What is Plai?

Plai is a rhizome, or a subterranean plant stem that tends to grow horizontally, with shoots that grow upwards from its nodes. It is a member of the ginger family, as is turmeric and galanga. Ginger, turmeric and galanga are commonly used in food and teas as flavoring, and the three are commonly used in herbalism for soothing symptoms of general inflammation, joint inflammation, pain, muscle pain, arthritis, nausea, indigestion and several other symptoms.1

The four rhizomes – turmeric, ginger, galangal and plai are all members of the Zingiberaceae or ginger family. Ginger itself is Zingiber officinale. Plai is Zingiber cassuminar and this species has several subspecies of which Zingiber cassmuminar Roxburgh has a prominent role. The latter is coveted in traditional Thai massage. Plai is used in SE Asia to ease pain and inflammation of joints and muscles. Ginger and turmeric are often used for the same purpose. It should be noted that all of these rhizomes are sold as food, and with the exception of Plai, all can be found in your grocery or specialty grocery store. You may buy turmeric powder in your spice shelf, and many buy it in bulk for it’s reputation in soothing symptoms.

In short, Plai is a root with remarkable properties. It has a deep golden color, similar to turmeric. Unlike turmeric, it has a pungent, piney smell from high levels of 4-terpeneol. There are sub-species of Plai, and each species has variable ratios of primary molecular components, as well as unique secondary molecular components. Plai is an edible rhizome. It can be fried in oil and eaten like a chip, or added as a spice like ginger. The components of Plai can be extracted using several techniques such as steam distillation, direct ethanol extraction, and extraction in oil. Each technique will yield oils and concentrates with a different herbal entourage, or a different sub-blend of ingredients in the Plai rhizome. These herbal entourages may benefit us in slightly different ways. The forms of Plai we use are “essential oils”2. Our Plai extracts feel and smell distinct. We hope you will have the pleasure of finding out and exploring Plai through our products.

1. In the US, the FDA requires trials and significant data rather than published research for any compound marketed and sold to “diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease”. The FDA doesn’t regulate whether materials make you feel energized, or balance your 7 Chakras. We have a higher level of standard in the US regarding “claims”. As we have seen from our opioid crisis, high standards aren’t always protective. See CFR, Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21 for food and supplement labeling and claims as an example. Dietary supplements are not drugs. Topical massage oils, balms and essential oils are not drugs – as long as the makers make no claims that would classify them as “drugs” by the FDA. See also: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/complementary-and-alternative-medicine/dietary-supplements/fda-regulations.html
2. An “essential oil” usually the name of the plant from which it is derived; for example, lavender oil or peppermint oil. Oils are called essential because they were thought to represent the primary essence of odour and flavor of the plant from which they are taken from.