Citral Essential Oil (Litsea cubeba)

Citral Essential Oil
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Botanical name Litsea cubeba

Botanical synonyms  Litsea citrata Blume, Laurus cubeba Lour

Family Lauraceae

Source  Fruits

Origin China

Processing Method  Steam Distillation

Color/Consistency A thin, clear, pale yellow liquid.

Aromatic Summary / Note / Strength of Aroma  A top note with a medium aroma, Litsea Cubeba has a crisp, citrus smell. It has been compared to Lemongrass and Lemon Verbena, but it is sweeter than Lemongrass without the musty note, and more accurately citrus in its scent than Melissa.

Blends With   Bergamot, Orange, Cedarwood, Geranium, Lemon, Lavender and Pine.

Product Abstract

Litsea cubeba (also known as May Chang) oil is distilled from the small, pepperlike fruits of the tree of Litsea cubeba.

Litsea cubeba(May Chang) is an evergreen tree or shrub 5–12 metres high from the Lauraceae family. It is native to China and other parts of Southeast Asia. It is called "mountain pepper" locally in Mandarin.

It competes to a limited extent with lemongrass, another citral-rich oil, for fragrance applications. Essential oil yields from the fruit are approximately 3-5%. The oil's main component is citral, at around 70-80% of the oil. It is estimated that China produces around 500-600 tonnes of Litsea cubeba per annum.


The ancient Chinese used this herb for treating digestive aliments, chills, back pain, muscular pain and asthma. Traditionally this herb was used as a natural anti-spasmodic agent that helped in clearing spasms especially in the bronchia, thus assisting in the treatment of asthmatic attacks.

Harvesting/Extraction Information

Essential oil yields from the fruit are 3-5%. The oil's main component is citral, at 70-85% of the oil. It is mainly produced in China from plantations and is marketed as "Litsea cubeba", with production estimates between 500 - 1,500 tonnes of oil per annum. The oil is used as a fragrance (especially in bar soap) and for flavouring in its own right. It is also used as a raw material by the chemical industry for the synthesis of vitamin A and violet-like fragrances

Common Usage

  • Anti-Cancer
  • Treat the Fatigue
  • Treat the Cough and Cold
  • Keep the Spirit and Soul Healthy
  • Asthma
  • Allergic
  • Bronchitis and Chest ailments
  • Digestive Problem
  • Treat the Nausea
  • Headache
  • Arrhythmia
  • Regulate Blood Pressure
  • Keep the Skin Healthy


May Chang essential oil will also cause the allergic for people who has the sensitive skin. For the safety, keep the May Chang essential oil away from children especially babies or infants. For the right usage, it will be much better if You consult to the doctors about using is for treatment.

Key constituents

Geranial 37.9–40.6%

Neral 25.5–33.8%

(þ)-Limonene 8.4–22.6%

Methyl heptenone 0.5–4.4%

b-Myrcene 0.5–3.0%

Linalool 1.2–1.7%

Geraniol 0.5–1.6%

Sabinene 0.1–1.6%

Linalyl acetate 0–1.6%

a-Pinene 0.8–1.4%

b-Pinene 0.4–1.2%

Nerol 0.2–1.1%

Quality  May be adulterated with synthetic citral.

Safety summary
Hazards  Drug interaction; teratogenicity; skin allergy.
Cautions (all routes)  Drugs metabolized by CYP2B6
Cautions (oral) Diabetes medication, pregnancy.
Cautions (dermal)  Hypersensitive, diseased or damaged skin, children under 2 years of age.
Maximum daily oral dose in pregnancy  56 mg
Maximum dermal use level  0.8%

Our safety advice
We recommend a dermal maximum of 0.8% to avoid skin sensitization. This is based on the IFRA maximum for citral of 0.6% for body oils and lotions (IFRA 2009) and 75% citral content. We recommend a daily oral maximum in pregnancy of 56 mg. This is based on 74% citral content, with dermal and oral citral limits of 0.6% and 0.6 mg/kg.

Organ-specific effects
Adverse skin reactions  Undiluted may chang oil was moderately to markedly irritating to rabbits, and was strongly irritating to both mice and pigs; tested at 8% on 25 volunteers it was neither irritating nor sensitizing. It is non-phototoxic. In a study of 200 consecutive dermatitis patients, three were sensitive to 2% may chang oil on patch
testing. Citral can induce sensitization reactions, and this effect can allegedly be reduced by the co-presence of (þ)-limonene. In a mouse local lymph node assay, which allows comparative measuring of skin sensitizing potency, may chang oil was a weak sensitizer, with a similar potency to citral .

Cardiovascular effects  Gavage doses of 10, 15 or 20 mg/kg/ day citral for 28 days, dose-dependently lowered plasma insulin levels and increased glucose tolerance in obese rats.

Reproductive toxicity  Citral is dose-dependently teratogenic because it inhibits retinoic acid synthesis, and this can affect fetal development.

Systemic effects
Acute toxicity  May chang oil acute oral LD50 in rats >5 g/kg; acute dermal LD50 in rabbits 4.8 g/kg. Tests using both rats and mice resulted in the following approximate values for may chang oil: acute oral LD50 4.0 g/kg, acute dermal LD50 >5.0 g/kg, inhalation LC50 12,500 ppm.

Carcinogenic/anticarcinogenic potential  May chang oil was not genotoxic to Salmonella tymphimurium, and did not induce micronuclei in bone marrow cells or chromosome aberrations in mouse spermatocyte cells . Citral, (þ)-
limonene, and geraniol display anticarcinogenic activity.

Drug interactions Antidiabetic medication, because of cardiovascular effects, above. See Table 4.10B. Since citral and geraniol inhibit CYP2B6, there is a theoretical risk of interaction between may chang oil and drugs metabolized by this enzyme.

As with lemongrass, the majority of people do not react allergically to may chang oil, but occasional reactions are possible. May chang oil is produced in very high volumes, and is used in the manufacture of citral, ionone, methyl ionone, and vitamins A, E and K. In Java, essential oils from Litsea cubeba leaves are produced for local consumption. There are two types, one from central Java with 50% 1,8-cineole, 10% citral, the other from West Java with 25% 1,8-cineole, 25% citronellal.

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