Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Plai – a natural anti-inflammatory

I first heard of Plai essential oil from a fellow Aromatherapist. I totally forgot all about it until I went on an essential oil course with Julie Duffy, lecturer in Aromatherapy at UWIC, where I was reminded of this oil. I learnt a little about it on the course and got to try it out in a massage. I really liked it so I decided to do some research on what the oil is used for and some of this research can be found in this post.

Plai (Zingiber cassumunar Roxb.) belongs to the same plant family as Ginger but instead of it having a warming affect on joints and muscles like Ginger, it actually has a cooling affect on them helping to reduce inflammation.

There has been a lot of research in to the efficacy of Plai as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory when applied directly to the affected area. The majority of this research has been carried out in Thailand as this is where the plant originates from and it is used extensively in Thai massage and herbal medicine.

In one research study, the anti-inflammatory activity of a compound found in Plai extracts was assessed and compared with aspirin, and two other lesser known anti-inflammatory drugs. The results obtained showed that the anti-inflammatory effect of the compound (compound D) mainly occurred in the acute phase of inflammation. (Panthong, A et al., 1997). Another study compared another compound found in Plai extract with the anti-inflammatory drug Diclofenac and found that when applied directly to the affected area, it was twice as potent as Diclofenac (also known as Voltarol). (Pongprayoon, U, et al., 1997). A gel containing Plai was tested on 21 subjects with wounded ankle joints and was compared with a placebo gel. The Plai gel was shown to reduce swelling and pain significantly in the first 2-3 days of the treatment. (Laopatarakasem et al., 1993). Since 1997 when the first two of these studies were published, there have been numerous more studies highlighting Plai’s anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.

As an anti-inflammatory and analgesic, Plai can be used to help joint problems, inflammation, sprains, strains, sciatica, arthritis, rheumatism, muscular aches and pains, piriformis syndrome, bursitis, tendonitis, gout, bunions, muscle spasms, and torn muscles and ligaments.

Just add 20 drops of Plai essential oil to 10ml of carrier oil and massage in to the affected area. It can also be applied directly to inflamed joints undiluted but take caution with this especially if you have sensitive skin as it could cause irritation. If you have a reaction to the undiluted oil, wash off immediately and use diluted in future applications. When applied undiluted, Plai has been found to ease pain for upwards of 18 hours which makes it a lot more affective as an analgesic than any over-the-counter drug, with less side affects, and a lot cheaper too!

Besides its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, Plai is also anti-histamine, anti-neuralgic, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, digestive, diuretic, febrifugal, laxative, and rubefacient. I will discuss some of these other properties and uses in future posts.

Plai essential oil is an invaluable addition to my aromatherapy kit and it takes its place along side Lavender and Tea Tree in my home first aid kit!

The citations for the studies mentioned above are listed below:

Anti-inflammatory activity of compound D {(E)-4-(3',4'-dimethoxyphenyl)but-3-en-2-ol} isolated from Zingiber cassumunar Roxb., Panthong, A; Kanjanapothi, D; Niwatananant, W; Tuntiwachwuttikul, P; Reutrakul, V. Phytomedicine (1997) 207- 212.

Topical antiinflammatory activity of the major lipophilic constituents of the rhizome of Zingiber cassumunar .2. Hexane extractives, Pongprayoon, U; Tuchinda, P; Claeson, P; Sematong, T; Reutrakul, V; Soontornsaratune, P. Phytomedicine (1997) 323- 326.

Efficiency of “Plai Gel” (PlaiGesal) in treatment of wounded ankle in asthlics. Srinakarin Medical Bulletin, 8(3) Mokkhasmit, M., Ngarmwathana, W., Sawasdimongkol, K. and Permphiphat, U., 1971, Pharmacological evaluation of Thai medicinal plants. J. Med. Assoc. Thailand, 54: 490-504

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