Litsea cubeba (Lour.) Pers.

Last updated: 2016 Sep 30

Scientific Name

Litsea cubeba (Lour.) Pers.


Actinodaphne citrata (Blume) Hayata, Aperula citriodora (Siebold & Zucc.) Blume, Benzoin citriodorum Siebold & Zucc., Benzoin cubeba (Lour.) Hatus., Daphnidium cubeba (Lour.) Nees, Laurus cubeba Lour., Laurus piperita Meisn., Lindera citrata (Blume) Koidz., Lindera citriodora (Siebold & Zucc.) Hemsl., Lindera dielsii H.Lév., Litsea citrata Blume, Litsea citriodora (Siebold & Zucc.) Hatus., Litsea cubeba var. cubeba, Litsea cubeba f. obtusifolia Y.C.Yang & P.H.Huang, Litsea dielsii (H.Lév.) H.Lév., Litsea mollifolia Chun, Litsea mollifolia var. glabrata (Diels) Chun, Litsea mollis var. glabrata Diels, Litsea piperita Mirb., Malapoenna citrata (Blume) Kuntze, Malapoenna cubeba (Lour.) Kuntze, Omphalodaphne citriodora (Siebold & Zucc.) Nakai, Persea cubeba (Lour.) Spreng., Tetranthera citrata (Blume) Nees, Tetranthera cubeba (Lour.) Meisn., Tetranthera polyantha Wall. ex Nees. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Medang ayer, medang melukut [2]
English Pheasant pepper tree [2]
China May chang [2]; shan ji jiao [3]
Indonesia Baleng la, beleng la, ki lemo, krangean, krangejan, lado-lado
Thailand Chakhai-ton, takhrai, takhrai-ton [2]
Vietnam C[aa]y m[af]ng tang [3].

Geographical Distributions

L. cubeba occurs wild from the eastern Himalayas to continental Southeast Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia (Java, Kalimantan, Sumatra), southern China (up to the Yangtze river) and Taiwan. It is cultivated for its essential oil mainly in Japan, China and Taiwan. In Java it is grown on a small scale. [2]

Botanical Description

L. cubeba falls under the family of Lauraceae. It is a small, deciduous tree or shrub that can grow up to 5-10(-15) m tall. The trunk is cylindrical, up to 6(-20) cm in diametre. [2]

The bark is 1 mm thick, very tough, green on the outside and yellow on the inside, smooth and with large lenticels, lemon-like scent and pungent taste. Its branch is slender, hairless but apical parts are rust-coloured, long with weak hairs. [2]

The leaves are alternate, simple and aromatic. The stalk is 8-18 mm long with blade lance-shaped to oblong, 7-15 cm x 1.5-3 cm. The base is acute while apex is long acuminate, thin, semi-transparent or papery and finely pellucid-dotted. They are brownish-green when young. When matured, they are shiny dark-green above and waxy-bluish green below. The plant has unisexual flowers. [2]

The inflorescence is 4-5-flowered, arising from axils, indeterminate raceme that is about 1 cm long. Their primary flower stalk is increasing in size, up to 1 cm long. The secondary flower stalk is thin, 5-8 mm long, with basal, lance-shaped bract and apex of any structure. The secondary flower stalk is a spherical ring of flower stalk that consist of 4 decussate bracts surrounding the umbel like a flower bud. Other individual flower stalk is 3-4 mm long and minutely hairy. [2]

The yellowish-white flower is 3-4 mm in diametre. The segment of floral leaves is 5-6, broadly ovate, 1.5-2.5 mm long and smooth on the outside. The male flowers are with 9 stamens in 3 whorls with filaments are sparsely hairy, those of 3rd whorl with 2 basal glands that are almost without stalk and anthers are quadrangular. The female flowers are with 9 abortive stamens with imperfect anthers and a large smooth ovary with very short style and a large, multi-lobed stigma. [2]

The fruit is a spherical berry, 5-6 mm across, ending abruptly in a short point when young while blackish when mature. It is seated on a flower stalk that 3-5 mm long which is slightly thickened at the apex into a cup-shaped receptacle. [2]

The seed is spherical and white. [2]


L. cubeba is found in hilly areas and grows well at altitudes of 700-2300 m; in East Kalimantan it occurs at 400-600 m. In Java it is found on fertile loams and also near sulphur lakes. [2]

Chemical Constituent

The essential oil of L. cubeba has been reported to contain β-pinene, α-pinene, p-cymene, (R)-limonene, γ-tepinene and α-terpinene [4]. Other chemical constituents include α-cis-ocimene, 3,7-dimethyl-1,6-octadien-3-ol and n-transnerolidol [5].

Plant Part Used

Fruits and leaves. [2]

Traditional Use

Traditionally the Dayak Kenyah people of East Kalimantan use the fruits and bark as oral and topical medicine for babies as well as for adults. It is applied in cases of fever, stomach-ache, chest pain and as tonic. [2]

In aromatherapy the oil is applied as a cooling agent against acne and dermatitis, and to relieve anxiety and stress. [2]

In Indonesia, the fruits are eaten as a vegetable side dish and are common substitute for the spice Piper cubeba L.f., while in northern Vietnam tea is sometimes flavoured with the flowers. [2]

Preclinical Data


Antibacterial activity

L. cubeba oil extracted from its fresh fruit had resulted in the inhibition of Escherichia coli with the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) and minimum bactericidal concentration (MBC) of both with the value of 0.125% (v/v). Moreover the antibacterial kinetic curves indicated 0.0625% (v/v) of L. cubeba oil was able to prolong the growth lag phase of E.coli cells to approximate 12 hours while 0.125% (v/v) of L. cubeba oil was able to kill the cell completely. [6]

Mosquito repellency properties

Repellent effect of essential oils of L. cubeba was evaluated using the human-bait technique and tested on three type of mosquitoes Aedes aegypti, Anopheles stephensi and Culex quinquefasciatus.


No documentation

Clinical Data

No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing



Figure 1: The line drawing of L. cubeba [2]


  1. The Plant List. Ver 1.1. Litsea cubeba (Lour.) Pers. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2016 Sep 30]. Available from:
  2. Nor Azah MA, Susiarti S. Litsea cubeba (Lour.) Persoon In: Oyen LPA and Nguyen Xuan Dung Editors. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 19: Essential-oil plants. Leiden, Netherlands. Backhuys Publisher, 1999; p. 123-126.
  3. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume III E-L. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 798-799.
  4. Jiang Z, Akhtar Y, Bradbury R, Zhang X, Isman MB. Comparative toxicity of essential oils of Litsea pungens and Litsea cubeba and blends of their major constituents against the cabbage looper, Trichoplusia ni. J Agri Food Chem. 2009:57(11):4833-4837.
  5. Wng F, Yang D, Ren S, Zhang H, Li R. Chemical composition of essential oil from leaves of Litsea cubeba and its antifungal activities. Zhong Yao Cai. 1999;22(8):400-402.
  6. Li WR, Shi QS, Liang Q, Xie XB, Huang XM, Chen YB. Antibacterial activity and kinetics of Litsea cubeba oil on Escherichia coli. Plos One. 2014;9(11):e110983.