Spring in a Bottle - May Chang

If it was humanly possible to coax out the sun, bring on the warmth, and fast forward to Spring, that's exactly what I would be doing right now.

Luckily, there is a next best thing – capturing the properties and scents of fresh blossoms and fruits into precious liquids and bottling them.

With these liquids, it becomes possible – even in the deepest, darkest winter month – to transport onself to a Spring garden morning with a mere whiff, or a single a gentle application.

All this in one bottle – or maybe 2.

Origin: Mostly From China

Pictured above is one of the components in my current favorite skin drench and face mist. This lovely plant is called May Chang (INCI: litsea cubeba).  Its fruits can be steam distilled to make essential oil as well as hydrosol (also called hydrolate).

Right now, I'm enjoying getting acquainted with my first bottle of May Chang hydrosol, which offers the most deliciously delicate, fresh, greeny-citrussy scent. It's practically Spring in a bottle all by itself.

May Chang essential oil echoes the scent of the hydrosol quite closely - albeit a bit more powerful/concentrated. I've only been working with the oil for about 18 months, but so far, it's been a real pleasure to work with – most particularly in a blend where it performs with great stability and consistency.

 May Chang Properties

Admittedly, I am getting to know May Chang 'backwards' (read: I started using it before researching it in any great detail).

It has proven to be a bit of a challenge finding information on this plant and its uses.

So far, I have only been able to find a single study involving May Chang. Amazingly, the study showed that May Chang essential oil stopped development of (and even destroyed) lung cancer cells (link below). I can only imagine there will be more studies to follow this one. Imagine being able to sniff away lung cancer!

Overall, May Chang seems to be 'a bit of a newbie' on the aromatherapy scene, and as such, the many folk medicine claims one is accustomed to finding en masse simply haven't presented themselves with any consistency during my usual searches.

May chang's main history of use is in perfuming, where it is a popular scent for soaps.

As to aromatherapeutic claims, there seems to be some consensus that May Chang can

  • Promote mental calm
  • Lift the mood
  • Blend well with other scents

From my personal experience with it so far, I can attest to the bottom 2 claims.


While the essential oil is listed as a possible skin sensitizer (due to its content of citral), I have been unable to find any precautions attached to the hydrosol.

Citral has also been shown to impair the reproductive process in rats, why citral is not recommended for use during pregnancy. 
(Tisserand, Robert; Young, Rodney, Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals, Elsevier Health Sciences UK, 2. Edition, 2014)

The hydrosol I am using at the moment lists Vietnam as its country of origin and was purchased from Aroma Zone, who do not list any precautions besides the common 'not to be used internally'.

Do Tell

Have you ever used May Chang? How do you prefer to use it? Do you use both the oil and hydrosol?

A Bit More About May Chang 

Study: Litsea Cubeba causes cell cycle arrest in lung cancer cells
Litsea Cubeba Essential Oil Profile
Properties and Cautions for Litsea Cubeba - Hopewell Oils (with quoted sources)

ABOVE: Photo of May Chang By LiChieh Pan / Flickr user: plj.johnny ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/plj/ ).Badagnani at en.wikipedia [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], from Wikimedia Commons


María said…
This is one of my "must have" list. I use it myself in a blend as my perfume, I love it's lemony scent.
I also works beautifully in soaps.
dolma said…
Very interesting, thank you! It is one of the oils in my deodorant and I love the smell. I heard it also has deodorizing properties.
LisaLise said…
Hi María - I too am in love with the scent of this hydrosol and oil. I can imagine it being fabulous in a soap.

Hi Dolma - I think this would be a lovely addition to a deodorant, but I'm not sure about the deodorizing properties. I saw this claim a couple of places while researching it, but the sites making the claims didn't strike me as very fact-oriented… more sales oriented. There was - at any rate - no documentation of any kind to back up their statements.
María said…
I think the "deodorizing" properties are more related to its lemony scent that the deodorisinig capability. I think our society has associated the lemon(y) scent with the smell of cleanliness.
The bad smell comes from bacteria processing sweat. For this reason, the components that have anti-bacterial properties work better in a deodorant. The ones I've heard being the best for that are lavender (of course), palmarosa and clary sage (which I adore).
It exists also an active called "farnesol-lemonester" (lemonester = triethyl citrate), that you can find in a well known French store ;), that also have deodorant properties. I have not tested it myself, but I've heard good things about it.
Hope this helps :)