Two Unique Chemotypes of Plai Essential Oil

by Andrea Butje on June 29, 2009

plaiWe recently got introduced, in a cyberspace kind of way,  to a new distiller in Thailand. He told us about two other distillers he knew who both distilled Plai essential oil.

I have been wanting to buy Plai essential oil for a few years now, but had not found a source. You can imagine my delight!

I ordered samples from both distillers. One has his distillery in Central Thailand, the other in the North East.

When the samples arrived, I was surprised at how different the two Plai essential oils smelled from each other. I liked them both and was quite sure from the aromas that the chemistry of the central Plai would be quite different from the N.E. Plai. I sent the samples to Daniel to test in France. The results showed that each oil was excellent, and yes–they were significantly different from each other.

The N.E. Plai distiller harvests the roots and stores them in a root cellar until he has requests for the essential oil, when he finally distills it. The N.E. Plai has a typical chemistry for Plai from Thailand. There is almost as much terpinen-4-ol in this Plai as in Tea Tree (sometimes more, depending on the Tea Tree–our Tea Tree from Australia is quite high in terpinen-4-ol).  Terpinen-4-ol has been well researched, and is to known to activate white blood cells for dealing with infections. It has antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal effects, and is quite supportive for the immune system. It’s a very appealing essential oil component to use for healing infections (and it’s also found in Sweet Marjoram).


The N.E. Plai also has a significant percentage of sabinene, a component noted by many aromatherapists for its anti-inflammatory effects. It also contains a nice percentage of two isomers of terpinene, known for their anti-fungal and antioxidant properties.

What does all that mean? N.E. Plai essential oil is great if you are sick, especially with inflamed sinuses, or dealing with a fungal infection! Also, Plai is used by Thailand Massage Therapists to ease joint and muscle pain, or sprains and strains.

The Plai essential oil from Central Thailand has an interesting story. The distiller produces the oil right after it is harvested, and the roots are not stored. The resulting chemistry is different, but equally fascinating! This oil has a large percentage of sabinene, and a small but significant percentage of dimethoxyphenyl butadiene (DMPBD), known for its analgesic effects. Plai is considered a great oil to reduce pain and inflammation, and these properties are often associated with DMPBD .

The Central Thailand Plai is an excellent oil to add to blends for reducing inflammation from injury, sprains, and muscle and joint issues. Plai is from the same plant family as Ginger (Zingiber officinale), but does not possess the classic heat common to Ginger. Instead, Plai has a cooling action on inflamed areas. It is very effective!

We decided to purchase both essential oils, and have been blending them together! Best of both worlds!

Next time you feel some muscle pain, or have a bad cold or flu that leaves you feeling sore and achy, try some Plai essential oil blended into a soothing carrier oil or lotion. Apply to your chest, neck and back.

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Aromahead Institute, owned by Andrea Butje, is a premier resource for online aromatherapy classes. Andrea offers her inspired approach to online aromatherapy certification through essential oil videos and original education materials. Check out her book, Essential Living: Aromatherapy Recipes for Health and Home, on Amazon!

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarit March 13, 2017 at 12:41 pm

What is the blending factor of Plai?


Andrea Butje March 14, 2017 at 11:36 am

Hi Sarit!
We don’t utilize blending factor numbers when we blend but I can tell you that Plai is a strong aroma and you will likely need just a few drops for its aroma to show up in a big way in your blend.


Hans April 19, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Hai Andrea…
What the Latin names of plai…

I found here in my country Indonesia,
Produce by steam destilation.
They call it plai oil / bangle.
Is that same ?

Since no detail information about essential oil benefit in my country, can you help me to inform me a little bit chemical property / property of therapy of this plain oil ?

Thank you Andrea


Andrea Butje April 19, 2017 at 9:15 pm

Hi Hans!
Since the common name of an essential oil can differ from region to region, the best way to identify an oil is by the Latin name. The Latin name for Plai is either Zingiber cassumunar or Zingiber montanum.

I’d like to share with you a link to Aromatics where they’ve done a wonderful job of profiling Plai. You can read more about the oil’s therapeutic properties and Aromatics also has a GC/MS report that you can view for the chemical components. Here’s the link:

I hope you find this helpful!


Andrea Butje August 20, 2014 at 5:01 pm

I used to buy it from 2 different distillers in Thailand, but that was in 2009 and now I get it through Aromatics International and don’t have the direct link to the distiller in Thailand anymore. Hope this helps….


Katarina Vogler August 20, 2014 at 8:26 am

I live in Sweden and have problems with finding Plai oil. I have read about it and it sounds wonderful. That you have found two different and mix it sounds even better. Would you like to share with me where in Thailand – on the Internet – it is possible to find it?
Thank you
Katarina Vogler


Gail March 5, 2014 at 12:32 am

Can you share with me where you purchase Plai?


Andrea Butje March 5, 2014 at 8:34 am

Sure! Aromatics International. 🙂


Lia Holdcroft November 17, 2012 at 3:10 pm

I was most interested in reading your report on Plai oil. Could you please help me with my enquiries? Do you know : the odour intensity? the volatility rate? and the toxicity rating or Plai oil?
I look forward to hearing from you!
Kind regards
Lia Holdcroft


Andrea Butje November 17, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Hi Lia,
Plai has a high odor intensity so a few drops go a long way aromatically. It is a middle note, a little lower than most middles. As to toxicity, not much to be concerned about-the monoterpene sabinene seems to be easy on the skin and the monoterpenol tepinen-4-ol is not concerning, so I would not worry about using the oils diluted on the skin.


Jo Ann July 17, 2009 at 9:43 pm

How is Plai pronounced? I have been calling it Play or Pla with a long “a”. I can ask this question about many of the oils you sell e.g. Suganha Kokila or Iary or even Xanthoxylum.


Admin July 18, 2009 at 9:26 am

Great question! These are fun words to say!

Plai is pronounced Pli with a long “i”
Suganda Kokila is pronounced Sue-gan-duh Ko-key-la
Xanthoxylum is pronounced Zan-tho-zy-lum


Jo Ann July 19, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Thanks a lot. I spelled Sugandha incorrectly above. I shall have to practice saying these names.


Sarah Mortimer July 1, 2009 at 1:54 pm

I recently heard about and purchased plai essential oil. Not many suppliers in the UK stock it at the moment and many people haven’t heard about it. I’m not sure which chemotype I have but it is excellent for muscular aches and pains. I love the smell of it too – it has to be one of my favourites now! I really enjoyed reading this post and it is very informative – thank you. Find out more about the anti-inflammatory properties of plai essential oil.


Pat Morello June 29, 2009 at 2:08 pm

I never even heard of this. I made up a sheet and put in my notebook of oils and uses. Thank you so much for this kind of information. What made me even happier was that I understood what you wrote. The information from the Certification for Aromatherapy course is sinking in! Have I mentioned how excited I am about takiing this course??



Regina June 29, 2009 at 1:13 pm

So what does it smell like for those of us that haven’t had a chance to test?



Admin June 29, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Earthy, pungent, strong!


Maria June 30, 2009 at 12:18 pm

I’m totally excited to try this one out!


Monica June 29, 2009 at 12:26 pm

You ROCK!!!


Admin June 30, 2009 at 1:09 pm



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