Galangal gives a fresh and full-of-gusto feel to any Thai or Asian dish. This ginger look-alike (and close cousin) has tremendous therapeutic importance in Chinese and traditional Asian medicine. The phytochemicals present in it make galangal a strong antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer agent.
Read on to know the what, why, and how of galangal, in-depth!
Table Of Contents
What Is Galangal?
Galangal (Alpinia officinarum and Alpinia galangal) is a member of the Zingiberaceae family. This perennial herb is indigenous to South-east China and Indonesia and grows in the plains of West Bengal, Assam, and Eastern Himalayas in India (1).
Ayurveda and traditional Chinese and European medicine have used different parts of galangal to treat colds, stomach ache, inflammation, diabetes, ulcers, nausea, diarrhea, eczema, and various acute and chronic conditions (1).
The seed of galangal is used as a mouth freshener, dental cleanser, digestive aid, and laxative. The flowers and tender shoots are used as a spice or vegetable. The root or rhizome is used as a spice and source of essential oil (like ginger).
As it looks, tastes, and feels like ginger, galangal is also called the ‘mild ginger’ (Liang-tiang) in Chinese. Like ginger, galangal has flavonoids, polyphenols, terpenes, and essential oils (2).
Want to know how these bioactive components of galangal work together on your body systems? Read the next section to find the answers!
How Is Galangal Beneficial For Your Body?
1. Has Antidiabetic Properties
According to a 2015 study, methanolic extracts of galangal showed antidiabetic potential. Aerial parts of galangal can stimulate the regeneration of insulin-secreting ß-cells in the pancreas. Administering galangal extracts to diabetic rats lowered cholesterol and triglyceride levels, improving lipid metabolism and preventing diabetic complications (3).
Galangal extract was found to inhibit carbohydrate metabolism, minimizing the postprandial blood glucose spikes. The glucose-controlling activity was on par with synthetic antidiabetic drugs (4).
Due to its antioxidant activity, this herbal medicine can protect your liver and pancreas from oxidative stress and damage. The polyphenols, alkaloids, triterpenes, steroids, and carbohydrates in galangal are proposed to be responsible for this activity (3).
2. Might Possess Antiproliferative Effects
Aqueous extract of Alpinia galangal can inhibit the proliferation of human gastric tumor cell lines. The galangal rhizome (root) contains two cytotoxic compounds namely, acetoxychavicol acetate and p-coumaryl alcohol-O-methyl ether (5).
Galangal extracts showed anticancer effects on melanoma (skin) cells, preventing skin cancer too (5).
The cytotoxic compounds in this Chinese herb can induce glutathione-S-transferase (GST) activity in the liver cells. GSTs eliminate mutagenic compounds and free radicals, thus preventing cancerous changes from occurring (6).
3. Can Aid The Treatment Of Arthritis And Other Inflammatory Diseases
Galangal rhizomes have flavonoids, tannins, saponins, glycosides, and several phenolic compounds. These phytochemicals, galangin particularly, showed potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects in animal studies (7).
Galangin down-regulates the expression of genes that produce pro-inflammatory compounds like cytokines and interleukins (8).
As galangal extracts may inhibit COX-1 and 2 and lipoxygenase pathways, they could be used to manage arthritis, edema, inflammatory bowel disease, and other inflammatory disorders (9).
4. Has Antimicrobial Properties
Researchers claim that the essential oils from dried and fresh galangal rhizomes can eliminate bacteria, yeast, fungi, and parasites. Terpinen-4-ol, one of the monoterpenes in the essential oil derived from fresh galangal rhizome possesses antimicrobial activity against Trichophyton mentagrophytes (10).
Acetoxychavicol acetate (ACA), a compound isolated from the extract of dried rhizomes, is active against certain dermatophyte (skin-infesting) bacterial species. Among turmeric and ginger, galangal has the most potent inhibitory effect against Staphylococcus aureus (10).
Alpinia galanga is also a broad-spectrum fungicide. It can inhibit fungi and yeast, such as Aspergillus niger, Trichophyton longifusus, Colletotrichum musae, Fusarium oxysporum, Trichophyton mentagrophytes, Trichophyton rubrum, and Rhizopus stolonifer (11).
5. Can Boost Sperm Count And Motility
Unlike other aphrodisiacs or fertility supplements, galangal is safe and non-toxic. Rat studies showed that 56 days of treatment with galangal rhizome improved spermatogenesis and related parameters (12).
The sperm count and mobility increased after this treatment. The increase in sperm density and motility in cauda epididymis (the storage site for mature sperm) can affect fertilization (12).
Galangal influences the protein production via expression of related genes involved in spermatogenesis. It could, hence, be used in drugs to promote male fertility (12). Clinical data can elucidate the safety of this herbal extract in the future.
In the earlier sections, we briefly discussed how a powerful phytochemical profile gives galangal its unique health benefits.
Let’s look at those phytochemicals in detail. Scroll down!
Biochemical Composition Of Galangal
Most sub-species of galangal have good amounts of flavonoids. Galangin, alpinin, kaempferol, kaempferide, pinene, pineol, chavicol, methyl cinnamate, hydroxycinnamaldehyde, isorhamnetin, camphene, myrcene, p-cymene, borneol, terpineol, 4-terpineol, fenchyl acetate, bornyl acetate, humulene, and zerumbone were a few identified ones (13).
The leaf oil contains myrcene, ocimene, pinene, borneol, caryophyIIene, and bisabolene. The essential oil from galangal flower has a-pinene, sabinene, limonene, phellandrene, 1,8-cineole, linalool, terpinen-4-ol, a-terpineol, methyleugenol, patchoulene, caratol, a-farnesene, nerolidol, bisabolol and benzyl benzoate (13).
The galangal fruits contain acetyleugenol acetate and 1′-acetoxychavicol acetate. The seed contains caryophyllene oxide, caryophyllenol, pentadecane, 7-heptadecane, and fatty acid methyl esters (13).
It is because of these terpinols and esters in the essential oils that galangal is used as a perfume or freshener in India and the Middle Eastern countries.
As a bonus, each serving of galangal gives you 45 calories and 2 g of dietary fiber. It is also a natural source of sodium, iron, vitamins A and C (almost like ginger).
That, indeed, is a power-packed biochemical profile! No wonder the Chinese obsessed over galangal and made many recipes with it.
Yes, that’s right. Several cuisines incorporate galangal in their delicacies. Here’s a quick and simple recipe for you.
How To Cook With Galangal Root
It doesn’t take a lot of prep to cook. Above all, its healthy quotient (HQ) is 100X! Let’s shift to the kitchen!
The Jungle Thai Curry – With Galangal And Mushroom
What You Need
- Coconut milk: 2 cps
- Galangal: 1, ½-inch piece, peeled and sliced
- Kaffir lime leaves: 3, chopped or torn
- Salt: 2 teaspoons
- Fresh mushrooms: ⅓ pound, sliced
- Thai chili peppers: 5, chopped
- Fresh lime juice: ¼ cup
- Fish sauce: 1 tablespoon
- Boiling pot: medium-large
Let’s Make It!
- Add coconut milk and galangal in the boiling pot. Bring it to a boil.
- Add the kaffir lime leaves and salt.
- Simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Add mushrooms to the mixture and cook until soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Add the lime juice and fish sauce to the mixture. Stir well.
- Transfer the contents to a serving bowl.
- Garnish with the Thai chilies.
- Serve hot with some fresh and fragrant jasmine rice and tapioca crisps.
- Gin hâi a-ròi! (Bon appetit!)
South-east Asian and Asian cooking offers everything on a platter that soothes your body during every meal.
Let us know how you liked this basic jungle curry. If you do not like the taste of galangal in your meals, you can substitute it with ginger.
Remember, ginger is a stronger spice than galangal. You will have to use just about ¾th of the latter.
In A Nutshell…
Galangal is a refreshing and worthy addition to your spice rack. Almost every part of the plant can be used either for cooking or healing.
Its juice and essential oil, like ginger’s, might help in managing digestive issues, cold, cough, diabetes, and hypertension.
You can try substituting ginger with galangal in your herbal tea. If you have any other ideas of using galangal, feel free to share them with us.
We’re eager to know how this read helped you. Leave your feedback, comments, suggestions, and queries in the comments box below.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
How do you store galangal?
Wrap the galangal root in a damp, clean cloth. Then, wrap it in a plastic bag. You can store galangal this way in the fridge for a long time. The root retains the moisture from the cloth and stays fresh too.
If it is for extended storage, you might have to change the damp cloth to prevent fungal infestation.
- “A Review on the Pharmacological Activities and Phytochemicals…” Pharmacognosy Review.
- “SPICES- Exotic Flavors & Medicines” Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library, University of California.
- “Anti-diabetic activity of methanolic extract of Alpinia…” AYU, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Antioxidant and Antidiabetic Activity of Alpinia Galanga” International Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemical Research, Academia.
- “The Effect of Aqueous Extract of Alpinia Galangal…” Iranian Journal of Cancer Prevention, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Anticancer Properties of Alpinia officinarum…” International Journal of Advanced Research, Academia.
- “Phytochemical evaluation and screening of Anti-arthritic…” Academia.
- “Anti-inflammatory effects of galangin on lipopolysaccharide….” Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Ginger – “Mother Nature’s 7-Up and Crackers!” University of Wisconsin School and Public Health.
- “Antimicrobial properties and action of galangal…” ScienceDirect, Elsevier, Academia.
- “Biological activities of Greater galangal, Alpinia galanga…” Research & Reviews: Journal of Botanical Sciences, Academia.
- “Molecullar and biochemical effect of alcoholic extract…” Iranian Journal of Reproductive Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
- “The Pharmacological Activities of Alpinia galangal…” International Journal for Pharmaceutical Research Scholars, Academia.
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