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Litsea cubeba is a Chinese wonder herb conferred to the medicinal world. Used as a promising anti-depressant for more than thousands of years in the Asian subcontinent, Litsea cubeba is remembered to treat anxiety, fear, fatigue, excessive perspiration, pain and stress.
This is mainly due to the uplifting, regenerating, energizing and refreshing aroma of its lemony essential oil extracted from the pepper-like berries of this evergreen shrub. Ayurveda and the Traditional Chinese Medicine embraces a long history of Litsea cubeba where this mesmerizing herb has been used for treating asthma, acne, eczema, dermatitis, indigestion and microbial infections.
Historical importance of Litsea cubeba:
Botanically known as Litsea cubeba, this herb is popularly known as May Chang. It also called by other names like Mountain pepper, Chinese pepper, mountain spice tree, tropical verbena and exotic verbena. Native to China, Indonesia and Japan, Litsea cubeba is also grown widely in India, Sumatra, Kalimantan and Java.
Lovingly called as maqaw by the Atayal aborigines in Taiwan, May Chang has been used as a renowned spice by the aborigines of Taiwan. The pepper-shaped fruits of this tree were used as hot flavoring spice for meat dish known as sambal. May Chang flowers were also used in preparing medicinal tea.
The ancient Chinese used this herb for treating digestive ailments, chills, back pain, muscular aches 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.
Chemical constituents and therapeutic properties of Litsea cubeba oil:
Citral is the major component of Litsea cubeba essential oil with more than 70 to 85% of the oil where geraniol is the a-citral and neral is the b-citral. This constituent contributes primarily to the healing properties of this oil such as antiseptic, antimicrobial, astringent, anti-inflammatory, hypotensive, tonic, insecticide, deodorant, calming, stimulant, antispasmodic, anti-infectious, sedative, carminative, vulnerary, antidepressant and stomachic.
Ayurvedic health benefits of Litsea cubeba oil:
Ayurveda is a treasure to mankind. You don’t need to be a healthcare practitioner to understand Ayurvedic philosophies as the wisdom of this noble science lies in its simplicity. Ayurvedic encyclopedias like Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita explain the physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual and environmental factors affecting a human’s life, ways to lead a healthy life, natural remedies for diseases and guide towards a disciplined life and longevity.
’Everything in this world is vested with nature’ is the strong belief of Ayurvedic healing. It considers human beings as a part of nature and illness according to Ayurveda denotes a person’s imbalance with nature. Ayurvedic treatments involve the use of natural remedies to strike balance between nature and an individual’s state of health.
Ayurveda states that every individual is unique with an exclusive constitution that is built up of three biological energies known as doshas namely vata, pitta and kapha. Each of these doshas governs a set of functions in the body.
Predominance of any one of these doshas determines the character and physical attributes of a person. Imbalance of all or any of these doshas causes sickness. Herbs, essential oils, a disciplined life style, meditation, physical exercises and yoga are the most effective Ayurvedic remedies for dealing with dosha imbalances.
Litsea cubeba essential oil is said to pacify excess kapha energy and aggravate deficit vata and pitta doshas.
The Ayurvedic health benefits of Litsea cubeba oil are listed below for your reference:
With the strong citrus aroma and warming stomachic properties, Litsea essential oil increases pitta energy, which governs the process of digestion, thinking and body temperature. This herb and its essential oil augment the digestive fire and enhance the appetite, treat indigestion and flatulence.
It prevents the formation of gas in the stomach and intestines. To support the process of digestion, blend 3 drops of Litsea cubeba oil with 15 drops of sesame oil and massage your abdomen or add 2 drops of this oil to warm bathing water.
2. Pampers your skin health:
‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’ and when it comes to the beauty of human beings, skin plays the prime role in determining one’s external beauty. Litsea cubeba oil has everything that is essential to maintain a healthy looking skin from within. Maharishi Ayurveda denotes that Litsea cubeba essential oil is an excellent vata and pitta balancing formula to treat normal, dry, oily and sensitive skin.
Massaging your skin with 2 drops of Litsea cubeba oil mixed with10 to 15 drops of coconut oil can work wonders on your greasy, oily and infection prone skin. This massage enhances blood circulation and controls the secretion of sebum.
The astringent, antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties of this oil help you to keep away from acne, blemishes, eczema, dermatitis, allergies, psoriasis and cellulites. The ability to cleanse the skin, balance the flow of sebum and shrink open pores, aids in treating and preventing acne flare-ups.
A recent study on ‘Screening of fruit and leaf essential oils of Litsea cubeba Pers. from north-east India – chemical composition and antimicrobial activity’ proved that Litsea cubeba oil has potent “antimicrobial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Candida albicans and Aspergillus niger.” This oil is also effective in treating wounds, ringworms, cuts and insect bites.
3. Stimulates your mind:
Litsea cubeba essential oil has an exuberant aroma that is flowery and lemony in nature. It is for this purpose Litsea cubeba herb and its oil has been used in making perfumes, soaps and other cosmetic products.
Inhaling the magical aroma of this oil uplifts your mood, augments mental alertness, refreshes your mind, influences new ideas for life, pacifies your depressed mind and grants you a sense of freedom and confidence. Kurt Schnaubelt says that Litsea cubeba oil is used for calming the mind and senses. Adding 2 drops of this oil to vaporizer, diffuser or burner aids in treating your mental worries and give a new lease of life to your world around.
4. Treats pain and inflammation:
The vata and pitta enhancing properties of Litsea cubeba oil assists in increasing blood circulation, reducing inflammation and strengthening the muscles. By reducing kapha energy, this oil aids in eliminating the excess fluid deposits and toxic substances in the body and tones your tissues.
The book on ‘Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art’ states that massaging with May Chang oil helps alleviate allergies, open up the bronchial passages in case of asthma, bronchitis and other chest infections.
Massaging the affected area with 2 to 3 drops of Litsea cubeba oil blended with 20 drops of coconut oil helps relieve pain, headache, muscular tension, respiratory ailments, arthritis and rheumatism. You can also use this oil in hot or cold compress for assisting inflammation and pain.
5. Kills insects and keeps your home fresh and clean:
Litsea cubeba oil is the ideal fragrant way to keep away from insects and stay refreshed and ready to be picked up all through the day. You can add 2 drops of this oil in your regular insect repellant preparations or outdoor candles to keep your family protected from bugs, flies, mosquitoes and other insects and to give a clean n fresh feeling to your home. You can also add few drops of this oil in your shampoo, bathing water, body wash or skin care cream to stay protected in an insect-free environment.
With a much similar aroma to Lemongrass and lemon verbena, Litsea cubeba oil is preferred by numerous aromatherapists and perfume author Mandy Aftel prefers this oil to other citrus oils for its versatile aroma. This herb and its oil has also been used and proved effective in the treatment of arrhythmia, nervous disorders, high blood pressure, coronary heart diseases and cancer cells death in case of lung cancer. The bark of this tree is also used in making handicrafts and furniture.
This article is only for the purpose of information and is not intended to diagnose or replace any professional advice or prescribed medication. Never use essential oils internally. Always use essential oils in a diluted form as pure and organic essential oils are highly concentrated substances. Please consult your Ayurvedic practitioner before choosing the appropriate essential oil for your health condition and unique constitution.
Thought for the day:
Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains. – Diane Ackerman
- Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume by Mandy Aftel
- The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: The Complete Guide to the Use of Aromatic Oils In Aromatherapy, Herbalism, Health, and Well Being by Julia Lawless
- Medical Aromatherapy: Healing with Essential Oils by Kurt Schnaubelt
- Aromatherapy Workbook by Marcel Lavabre
- Litsea Cubeba by Wikipedia
- What is Litsea Cubeba? By WiseGEEK
- Uses of May Chang Essential Oil by Livestrong.Com
- Litsea Cubeba Essential Oil Profile Aromatherapy Lifestyle by Quinessence
- Screening of fruit and leaf essential oils of Litsea cubeba Pers. from north-east India – chemical composition and antimicrobial activity published in the Journal of essential oil research by Taylor Francis Online