PLAI

Also Known As
ENGLISH:
Bengal Root
Cassumunar Ginger
Chocolate Pinecone Ginger
Medicinal Ginger [this is what some of my Thai friends here in Florida refer to it as].
BANGLADESH:
Bon Ada. [9]
CAMBODIA:
Ponlei (ពន្លៃ).
INDIA:
Jangliadrak. [9]
INDIA, HINDI:
Banadain Hindi
THAILAND:
Blae Kobor [9]
Phlai [9]
Plai (ไพล) [9]
Puloei [9]
THAILAND, ISAN:
Wan-Fai [ว่านไฟ]
NOTE: Islan is the national language of Thailand.
THAILAND, NORTHERN:
Bpulai [ปูเลย]
LAOS:
Van-Fai
Wan-Fai [9]
SYNONYMS
Amomun montanum 
Zingiber cassumunar 
Zingiber purpureum 
NOTE: A dozen other synonyms are listed at theplantlist.org. 


Order:   Zingiberales
Family:   Zingiberaceae
Genus:    Zingiber
Species: montanum

Florida n c s

Edible Parts
Flower Root
Animal Interaction
No
Other Uses
Medicinal Fragrant
This beautiful edible ginger has thick bright yellow-colored rhizomes that have a hot, spicy, camphorous, sometimes bitter flavor. They are added to Thai and Malaysian dishes. The scent is reminiscent of a mixture of ginger, turmeric, and camphor. Many growers consider this species to be more of a medicinal plant, than an edible one. Some of my Thai gardening friends here in Florida call it Medicinal Ginger. In Thailand, it is incorporated into medicinal massage oils, lending them anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. It can easily be grown anywhere across the state and has quite beautiful brownish inflorescences with white flowers.



EDIBLE RHIZOME: The ”rhizome is used as a condiment” [5/6] “and has been widely cultivated across tropical Asia for food flavoring, often as a substitute for” Ginger. [9/12] Another source states that only the variant Roxburgh is added to Thai dishes, while some sources say that all types are edible.  MALAYSIA: It is “often seen near villages, the rhizomes of which are used in medicine and as spice.” [18] CAUTION: Being somewhat similar to true Ginger, it is sometimes used as a substitute or “adulterant/contaminant to the [Ginger] food/medicinal trade.” [19] TASTE: “Hot and camphorous” as well as “bitter and unpleasant.” [12] 
EDIBLE INFLORESCENCE: perennialsolutions [dot] org lists the flowerspikes as having “edible uses.” CAUTION: Being the only web-source for this information concerning the edibility of the inflorescence, it should be confirmed before ingestion. Please contact me if you find confirmation of the flower's edibility, thanks. 
MEDICINAL RHIZOME: The rhizome essential oil is added to medicinal massage oils in Thailand and used to relieve pain and inflammation. Used in traditional Asian medicine.  “The rhizome of variant Roxburgh is used medicinally in massage in Thailand.”  Used to treat diarrhea and colic. [5] Cabi.org writes, “Z. montanum is used throughout tropical Asia for medicinal purposes, primarily as a carminative and stimulant for the stomach, and against diarrhoea and colic. In Indonesia, the pounded rhizome is used as a poultice against headache, and in a variety of medicinal mixtures. The rhizome is administered internally as a vermifuge in Malaysia and for postpartum medication, while in Laos, it is applied against abscesses, fever, colic, diarrhoea and other intestinal disorders, a depurative, as well as a poison antidote. In Thailand, the species is the prime ingredient in massage oil to relieve muscle pain, and the rhizomes are taken against asthma (Wolff et al., 1999; Anasamy et al., 2013). In Northeast India, oral consumption of the rhizome paste was reported to treat dyspepsia and stomach bloating (Anasamy et al., 2013). Additionally, Z. montanum has been shown to exhibit pesticidal and fungicidal activity. The rhizomes of Z. montanum contain essential oils including terpinen-4-ol, which has been found to be effective against a range of pathogenic bacteria including Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Salmonella paratyphi, S. typhi and Shigellaflexneri. Zerumbone, another essential oil of the rhizome, has demonstrated antifungal activity against Thanetophoruscucumeris. Insecticidal activity in bioassays of the rhizome extracts were found against brown dog ticks (Rhipicephalussanguineus), as well as against Spodopteralittoralis larvae due to the presence of phenylbutanoids. Additionally, rhizome extracts have shown in vitro anthelmintic activity against Ascaridiagalli (Wolff et al., 1999; Phonsena et al., 2006).” [9] 
MEDICINAL STUDIES: “A Japanese study from 1991 suggests that (E)-1-(3,4-dimethoxyphenyl)but-1-ene, an active ingredient of Zingibercassumunar rhizomes, has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, an American study found that plai oil exhibits antimicrobial activity against a wide range of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, dermatophytes, and yeasts. Finally, a 1992 study discovered that the zerumbone contained in the rhizomes of the plant has antifungal properties against pathogenic fungi.  The plant also contains the essential oils sabinene 31-48%, terpineol 4-30%, and apparently unique Curcuminoid antioxidants, namely Cassumunarin types A, B, and C.”[7] 
MEDICINAL PROPERTIES: Stimulant [5], tonic [5]. “The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity of Z. montanum rhizomes has been linked to the presence of curcuminoids.” [9] “The anti-inflammatory as well as the analgesic and antipyretic effects have also been related to the presence of phenylbutenoids.” [9] 
ESSENTIAL OIL: “Dried rhizomes of Z. montanum yield 0.5% essential oil on steam distillation. The main constituent, terpinen-4-ol, is widely used in perfumery in artificial geranium, pepper, rose and other oils, (soap) perfumes and flavour compositions.” [9] 
AROMATHERAPY: “In aromatherapy, plai oil is utilized as an essential oil that is believed to ease pain and inflammation.”  
ANIMALS: REPELLENT: “The plant tends to be avoided by animals. It is therefore sometimes planted around the edges of rice fields to try and protect them from damage.” [5/8]

More Details

HABITAT: "Moist, partially shaded evergreen and monsoon forests, secondary forests, open habitats at forest edges, disturbed sites at bamboo thickets on rocky soils." [9]
NATURALIZED: “The plant often escapes from cultivation in the Greater Antilles.” [5] “It is naturalized in Puerto Rico.” [5] “It is listed as moderately invasive in northeastern Bangladesh.” [9/10]
DETAILED DESCRIPTION: It “has an upright growth habit (unlike the arching forms of some species).” [2]
HEIGHT
: “It is one of the tallest of the hardy Zingiber species, maxing out at 7-8 feet tall.” [2] 
FLOWER: “Beginning in late June to early July it starts producing several 'Chocolate Pinecone' inflorescences that are held on stems 8-16 inches long.  Cream colored flowers appear daily for weeks.  Once done flowering, the inflorescence begins turning red and will stay attractive for a few more weeks, making the whole blooming season one month long.”  [2] 
FRUIT: Round [ovoid] capsule, 1.5 cm. diameter. [11] 
RHIZOME: The form is similar to ginger rhizomes. The flesh of the rather thick rhizomes are bright yellow, resembling the color of Turmeric. “Internally pale carrot color.” [11] “The odor has been described as strong and reminiscent of a mixture of ginger, camphor, and turmeric.” [12]
DORMANCY: “It is naturally winter dormant in the wild.” [9]
ANIMAL REPELLENT: “The plant tends to be avoided by animals. It is therefore sometimes planted around the edges of rice fields to try and protect them from damage.” [5/8]
ADDITIONAL NOTES: Gingerwood Nusrery writes this about the form that they sell, “This particular form was first introduced as Zingiber purpureum in Hawaii.  It eventually made its way to the mainland but it still not very well known.  It is a reliable grower that is usually one of the first Zingiber to sprout and also one of the first to bloom.” [2] 


Flowering Calendar
J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D


Flower Color
White
Bearing Age
1 years

Habitat
Tropical forests
Native?
Non-Native


Plant Form
Herbaceous Deciduous Perennial Herb
Height
8 feet
Width
4 feet
Root type
Rhizome
Root size
1 feet
Rate of Growth
Moderate


Hardiness Zone
8a to 11b
Root Hardiness
15°F
Damaging Temp.
25°F
Ease of growth
Easy
Light
Part Sun Full Sun
Soil
Rich
Tolerances
Flood Tolerant
Spacing
4 feet

Does well in Containers

When to Propagate
J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D

When to Fertilize
J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D

When to Harvest
J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D


Sources for acquiring

FLORIDA: floridaforaging.com
LOUISIANA: gingerwoodnursery.com


References

[11] Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2005]. 
[17] Branney, 2005]. 
[9] cabi.org. 
[6] Dictionary of Economic Plants. 
[2] gingerwoodnursery.com. 
[15] Govaerts, 2013]. 
[19] Jiang et al., 2006]. 
[14] Kew World Checklist. 
[8] Mansfield’s Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Plants. 
[3] perennialsolutions.org. 
[10] Rahman et al, 2010]. 
[18] Ridley, 1897]. 
[1] theplantlist.org. 
[4] tistr.or.th. 
[16] USDA-ARS, 2013, Wiart, 2012]. 
[5] usefultropicalplants. 
[13] Wiart [2012]. 
[7] Wikipedia. 
[12] Wolff et al., 1999, Jiang et al., 2006, USDA-ARS, 2013]. 
Last Updated: October 28, 2017

Related Plants in Database


Also in Zingiberaceae
Alpinia galanga
Bosenbergia rotunda
Curcuma hybrid
Curcuma zanthorrhiza
Hedychium coronarium