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The Aromahead Blog - Aromatherapy Education and Resources

Two Unique Chemotypes of Plai Essential Oil

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.

Founder at Aromahead Institute
Andrea Butje is an internationally-recognized Aromatherapist who has changed the educational paradigm through her inspired approach to teaching essential oils and Aromatherapy Certification. Check out her book, The Heart of Aromatherapy, at Aromatics International!

Topics: Chemical Components, cold and flu, Add new tag, aromatherapy, blending, Essential Oils

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