Citral aka May Chang Essential Oil
Litsea cubeba aka Litsea citratra Family: Lauraceae Steam distilled from roots and stems, from China. China is the primary producer of may chang.
Other Common Names: Exotic verbena, tropical verbena (not related to lemon verbena).
Aroma: Citral essential oil has a fresh, strong, lemony, fruity and herbaceous scent. The scent of May Chang has been compared to lemongrass and lemon verbena. It is considered sweeter and finer than lemongrass and a possible fragrance alternative to the costly lemon verbena (not an alternative in terms of therapeutic potential).
Colour: Pale yellow liquid.
Common Uses: Citral Essential Oil is known for its refreshing and antiseptic properties. An excellent anti-depressant, Citral tones and fortifies the nervous system and can be used in bath for soothing muscular nerves and pain. It has also been used in treatments of acne, athlete's foot, excessive perspiration, flatulence, insect repellent, muscle aches, oily skin, scabies, and stress. Traditional Indian medicine has used citral essential oil to treat infectious illness and fever.
Therapeutic Properties: May Chang is most valued for its anti- inflammatory and calming properties. Other therapeutic actions are: astringent, antiseptic, insecticide, hypotensive, stimulant and tonic.
Integumentary system: This oil is helpful for general skin cleansing due to its antiseptic properties, especially oily, acne infected skin areas.
Respiratory system: May Chang functions as a bronchial dilator and is therefore helpful for relief of symptoms associated with bronchitis and asthma.
Circulatory system: Research in China has focused upon the oil's ability to regulate cardiac arrythmias.
Nervous system: This oil is helpful in treatment of fatigue, lethargy, insomnia, anxiety and depression.
Main Constituents: Citral: 80-97%; Geranial (alpha-citral) 55-70%, Neral 35-45% (beta-citral).
Chemical Composition: Litsea cubeba is valued for its high citral content, estimated to be at 80-97%. Geraniol is the alpha-citral and Neral is the beta-citral. The sensitization risk, due to high citral level, is mitigated by the presence of the chemical limonene.
Strength of Aroma: Strong
Contraindications: glaucoma, children, prostatic hyperplasia, skin hypersensitivity or damaged skin. Avoid use during pregnancy.
It should not be used with clients who have glaucoma, prostatic hyperpasia or on children.
Possible skin irritant. It may cause hypersensitivity on skin. May Chang should be used diluted in a carrier or blended with other essential oils to decrease potential for skin irritation. The limonene content decreases risk of such skin problems. Dermatitis-like reactions were reported in 3 of 200 people using this oil (Tisserand). May Chang should not be applied to skin which is diseased or damaged.
In animal studies citral has been shown to increase intraocular pressure, so its oral use is contraindicated in those with glaucoma.