The essential oil derived from the pepper-like fruit of the Chinese may chang tree is known as either may chang or litsea cubeba essential oil. Although Asian herbalists have used the fruits and flowers of the may chang tree for centuries, extraction of the essential oil only goes back to the mid-20th century. Look for may chang essential oil in health food stores and specialty retailers. The oil may increase pressure on the eyes, so avoid using it where glaucoma is an issue. Always check with your health care practitioner before using any herbal therapy.
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When diluted in a carrier oil, may chang essential oil helps to open up the bronchial passages for those suffering from bronchitis, allergies, asthma and other chest ailments, according to Kathi Keville, author of “Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art.” In traditional Chinese medicine, may chang sometimes blends with other medicines in throat gargles, but only experienced practitioners should combine essential oils for internal use. Chinese physicians also use may chang oil to regulate blood pressure and heart rate, according to Keville.
When used in diffusers or vaporizers, may chang creates a cheering atmosphere. Aromatherapist Peter Holmes recommends using a blend of two parts mandarin to one part may chang as a room freshener to relax and uplift the moods of those in the room.
Include may chang oil in potpourris and personal fragrance products. Perfume author Mandy Aftel notes that she prefers may chang, or litsea cubeba, to other citrus-derived essential oils. The oil is more stable than lemon peel oil, which goes rancid more quickly. Additionally, may chang essential oil doesn’t possess any of the harsh notes lemongrass oil might, and is less expensive than lemon verbena oil. May chang oil has floral as well as citrus notes, making it more versatile as a perfume ingredient, according to Aftel. “Unlike true lemon oil, which must be a top note, litsea cubeba allows the possibility of introducing a lemon scent in the middle note of the perfume,” Aftel points out. Blend may chang with other citrus notes such as petigrain and with rosemary and lavender, Aftel suggests.
Include may chang essential oil in citrus-based potpourris to add a lemony-sweet depth to the other citrus herbs, fruits and oils. Typical citrus potpourris include one or several dried botanicals such as may chang flowers, lemon balm, lemon verbena, lemongrass, lemon thyme, orange peel and lemon peel, orange mint, grapefruit mint and bergamot flowers. For every 8 cups of these dried botanicals, add about 1 tablespoon total of may chang and other essential oils such as tangerine, lemon or bergamot.
Because it has antifungal and antibacterial properties, may chang works well in lotions and soaps. Consider adding the essential oil to homemade or commercial products to help treat acne, eczema and other skin conditions.
Include may chang essential oil in natural insect-repelling preparations. Blend it into liquid body wash, shampoo and body lotion, and add a drop or two to outdoor candles. The oil may be helpful in warding off mosquitoes and may even be added to a natural shampoo for dogs, along with other ingredients like honey, lemongrass oil and citronella oil.