|Scientific classification |
Litsea cubeba, the aromatic litsea or may chang, is an evergreen tree or shrub 5–12 meters high in the Lauraceae family. It is native to China, Indonesia, Taiwan and other parts of Southeast Asia. It is called "mountain pepper" (山胡椒) in Mandarin and maqaw (馬告) by the Atayal aborigines in Taiwan. It produces a fruit which is processed for its lemony essential oil. The oil can also be extracted from the leaf, but this is considered to be lower in quality. The timber is sometimes used for making furniture and crafts. Plant parts are also used in medicine.
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.