Medicinal plants

Galangal - origin, ingredients and use

Galangal - origin, ingredients and use

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It not only looks like ginger, but is also related to it. We are talking about the Great Galangal (Alpinia galanga), which is often mistakenly referred to as 'Galant'. Originally native to China, it is now cultivated in large parts of Asia and is in great demand not only as an exclusive spice, but also as a medicinal herb.

Similar to ginger, the bulbous rhizome of the plant, i.e. the galangal root, is mainly used. It contains the highest concentration of healing and spicy essences and is therefore of particular interest for culinary and medicinal use. As always, we will tell you in our article on the topic which ingredients make galangal a real asset for kitchens and medicine cabinets and what else there is to know about Alpinia galanga.

Profile of the galangal

  • Scientific name: Alpinia galanga
  • Plant family: Ginger Family (Zingiberaceae)
  • Popular names: Chinese ginger, fever root, gallant, gallant root, kha, Thai ginger
  • Origin: Asia
  • Application areas: Inflammation, menstrual cramps, indigestion
  • Plant parts used: Rhizome

Galangal - plant portrait

Like the ginger, the galangal belongs to the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) and, like this, comes mainly from Asia, where both plants have always been used as herbs and medicinal herbs. The home of the galangal was originally on the Chinese island of Hainan. Today, however, its distribution area extends far beyond the borders of China, whereby it is cultivated very actively, especially in Thailand. It is hardly surprising that the plant today not only has nicknames like 'Chinese ginger', but is also known as 'Thai ginger'.

The eager use as an Asian kitchen spice combines galangal and ginger in a special way and makes both spices a real figurehead of Asian cuisine. In terms of taste, the two plants have little in common despite similar areas of use and botanical affinity. Alpinia galanga, for example, tastes extremely bitter when raw, whereas ginger has a more citrusy taste. Great galangal is also a lot sharper and is a good 50 centimeters larger than comparable specimens of ginger.

However, the differences are irrelevant for the application areas of both medicinal plants. For example, galangal, like ginger, is a popular treatment for indigestion and is often used for this purpose as an ingredient in digestive dishes. Especially the galangal is often processed into bitters or stomach tea.

Spices and spice pastes, which contain extracts from the two plants, are also common in Asia. The best example of this is the famous green curry paste, which forms an important part of numerous Asian dishes and has long since arrived in Germany on the culinary scene. Other spices that often contain galangal are grill, liqueur and liver sausage flavors.

Incidentally, the galangal owes its specialist botanical name 'Alpinia' to the Italian botanist Prospero Alpini. In his honor, the galangal was once christened Alpina by Charles Plumier, a natural monk from France. In 1753, the Swedish botanist Carl von Linné finally gave a first description of the plant in his two-volume work 'Species Plantarum' and converted the outdated spelling Alpina into Alpinia.

Unfortunately, the galangal also has some misleading nicknames: In addition to the incorrect designation as 'galant', laypeople primarily make the distinction between the little or real galangal (Alpinia officinarum) also known as the 'Siam galangal' and the great galangal (Alpinia galanga) occasional problems.

Although both species are used equally in herbal medicine, the Great Galangal has been used for much longer than its smaller counterpart. Because already 2000 years ago the Alpinia galanga played an important role in traditional Chinese medicine. From its Chinese homeland, the spicy tuber finally conquered the regions of Europe under the name 'Kha' in the 8th century AD. Hildegard von Bingen already knew how to make an effective medicine for heart problems and fever from galangal. The famous herbalist wrote:

“Anyone who suffers pain in the heart and who is at risk of a weakness on the part of the heart should immediately eat a sufficient amount of galangal and it will get better. And a person who has a fever in them drinks galangal powder in spring water and he will quench the fever. ”
- Hildegard von Bingen

The designation of the galangal as 'fever root' is certainly due to this type of use. As already indicated, the root is generally used for medicinal purposes because of its digestive effect. It has been medically documented since the 16th century, when, for example, the Italian doctor Pietro Andrea Mattioli wrote the following about the medicinal plant:

"Galangal aromatizes the breath, promotes digestion, eliminates flatulence and stimulates the physical cravings." - Pietro Andrea Mattioli

In addition, according to various studies, Alpinia galanga has antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties. All in all, the following areas of application for galangal can be identified:

  • Inflammation such as gastrointestinal inflammation or inflammation in the mouth.
  • Heart problems such as angina pectoris, poor blood circulation or weak heart.
  • Menstrual problems such as an irregular cycle or abdominal pain.
  • Indigestion such as flatulence, disturbed bile juice production, stomach cramps or a feeling of fullness.
  • Other complaints such as loss of appetite, fever, bad breath or tumor diseases.
  • Galangal root - ingredients and effects

    The composition of the ingredients in galangal is very similar to that in ginger. The aromatic components may vary, but the effect of the almost identical plant substances is the same. The essential ingredients of the essential oil of the plant come into play here, for example:

    • Flavorings,
    • Flavonoids,
    • Tannins
    • and terpenes.


    In many cases, herbal flavorings not only bring an extraordinary taste of the plants and their fruits, but often also have special health effects. This also applies to the galangal. The digestive and antispasmodic properties of galangal are attributed to the plant substance gingerol, the name of which already reveals that it is also one of the most important ingredients in ginger.

    On the other hand, gallganic resins also contribute to the medicinal properties of the plant. In this connection, the plant resins galangol and alpinol are particularly noteworthy. The spicy-tasting ingredients are found in almost all medicinal plants from the ginger family, but owe their name to the first discovery on galangal.

    Like Gingerol, they have very diverse healing effects on different areas of the human body. This includes, among other things, the stimulation of vascular and muscle contractions, which play an important role both in digestion and in the initiation of menstruation. Alpinoles, galangoles and gingerols have also been shown to have a stimulating effect on the production of anti-inflammatory substances. In addition, it is suspected that the cancer-inhibiting effect of galangal can also be attributed to said ingredients.

    Another flavoring agent to be mentioned in galangal is eugenol. It is characterized by a very intense smell that is reminiscent of cloves and is used very often, especially for the treatment of diseases in the mouth. From dental diseases such as periodontitis or pulpitis to inflammation of the mouth or throat mucosa, numerous drugs rely on the

    • disinfectant,
    • anti-inflammatory
    • and analgesic

    Effect of eugenol. In addition, the refreshing taste of the flavoring can also help with bad breath. However, it should be noted that eugenol is extremely hot, which is why skin and mucous membrane irritation can occur when overdosed. A main reason why extracts of galangal should be diluted well with water when used in the mouth (for example as a mouthwash).


    Flavonoids play an important role when it comes to the anti-inflammatory effects of medicinal herbs. Flavonoids are vegetable dyes that owe their name to the fact that the first plant dyes discovered and used were originally yellow.

    The name of the flavonoids is accordingly from the Latin word flavus derived for "yellow". Even though there are of course other colors in this group of substances, it is particularly noticeable with ginger and galangal how long yellow plant dyes in particular have been in use. This not only for the purpose of dyeing textiles, but also to give dishes a special color. Especially in Asian cuisine, yellowish-orange sauces and rice side dishes are very common, not least because of the use of galangal and ginger for curry mixes.

    From a medical point of view, as already indicated, flavonoids are particularly noticeable because of their anti-inflammatory potential. Their antioxidative effect protects, among other things, from heart and vascular inflammation. Add to that

    • digestive,
    • relaxing,
    • anti allergic,
    • antimicrobial,
    • antiviral
    • and even anti-carcinogenic

    Properties that help preventively but also palliatively against infectious, inflammatory and cancer diseases. The indicated areas of application of galangal in medicine are optimally supported.


    The vegetable tannins (so-called tannins) in galangal have a very similar effect to flavonoids. As a standardized disinfectant for tanning animal skins, tannins have always proven themselves in the fight against infectious agents. Due to their contracting effect on organic tissue, they close pores and vessels, which prevents pathogens from penetrating deeper into the body tissue. Above all, wound and skin infections can be counteracted very reliably.

    In addition, the astringent effect ensures that the release of inflammatory substances in the tissue is inhibited. This can be a real help not only for infectious diseases, but also for existing allergies, which are known to usually be associated with inflammatory reactions.


    A blood circulation-promoting effect can finally be recorded for the terpenes in the galangal. In addition, this group of substances, such as tannins and flavonoids, is characterized by an anti-inflammatory effect. The most important terpene in galangal is the monoterpene camphor. It is used by default as an important ingredient in inflammation and pain ointments. The Asian tiger ointment should be well known here, which is considered a "miracle cure" for strains and sprains. You knew very early on how to experiment with the ingredients of medicinal herbs like galangal.

    It should also be emphasized that camphor is the oldest analeptic in the world. Analeptics are medicines for the treatment of nerve complaints, with which the monoterpene covers a very interesting area of ​​application of galangal. By stimulating certain sections of the central nervous system, Campher can not only help with general nerve complaints, but also very specifically with disorders of the respiratory muscles, which are also known to be controlled by nerve impulses.

    When used correctly, galangal can also help with neurologically related lung complaints such as respiratory depression. In addition, of course, the analgesic aspect of pain relief should be mentioned, as pain is also generally due to the corresponding nerve stimuli.

    Galangal - application and dosage

    In medicine, the galangal root is used primarily for medicinal purposes. Sliced ​​into fine slices, the bulbous rhizomes can be brewed as tea, for example, or support the taste of other spices when cooking and thus refine the aroma of dishes. In general, a daily dose of two to four grams of the medicinal plant is recommended, with about 0.5 to one gram of the spice per cup of tea.

    You should not let the tea infusion brew for longer than ten minutes, otherwise the sharpness will become extremely intense. If you like it a little less spicy in general, you can also use the small galangal instead of the large galangal. The taste is a little less intense.

    Galangal is also part of a green curry paste, in which it is one of the most important ingredients. Processing for meat marinade is also conceivable. A very special tip in the area of ​​medicinal plant use are the old recipes by Hildegard von Bingen. Already in the Middle Ages, she knew how to make numerous elixirs from the health-promoting root of Chinese ginger. We would like to introduce three of them to you:

    Raspberry-galangal juice for flu and fever

    Ingredients: You only need two for the raspberry-galangal juice according to Hildegard von Bingen: a glass of raspberry juice and one or two knife tips of galangal powder.

    Preparation: Galangal powder can either be ground from dried galangal root itself or obtained from crushed galangal tablets or opened galangal capsules. Simply pour the powder into a glass of raspberry juice and, if necessary, refine it with half a lemon juice to improve the taste.

    The drink is particularly recommended every day in the autumn and winter months to prevent flu and fever diseases. The raspberry-galangal juice can also be enjoyed during an illness.

    Galangal wine for heart problems and circulatory disorders

    Galangal wine can be made quickly and easily.

    You need:

    • a teaspoon of fresh galangal root (cut),
    • a quarter liter of red wine
    • and a saucepan.

    Preparation: Heat the red wine to a moderate temperature. As soon as the wine bubbles, a teaspoon of cut galangal root is added and the whole thing is boiled for about ten minutes. Then take the galangal wine off the stove and let it cool briefly before it is drunk warm in small sips.

    Good to know: Thanks to its rich content of tannins and antioxidants, which come from the dark flavonoids of the black long grapes, red wine naturally has a strengthening effect on the heart. Combined with the heart-strengthening ingredients of galangal, this effect is further improved. Needless to say, wine should only be enjoyed in moderation as an alcoholic beverage. A cup of galangal wine is therefore indicated as the maximum daily dose.

    It should also be noted that galangal alone cannot cure heart disease. The recipe is therefore only to be understood as a supportive, medicinal plant extract for the existing treatment with suitable cardiac medications. Please ask your doctor in advance regarding compatibility with prescribed medicines.

    Galangal latwerge for heart failure

    The Galgant-Latwerge after Hildegard von Bingen is a gently cooked mus from honey, marjoram, celery seeds, white pepper and galangal. According to Hildegard medicine, the latwerge has a strengthening effect on the heart.


    • 10 grams (g) galangal root powder,
    • 12 g marjoram powder,
    • 12 g celery seed powder,
    • 4 g white pepper
    • and 400 g honey.

    Preparation: Grind the herbs into a fine powder and then mix it with the honey in a large bowl. The mixture is then heated in a water bath, resulting in the so-called latwerge. Ideally, a teaspoon of the Latwerge is then placed in a liqueur glass of parsley and honey wine according to Hildegard von Bingen and drunk three times a day.

    Side effects

    Side effects and contraindications are so far not known at Galangal. However, in view of the extreme sharpness of the medicinal plant, a moderate dosage is recommended. In general, a daily dose of two to four grams of medicinal plants is recommended, with about 0.5 to one gram of the spice per cup of tea. Do not let the infusion brew for longer than 10 minutes so that the sharpness does not become too dominant.


    Galangal root is a wonderful remedy for the treatment of stomach and menstrual cramps. The rhizomes of the medicinal plants are said to have a positive effect even on tumors. Be careful when dosing the roots, because the sharpness of galangal should not be underestimated. (ma)

    Author and source information

    This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


    • Puhle, Annekatrin; Trott-Tschepe, Jürgen; Möller, Birgit: Medicinal plants for health: 333 plants - new and handed down healing knowledge plant medicine, homeopathy, aroma science, cosmos, 2015
    • Strehlow, Dr. Wighard: The Hildegard healing treasures: yarrow, violet, galangal, Bertram - 4 strong helpers for illness, surgery and convalescence, Knaur MensSana, 2018
    • Hildegard von Bingen's great book: Proven healing knowledge for health and well-being, Naumann & Göbel, 2017
    • Heepen, Günther H .: The healing knowledge of Hildegard von Bingen: Natural Remedies - Nutrition - Precious Stones, Graes and Unzer Verlag, 2015
    • Zeng, Q.H .; Lu, C.L .; Zhang, W.W .; Jiang, J.G .: Isolation and identification of ingredients inducing cancer cell death from the seeds of Alpinia galanga, a Chinese spice, in: Food & Function, 6 (2): 431-43, February 2015, PubMed
    • Chouni, Anirban; Paul, Santanu: A Review on Phytochemical and Pharmacological Potential of Alpinia galanga, in: Pharmacognosy Journal, 10/1: 09-15, 2018, Pharmacognosy Journal
    • Samarghandian, Saeed; Hadjzadeh, Mousa-Al-Reza; Tavakkol Afshari, Jalil; Hosseini, Mohadeseh: Antiproliferative activity and induction of apoptotic by ethanolic extract of Alpinia galanga rhizhome in human breast carcinoma cell line, in: BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 14: 192, 2014, PMC
    • Kojima-Yuasa, Akiko; Tomiyama, Takami; Umeda, Tomohiro et al .: Preventive Effect of Dementia on the Extract of Alpinia Galanga (P14-016-19), in: Current Developments in Nutrition, 3 (Suppl 1), June 2019, PMC
    • Kaushik, Dhirender; Yadav, Jyoti; Kaushik, Pawan; Sacher, Disha; Rani, Ruby: Current pharmacological and phytochemical studies of the plant Alpinia galanga, in: Journal of Integrative Medicine, 9 (10): 1061-1065, 2011, Journal of Integrative Medicine

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