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Litsea cubeba - (Lour.)Pers.

Common Name Mountain Pepper, Litsea
Family Lauraceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Sunny slopes, thickets, sparse forests, roadsides, watersides, 500 - 3200 metres in Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Sichuan, Xizang, Yunnan, Zhejiang[266].
Range E. Asia - China, Japan, Indian subcontinent, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Litsea cubeba Mountain Pepper, Litsea

Litsea cubeba Mountain Pepper, Litsea


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Physical Characteristics

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Litsea cubeba is a deciduous Shrub growing to 7 m (23ft). It is in flower from March to April, and the seeds ripen from August to September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs).
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Oil  Root
Edible Uses: Condiment  Oil  Tea

The fragrant flowers are eaten or used as a flavouring for tea[301 , 310 , 317 ]. The fruits are eaten as a vegetable side dish, and are a common substitute for cubeb pepper (Piper cubeba)[301 , 310 , 317 ]. The fruit, bark and leaves are often used by the Karen people of N. Thailand as a curry ingredient in a dish called 'Kaeng Nuea'[931 ]. The roots are cooked as a flavouring in foods[301 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antiphlogistic  Expectorant  Parasiticide

Antiphlogistic, expectorant[147]. The root, stem, leaves and fruits are all used as medicine for eliminating windevil and dispelling the cold in the body, allaying swelling and pain[266]. The fruit is used as medicine is known as 'Bi Cheng Qie'[266].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Cosmetic  Essential  Furniture  Oil  Parasiticide  Pioneer  Shelterbelt  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: Grown as a shade tree in plantations[317 ]. It is planted as a wind-break in tea plantations[310 ]. A fast-growing pioneer species, usually gregarious in open areas, is found along the edge of tropical rain forests and the edges of both lower and upper montane forests[931 ]. It can be used at the early stages in reforestation projects, and would make a good choice when establishing a woodland garden[K ]. The tree is planted as a pioneer species in northern Thailand in reforestation projects to restore native woodland - it is planted in degraded woodland and open areas in a mix with various other species that all have the ability to grow fast; produce dense, weed-suppressing crowns; and attract seed-dispersing wildlife, particularly birds and bats[998 ]. Other Uses: The flowers, leaves, and fruit walls are all sources of essential oils[266 , 317 ]. These oils are processed for citral and are also used for their fragrance and medicinal properties[266 , 317 ]. Citral is used for the production of ionones and formerly vitamin A and in essences for cosmetics, foodstuffs and tobacco products[310 ]. Because of its pleasant citrus-like smell and taste it is a modifier for lemon and lime flavours and a general freshener in fruit flavours[310 ] The main essential oil, known as 'may-chang oil' is obtained from the fruit[310 ]. (Though one report says it is obtained from the flowers[317 ].) This oil is used in perfumery and is also the main source of citral, for which it is commercially cultivated[310 ]. In perfumery, may chang oil is used as an alternative for verbena oil and lemongrass oil in colognes, household sprays, soaps and air-fresheners[310 ]. An extract of the fruit is used as an ingredient in commercial cosmetic preparations as a perfume[1243 ]. The essential oil obtained from the fruit is used as an ingredient in commercial cosmetic preparations as a masking agent and perfume[1243 ]. An extract of the leaves is used as an ingredient in commercial cosmetic preparations as an antioxidant[1243 ]. The seed contains a fatty oil, from which lauric acid and capric acid are produced[310 ]. The wood is used for general furniture-making and construction[266 ].

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A fast-growing tree[998 ]. Trees produced from cuttings can commence bearing fruit when just 2 - 3 years old[310 ]. All parts of the plant have a pleasant, lemon-like aroma[301 , 443 ]. A dioecious species, both male and female forms need to be grown if seed is required[443 ]. There are also forms of the plant with functioning hermaphrodite flowers[1025 ]. We have very little information on this species and do not know if it will be hardy in Britain. However, judging by its native range, it could succeed outdoors at least in the milder areas of the country. The following notes are based on the general needs of the genus.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed -

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Litsea, Dieng-si-sing, Earking, Entsurem, Jayar, Mang tang, Mejankeri, Ser-nam, Sernam, Shan ji jiao, Siltimur, Siqbil, Tanghaercherkung, Terhilsok, Zeng-jil,

China ; Taiwan, Province of China; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Cambodia, Bhutan; Indonesia; Myanmar; India; Japan, Asia, Bhutan, Burma, China, Himalayas, Indochina, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Northeastern India, SE Asia, Sikkim, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Litsea calophyllaTagutuganTree15.0 10-12 MLMHNM303
Litsea citrata Tree0.0 -  LMHSNM10 
Litsea glutinosaIndian Laurel. Brown bollygum, Maida lakriTree15.0 10-12 FLMHNM223
Litsea umbrosa Tree0.0 -  LMHSNM013
Neolitsea sericea Tree6.0 8-11  LMHSNM101

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

Readers comment

   Jun 5 2012 12:00AM

In Taiwan, Litsea cubeba is well known and used by the indigenous peoples. The oily dried fruits are also used in foods, adding a pleasant spicy lemony flavor to meat and cold vegetable dishes.

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