Playing with Plai


Image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library on

Plai (Zingiber cassumunar) is a plant related to ginger. The essential oils from both are distilled from the roots of the plants and they have similar therapeutic properties. However, Plai is considered stronger acting, although less hot, and smells more medicinal than ginger.

The two oils do work similarly, especially when needed for pain relief or as an anti-inflammatory. In fact, the oils were combined in a gel for a study that compared the blend to a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). After 6 weeks the Aromatherapy blend worked just as well at relieving joint pain and improving symptoms in people with osteoarthritis in their knees. And the use of the oils showed no side effects or risks.

Other research has been conducted with a cream containing Plai essential oil that is used to reduce pain and inflammation. One study looked at “the anti-inflammatory activity of (Plai that) was assessed and compared with … anti-inflammatory drugs. The results obtained showed that the anti-inflammatory effect … occurred in the acute phase of inflammation. … The Plai cream was shown to reduce swelling and pain significantly in athletic ankle sprain in the first 2-3 days of treatment.”

Aromatherapists often use Plai in conjunction with other anti-inflammatory and analgesic essential oils, such as Helichrysum, Nutmeg and Chamomile. It seems to enhance the effects of the other oils as well as providing relief for an extended period of time. When used in a massage session it appears to have even more benefit.

The essential oil provides assistance for other things besides just arthritis and sprains. It is antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal, and can be used as a digestive tonic and immune system stimulant. So, when you feel a flu bug coming on accompanied by achy muscles or an upset tummy, give Plai a try.

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