All about Plai Essential Oil

Not much has been written about this rather remarkable essential oil and so I thought I would write up a blog sharing the information I have accumulated over the years and my experiences using this essential oil in practice.

Plai (Zingiber cassumunar Roxb.) is a member of the Zingiberaceae family, as is Ginger essential

oil but unlike Ginger, Plai has been used in traditional Thai massage for many years to combat joint and muscle problems and it is more intense that using Ginger oil. It is native to Thailand, Indonesia and India and it is a pale yellow in colour, steam distilled from the fresh rhizomes unlike Ginger, which is distilled from the dried rhizomes, although this seems to depend on the producer - so always ask and request a copy of the GC analysis. The aroma is pleasantly fresh herbaceous and slightly peppery so has a nice zing! The main active chemicals are sabinene (27-34%), y-terpinene (6-8%), a-terpinene (4-5%), terpinen-4-ol (30-35%) and (E)-1- (3,4 -dimethoxyphenol)butadiene (DMPBD) (12-16%) (Sukatta 2009) and considered non-toxic, non-sensitizing and non-irritating when used externally. However, there is an oral toxicity warning and aromatherapists in the USA who have used the oil undiluted on the skin have reported redness and general sensitisation. When used diluted though, it is fine and this is confirmed in the Tisserand Safety Manual.

Let's explore the chemistry so that we can evaluate its therapeutic actions from the highest to the lowest constituents from the GC analysis below:

  • Terpinen-4-ol (30-35%), a naturally occuring monoterpene is actually the main ingredient in Tea Tree oil at around 42% (Hart et al. 2000), so it has been well researched in that we can see what Plai oil is good for. For example, we know that it has antifungal, antimicrobial (Carson, Riley 1995) and antibacterial (Loughlin et al 2008) properties. In fact this study reported that Terpinen‐4‐ol is a more potent antibacterial agent against MRSA than anyth