Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Herb Spotlight: Plai ( Zingiber cassumunar) may be a useful support for pain relief

BY Allen Akiu, ACHS Diploma in Aromatherapy Student

Pharmaceutical companies have long sought a solution for the millions of Americans suffering from pain and inflammation, arthritis in particular. Cyclooxygenase-2 (Cox-2) inhibitors bought the needed relief for the masses with acute and chronic pain. Celebrex is the only remaining Cox-2 inhibiting drug available in the U.S. Vioxx and Bextra were pulled off the market by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for their high risks of stroke, heart attack, and to a lesser extent, gastrointestinal bleeding (from ulcers) [1]. Celebrex still carries the same but lower risks and is significantly weaker in strength. Because of supply and demand, the cost is high.

The essential oil of plai (Zingiber cassumunar, Roxburgh) is known for its superior analgesic and anti-inflammatory actions[2]. It is a member of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) but differs from its kin because of the presence of two constituents, (E)-1-(3,4 dimethoxyphenyl) but-1-ene and (E)-1-(3,4 dimethoxyphenyl) butadiene (DMPBD). In addition, plai has a cooling effect, rather than warming.

This powerful natural pain reliever and anti-inflammatory agent has limited studies confirming the inhibition of inflammatory pathways without any side effects.

Its warm, green, peppery aroma has a hint of eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) and can be mixed with other essential oils for increased synergies and enhanced aromas.

Plai also contains cassumunarin, which is a powerful antioxidant[3]. It has antiviral, antiseptic, and antibacterial properties as well[4]. It balances the digestive, respiratory, and immune systems nicely and should definitely be the subject of extensive research.

1. Solomon, D.H., MD, MPH. (2011, Nov 2). Patient information: Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Retrieved from
Ozaki Y, Kawahara N, Harada M. (1991). Anti-inflammatory effect of Zingiber cassumunar Roxb. and its active principles. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo), 39(9):2353-6. Retrieved from
Nakatani N.(2000). Phenolic antioxidants from herbs and spices. Biofactors, 13(1-4):141-6. Retrieved from
4. Pithayanukul P, Tubprasert J, Wuthi-Udomlert M. (2007). In vitro antimicrobial activity of Zingiber cassumunar (Plai) oil and a 5% Plai oil gel. Phytother Res., 21(2):164-9. Retrieved from

*Note the ideas and opinions expressed have been provided for educational purposes only and do not necessarily express the ideas and/or opinions of the American College of Healthcare Sciences. This information is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. For further information, consult with a Registered Aromatherapist (RA).

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