Galangal health benefits

Know in one minute about galangal

  • Galangal helps to treat sexual dysfunction and improve male fertility.
  • Boost the immune system, mental alertness, memory, and learning.
  • Treat diabetes-associated disorder, diarrhea, inflammation, and arthritic pain
  • It helps to treat heart, kidney, gastrointestinal, and urinary bladder damages.
  • Reduce the cholesterol level and improve blood flow.
  • Fight with bacteria, Mosquitoes, and cancer cells.

Introduction

Galangal is reddish-brown rhizomes (roots) which have an aromatic spicy flavor and a pungent taste. The rhizomes of this plant are extensively used as a spice or ginger substitute for flavoring food.  It is primarily used in the preparation of fresh Thai curry paste, Thai soup, and in combination with garlic, ginger, chili, and lemon. It is also used in traditional Ayurvedic, Unani, Chinese and Thai medicine for the treatment of various diseases. Galangal benefits in health are due to its antibacterial, antioxidant, anticancer, anti-diarrhea, anti-inflammatory, and many other pharmacological properties (1).

Galangal comes in three different varieties

1. Lesser galangal (Alpinia officinarum Hance.) is a native of southeast China. Its rhizome is smaller, thick, creep, and has a stronger odor and taste.

2. Greater galangal (Alpinia galanga (L.) Willd.) is commonly found in South East Asia. It is now cultivated throughout tropical and subtropical Asia, such as India, Egypt, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and China. The rhizome gives a pungent taste like a mixture of pepper and ginger. 

3. The light galangal (Alpinia speciosa (Wendl.) K. Schum) is a native of the Eastern Archipelago, off the Coromandel Coast of southeast India. Its rhizome is much larger and is generally used as a substitute for greater galanga, and even as a substitute for ginger (2).

Nutritional value of galangal

Greater galangal contains acetoxychavicol acetate (ACA) and hydroxychavicol acetate (HCA).  It contains a low amount of fat but a high amount of carbohydrates. Greater galangal is also known to possess flavonoids such as kaempferol, kaempferide, and galangin as well as the terpenoids. However, lesser galangal is rich in flavonoids, diarylheptanoids, and essential oil. (3).

Health benefits of galangal

1. Antimicrobial properties of Galangal

The rhizomes of Galangal contain acetoxychavicol acetate, 5-hydroxymethyl furfural, benzyl alcohol, 1,8 cineole, methyl cinnamate, 3-phenyl-2-butanone, and 1,2 benzene dicarboxylic acid. (4).

These compounds help to fight against Bacillus subtilis, Salmonella typhimurium, Enterobacter aerogene, Enterobacter cloacae, Streptococcus epidermis, and Klebsiella pneumonia.

It also inhibits the growth of Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Enterococcus faecalis, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis thus making the antibiotic treatment more effective (5, 6).

2. Treat diabetic nephropathy

Poorly controlled diabetes can cause damage to the kidney, heart, gastrointestinal and urinary bladder.  However, galangal contains phenolic and flavonoid compounds that help to decrease glucose, urea nitrogen level in blood.

It is also effective to increase body weight, good enzymes, and prevent kidney damage. Moreover, this root is beneficial to lower the bad cholesterol and triglycerides level as well as increase the good cholesterol level in the blood  (7).

3. Galangal boost immunity

It contains a rich amount of flavonoids (quercetin), phenols, glycosides, polysaccharide, and terpenoids. These antioxidants activate the immune response, increase the level of the antioxidant enzyme thus boost the immune system (8).

4. Keep brain healthy

Galangal contains flavonoids, tannins, and terpenoids that stimulate the central nervous system, enhance mental alertness, reduce drowsiness and tiredness (9, 10).

Besides this, it also contains acetoxyeugenol acetate that helps to improve memory and concentration thus treat Alzheimer’s type of amnesia  (11)

Moreover, galangal is also effective to reduce the severity of epileptic seizures, improve learning disorders, and associated mood disorders (12).

5. Treat giardiasis

Giardiasis is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the parasite and tends to be higher in HIV-infected persons. These infections symptoms like abdominal cramps, bloating, nausea, and watery diarrhea. However, the intake of galangal as self-medication by AIDS patients may help to treat this type of infection (13).

6. Good for reproductive health

Galangal is rich in semi-volatile and volatile compounds such as phenylpropanoids with acetoxychavicol acetate and pinocembrin. These compounds help to increase the total number of motile sperm in subfertile men (inability to conceive).

Apart from this it also helps to increase sperm counts and serum testosterone levels thus may be useful to produce drugs to improve male fertility (14).

7. Anticancer properties of Galangal

Acetoxychavicol acetate, 1,7-bis(4-hydroxyphenyl)-1,4,6-heptatrien-3-one (BHPHTO) and bisdemethoxycurcumin (BDMC)  found in galangal act as an antiulcer and antitumor agents (15). T

his compound inhibits the growth of cancer cells and induces apoptosis (natural death of cells) such as human gastric cancer (16, 17). It also helps to destroy the cells like  breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, human melanoma cancer, pancreatic cancer prostate cancer (18, 19)

8. Treat inflammation and pain

Ingestion of galangal is effective to reduce pain and inflammation in the joints due to the presence of galangin in them (20). Thus galangal may be useful for the treatment of short term as well as long term arthritis (21).

9. Antioxidant properties of Galangal

It contains a high amount of antioxidant compounds such as tannins, alkaloids, flavonoids, and saponins. Also, contain phenol and flavonol which scavenge harmful radicals from the body and protect against various diseases (22).

10. Mosquitoes replant properties

Galangal is rich in terpenoids, flavonoids, and trans-cinnamic acid that can kill Aedes aegypti, Anopheles dirus, and Culex quinquefasciatus larvae (23).

11. Prevent heart disease

Intake of galangal rhizome help to relax the blood vessels and increase blood supply to the organs. Thus galangal is effective to prevent cardiac contractions and stroke (24).

Side effect of galangal

A research study supported that a high dosage (more than 2000 mg/kg) of galangal may cause weakness, goosebumps, and lack of muscle control or coordination. Moreover, it also causes fear of gaining weight, excessive urination, diarrhea, coma, and even death in animals. Whereas, these side effects of galangal on humans is still needed research (25).

1. Risk of organ damage

Galangal consumption for the long term may increase all enzymes (good and bad) which might be toxic to the heart, liver, and kidney. It also causes contact dermatitis. Thus, some caution should be taken into consideration when using galangal for long periods (26).

2. Risk of herpes-associated erythema multiforme

A research study suggested that after intake of galangal containing capsule may cause erythema multiforme. This is a common allergic reaction that occurs in association with herpes simplex virus and due to the haptens present in galangal thus precaution should be needed before consumption (27).

Q&A

Is turmeric and galangal the same thing?

Turmeric and galangal both belong to the same family Zingiberaceae but galangal has a citrusy, peppery, and sharper taste. Whereas, turmeric rhizome is orange-yellow color inside, less aromatic and slightly bitter than galangal.

Like turmeric, galangal is also used as a flavoring agent and contains various health benefits. Both exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cholesterol-lowering properties but galangal is more valuable in terms of male fertility. 

How is galangal different from Ginger?

The inside of ginger is greyish-yellow in color while galangal is the reddish-brown color inside. Moreover, galangal is earthy, pine-like citrusy flavor and more fibrous, woody in texture.  On the other hand, ginger is fresh, juicy, spicy as well as sweet in taste with less fibrous and woody than galangal. However, both are useful for the treatment of cancer such as leukemia cancer (28).

What is galangal called in English?

Galangal is available in three types lesser galangal, greater galangal, and light galangal known in English.

What can I use instead of galangal?

Ginger can be used in place of galangal but it did not give the same flavor as galangal.

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