What is Galangal? Galangal herb (Alpinia galanga) belongs to the ginger family and is an herb widely used in Southeast Asian cooking, especially Thai cooking. It is often called Siamese ginger. It is a rhizome of plants that is native to Indonesia, having not only culinary uses but also medicinal uses. In addition to Thai cuisines, you can also find galangal as an important ingredient in other Asian cuisines such as Indonesian, Malaysian and Vietnamese cuisines. Galangal, also known as Thai ginger or blue ginger is available in the markets as whole rhizomes or in the cut or powdered forms. It has an aroma that is similar to the combined smell of pine needles and black pepper, with a rather stronger and sweeter taste than ginger. It is also much harder and would require the use of a sharp knife or grater to cut it.
Galangal is known as ‘kha’ in Thai. In Vietnam, Galangal is known as riềng. Some Indian names of Galangal include kulanjan (Hindi), Kolanjan (Gujarati), or rasmi, sugandha vachi (Kannada); mostly derived from Arabic word qālanjān or adaptation of Chinese word Liangtiang (meaning mild ginger)
Nutritional value of Galangal
Galangal is a low calorie, low fat rhizome that is extremely good for your health. A serving of this herb is found to contain about 2 g of dietary fiber and 45 calories. It also contains vitamins A, vitamin C and minerals like sodium and iron. It is also a good source of phyto-chemicals including galangin, alpinin, emodin, kaemperol, kaempferide, quercetin and beta-Sitosterol. These flavonoids constitutes to most of the medicinal properties of galangal.
Health benefits of Galangal
Galangal is known to have countless health and medicinal benefits and hence is used in different forms of medicine such as Ayurveda and Homeopathy for the treatment of many ailments. A few of the health benefits of this wonderful rhizome are listed below:
Galangal skin benefits
Galangal has been used as an effective skin care ingredient. The juice of this herb, when applied topically is found to be beneficial for the treatment of several skin disorders. It helps in relieving pain and in healing wounds, burns and scars. Galangal is a storehouse of numerous potent antioxidants that fight off the free radicals that cause oxidative stress to the cells. By neutralizing the effects of these free radicals, the antioxidants in galangal help in protecting your skin against aging as well as many diseases.
Galangal also helps in improving blood circulation and in removing toxins from the body, which leaves your skin healthy and beautiful. It has powerful anti-bacterial properties that help in fighting against acne causing bacteria and preventing acne breakouts. Galangal can be used as skin cleanser that helps to keep your skin clean, fresh and smooth. It also rejuvenates your skin, making it look healthy and blemish-free.
Hair benefits of Galangal
Galangal also helps in maintain healthy and beautiful hair. The Ayurvedic system of medicine considers this help highly effective for the treatment of problems associated with the hair and scalp. Applying galangal on the scalp is found to help in increasing blood circulation, which in turn stimulates hair growth. Galangal contains many fatty acids that are helpful in preventing thinning of hair. A mixture of galangal juice and jojoba oil is believed to be effective not only for preventing hair loss but also for promoting hair growth. In addition to providing a natural shine and luster to your hair, the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in this herb also help in preventing dryness and brittleness of the hair.
Galangal extracts are found to be helpful in preventing hair loss and split ends. It also gives a pleasant fragrance to your hair. The anti-microbial properties of this herb help in eliminating dandruff. If you have dandruff, try applying galangal oil mixed with olive oil or sesame oil on your scalp. Massaging your scalp thoroughly with this mixture will help to get rid of dandruff.
Galangal has anti-inflammatory properties
According to scientists, galangal contains compounds that have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Excess production of nitric oxide in the body can induce inflammation. Galangal contains a class of compounds known as diarylheptanoids, which are found to inhibit the production of nitric oxide. Moreover, the flavonol Galangin present in this herb is found to increase the production of anti-inflammatory substances. The anti-inflammatory effect of galangal makes it beneficial for the treatment of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions caused by inflammation.
Galangal shows anti-microbial properties
Studies reveal that galangal extracts show powerful inhibitory effects against various virus including human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). It also shows anti-bacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumonia, Escherichia coli, Streptococcus pyogenes and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Galangal also shows strong inhibitory activities against certain strains of human pathogenic fungi such as Candida albicans. Galangal contains compound galangin which exhibits significant antiviral activity.
Galangal kills cancer cells
Various studies indicate that galangal exhibits anti-cancer activity. According to researches, it helps in both killing the cancer cells as well as in increasing the ability of the cells to fight cancer. Compounds isolated from galangal were found to be effective in killing lung and breast cancer cells and in boosting the immunity of the healthy cells. Galangol, which is oil obtained from Galangal and acrid resin are the two main components of Galangal that play an important role in fighting cancer.
Another compound found in Galangal that has been found to eliminate cancer cells is acetoxychavicol acetate. Studies reveal that this compound is effective against various types of cancer such as breast, blood, lung, and skin cancers. Researchers in Japan have found out that the extract of galangal can be used as a potential remedy to prevent cancer. The extract has strong anti-oxidant properties that destroy the free radicals responsible for causing oxidative stress and DNA mutations which lead to cancer. Studies conducted in Thailand shows that the consumption of galangal helps in inhibiting the growth of Heliobacter pylori, cancer-causing bacteria that lives in the stomach.
Galangal for digestive health
Galangal has a stimulating and carminative effect on the digestive system and hence is often used as a digestive tonic. It aids peristalsis, promotes the secretion of gastric juices, and relieves gas in the digestive tract. Just like ginger, galangal is also used as a digestive stimulant which helps to relieve stomach disorders such as flatulence, bloating, constipation and sluggish digestion.
Galangal keeps your heart healthy
Galangal is often described as a heart medicine. It has been proven that this herb helps in preventing heart attacks by reducing platelet aggregation, which helps to prevent the occurrence of blood clots. It further contributes to maintaining a healthy heart by improving blood circulation in the body. Several studies indicate that galangal supports the cardiac activity by strengthening the contraction of the muscles of the heart, thereby influencing the heart rate frequency. The extracts of galangal have been found to have the ability to lower total cholesterol, phospholipids, triglycerides and low density lipoproteins (LDL) or bad cholesterol. It also helps in significantly increasing the levels of high density lipoproteins (HDL), also known as good cholesterol. This cholesterol lowering effect of galangal is beneficial in preventing conditions like arteriosclerosis. Galangal has also been found to be effective in lowering high blood pressure, which is another factor that increases the risk of heart attacks and heart diseases.
Galangal and diabetes
Galangal is known to lower blood glucose levels and hence may be helpful for people suffering from diabetes.
Galangal as a remedy for nausea and morning sickness
Galangal has a powerful fragrance that is helpful in easing nausea. It is a wonderful remedy for pregnant women who suffer from loss of appetite, nausea and morning sickness. A home- made remedy using galangal for reducing nausea is to drink a concoction of galangal with warm water and honey. Galangal is also effective if you have seasickness or motion sickness.
Galangal may increase fertility
Clinical trials have found that galangal stimulates spermatogenesis and increases sperm counts and motility. Extracts of galangal have potential for increasing fertility.
Benefits of Galangal oil
Galangal essential oil is also known as false ginger oil. It is pale yellow in colour with eucalyptus, cardamom or ginger like odor. Galangal essential oil is used as carminative for treating flatulence and other digestive disorders. It is used in skin and hair care for its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.
Selection and storage of galangal
Although galangal is harvested during the summer and fall, it is available all year round. You can buy it from Asian stores, especially Thai grocery stores. When buying galangal, look for small ones having firm and unblemished skin. Avoid the ones that appear to be wrinkled, as they are old and dry. The smaller rhizomes are softer and tender and are easy to cut.
Unlike ginger, it is not necessary to peel galangal. Just rinse the root thoroughly under cold water and get rid of any dirt on the skin, and then pat dry. Galangal can stay fresh for up to two to three weeks when stored in the vegetable drawer of a refrigerator. To store in the refrigerator, first clean and dry the root and then wrap it in plastic wrap. It would be good if you could first wrap it in a damp cloth and then place the root in a plastic bag. Another way of storing galangal is to cut the unpeeled rhizome into small slices, wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it. This way it will keep fresh for up to three months without losing its flavor.
You might come across lesser Galangal. What is lesser Galangal? What is difference between ‘greater galangal’ and ‘lesser galangal’? Word Galangal is often used for various variants of galanga. Four other common speices include – Alpinia galanga or greater galangal, Alpinia officinarum or lesser galangal, Kaempferia galanga or kencur (aromatic ginger, sand ginger) and Boesenbergia rotunda also called Chinese ginger or fingerroot.
Some healthy galanga thai cuisine you may try out: Natty Netsuwan shows you how to make Vegetarian Tom Yum Hed – a spicy soup with galangal flavors. Galangal is a popular ingredient in Thai recipes; thai restaurant in New York gets its name from this herb – Galangal Syosset. Try this Galangal beer recipe by Sprott. Galanga is used to flavor Polish Żołądkowa Gorzka vodka
Where to buy galangal? Galangal though available in Asian grocery stores, its availability is sometimes a problem. Often while cooking people look out for Galangal substitute. Ginger is often looked upon on Galangal alternative. Some people may call Galangal – an upscaled version of ginger. However, both have different and complex flavor and aroma. Most thai recipes use both galangal and ginger. Galangal is hotter with peppery undertones. Yes, Galangal may be expensive compared to ginger though. In case of fresh galangal is not available, one can try out for dried galangal and galangal powder.
As you can see, the uses and benefits of galangal are wide-ranging. The high levels of nutrients and antioxidants in this herb not only make it a wonderful culinary ingredient but also a medicinal plant. The health benefits of galangal have been recognized throughout Asia for several centuries. Nowadays various other products to such as galangal root beer, powder, tea, extract, oil, etc. are also prepared and marketed in many parts of the world.