffuse in an aromatherapy diffuser as needed throughout the day to kill bacteria and relieve the pain of rough, scratchy coughs.

All three oils in this blend have pain reducing properties. May chang helps to reduce the tension that causes headaches from coughing so hard; and thyme essential oil helps to break up phlegm to be eliminated.

Kills MRSA

Superbugs like MRSA have been created due to the overuse of chemical antibiotics and antibacterial compounds in highly sterilized environments such as hospitals and schools. Luckily there are many natural compounds which can still target these superbugs. A recent study found that oils high in geraniol exhibit antibacterial effects on the most stubborn strains, such as MRSA.

Digestive spasms

Another promising study revealed that the citronellal in may chang essential oil can actually calm muscle spasms in the digestive tract. Citronellal was tested alongside pure neroli oil; and subjects who were exposed to both experienced a significant decrease in muscle spasms. This function shows promise in treating people with digestive issues, as well as cramps and bloating caused by menstruation.

For the Brain

The same compounds which benefit the body in such amazing ways also help to affect the brain and nervous system. The quickest way to feel their effects is through diffusing the pure essential oil, though topical application of the diluted oils on the temples can provide immediate relief as well.


It seems the traditional medicine enthusiasts hit the nail on the head with may chang essential oil. It has been used for hundreds of years in various countries for its ability to calm and quiet the mind while also boosting the mood. This may be due to the calming effect citronellal has on the brain. Research indicates that inhaling may chang oil can help to naturally reduce stress and anxiety in the body.

The uplifting scent is also known to boost the mood, and shows promise as an ingredient in a natural antidepressant blend. When you are feeling down, try the following blend:

The compounds in this trio work synergistically to calm the nerves, relax the mind, and brighten the mood. All three act to reduce stress; and bergamot and lavender have been shown to work together to balance the heart rate. The rich scent will no doubt have you inhaling deeply; adding fresh oxygen to the bloodstream and further detoxifying the system.

On the Skin

So long as it is diluted, may chang essential oil is great for the skin. The undiluted essential oil is quite potent, and can cause some harsh skin irritation if not used properly. After diluting the oil in a carrier, rub it into the skin every day to experience some astounding results.


Due to the high amounts of citral in may chang essential oil, it shares many of the same benefits of lemongrass essential oil. Citral is able to effectively reduce inflammation in the body, especially inflammation associated with the skin. May chang essential oil can provide amazing relief to inflammation and inflammation-related aches and pains.


Even without modern science, traditional medicine has identified major active compounds within many oils. For instance, may chang has been used traditionally to treat skin conditions like acne. Astringent and antiseptic compounds within the oil make it act much like lemongrass essential oil, which has a noted astringent effect on the skin. Essential oils such as this help to tighten and sterilize the pores; reducing both the size of pores and the bacteria in them. This greatly reduces the appearance of acne.


Fungal strains on the skin are often just a symptom of a larger fungal problem as a whole. Notorious strains such as Candida albicans are known to infect the entire body, and show up as symptoms in the form of various skin fungal episodes. Bouts with various fungal infections, psoriasis, and even arthritis all show links to candida overgrowth. Luckily, there are many natural solutions and essential oils for fungal infections.

May chang essential oil is one such relief for fungal infections; due to the high content of terpenoids in the oil. Researchers extracted various compounds from litsea cubeba essential oil, finding that they showed promise for their use as natural fungicides. By adding a few drops of may chang oil to coconut oil (another natural antifungal) and rubbing it on the problem areas, you can help reduce irritation and promote the removal of pesky fungi.

This antifungal effect may show promise to help reduce food spoilage as well; as the compound nerol was found to have a strong inhibitory effect on the Aspergillus flavus fungal strain. Aspergillus is the main fungal cause behind food spoilage, and finding ways to naturally eliminate this strain takes large leaps towards natural ways to extend the shelf life of fresh foods.


Any oils which contain high levels of terpene aldehydes may be effective antiviral agents. A recent study focused on oil containing high levels of one such terpene aldehyde, citronellal, finding that the oil greatly reduced viral strains in the body. What’s more, the viral strains tested were for the herpes virus, meaning may chang oil may actually show promise in the fight against herpes.


As the FDA has recently come to its senses about compounds in antibacterial hand soaps; many consumers turn to natural antibacterial alternatives to ensure things like toys, countertops, and household items are properly sanitized. The major player in the natural antibacterial sector is definitely essential oils.

Essential oils have evolved over millennia to protect the plants they inhabit from foreign invaders; so it only makes sense that humans can enjoy these benefits as well. Unlike chemical antibacterial compounds, natural solutions have little lasting effect in the body or the environment.

The antibacterial effects of may chang essential oil are very impressive. Researchers noted that the oil can have a wide use in the antimicrobial field because of how the oil dispels bacteria. The oil seems to penetrate and destroy the outer and inner membrane of bacterial cells, such as E. coli. When examined after exposure to litsea cubeba essential oil, many holes and gaps were observed on the damaged cells; which ultimately led to their death. Add a few drops of may chang essential oil to a natural cleaner for an added boost of freshness around the bathroom. For a quick and easy antiseptic house spray, try this blend:

  • 10 drops may chang essential oil
  • 10 drops rosalina essential oil
  • 10 drops oregano essential oil
  • 7oz pure water
  • 1oz apple cider vinegar
  • Add ingredients to 8oz sprayer bottle and shake well before spraying onto surfaces that need sanitizing. The ingredients are gentle enough to contact the skin, yet strong enough to break through the cell walls of pathogens.

Insect Repellant

Different countries use medicinal herbs in different ways. This has much to do with the fact that compounds found in the herbs can vary greatly depending on the environment they are in. This is very notable in may chang essential oil. Where in China, litsea cubeba is often used to boost the mood and balance the mind, In Laos, the oil finds one of its major uses as a natural mosquito repellant. Though the plant has been used for centuries to ward of certain species of mosquito, researchers tested it, just to be sure. They found that Laotian litsea cubeba essential oil had a high concentration of certain terpenes, such as a-pinene, sabinene, and 1,8 cineol, which made it very effective at repelling mosquitos.

As far as other bugs are concerned, may chang essential oil may repel insects as well as DEET. When compounds within the oil were tested against a common pest in China, the results indicated that three of the compounds in may chang essential oil showed repellant effects similar to DEET. Consider including it in your natural bug spray recipe.

Final Thoughts on May Chang Essential Oil

May chang essential oil shows some powerful abilities when either inhaled or applied topically. If used topically, be sure to dilute it. The compounds in the oil can be harsh on the skin, and may cause allergic reactions if applied undiluted. Pay attention to any reactions your body may have to the oil as well. Children and pregnant or nursing women should only use essential oils under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner. It is always important to use pure, therapeutic grade essential oils on your body and in the air you breathe to ensure you have the best experience possible. Pure essential oils not only ensure your safety; they ensure the oil contains the greatest number of medicinal compounds available.

What does the scent of may chang essential oil remind you of? We would love to hear about the many ways you use this powerful essential oil in the comments below!

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