A traditional Chinese medicinal root, you may recognize galangal as alpinia or Chinese Ginger. Similar to ginger in some ways and also part of the rhizome family, there are many medicinal uses for galangal including stomach soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. This root was being used in Europe to treat conditions before it was identified in 1870 with origins in the South of China.
It is also an Ayurvedic herb with a pungent/bitter taste and heating energy good for Vata and Kapha. In Ayurveda is it commonly used as a digestive or to reduce blood sugar or blood pressure. A true superfood – used both in cooking as well as for health, medicinally, galangal is used:
Galangal is actually used often in cooking. For these purposes, it is Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). It can be found commonly in Indonesian and Thai cuisines. If you’ve ever had Tom yum goong or Tom kha gai Thai soup, you may have experienced galangal already. It can also be made into a paste and added to curry. Aside from its culinary properties, cultures around the world have used it for its powerful medicinal uses. For these purposes, galangal is often found prepared as a tea.
Galangal contains volatile oils and resin that likely are the reason that it helps a variety of systems in the body. In lab settings, using galangal has proven effects against microbes, bacteria and fungus. Like ginger, it has anti-emetic properties and can help relieve nausea. There are some promising effects of galangal on tumors in the lab setting because it contains an antioxidant flavonol called galangin. In line with its Ayurvedic uses, animal studies do show that galangal can potentially help lower blood pressure and blood sugar. It may also be useful for the cardiovascular system because it inhibits nitric oxide production and works to mildly thin the blood.
The good news is that galangal is reportedly well-tolerated. Potential adverse side effects include mild gastrointestinal complains or increased urine output. It has only minor potential drug-nutrient interactions so use caution with antacids, H2-blockers, and proton pump inhibitors. Make sure to mention to your doctor if you are using this herb in supplement form but food use is almost always very safe.
What is your experience with galangal? Have you cooked with it or used it in a tea? Let us know about your experience in the comments!
Natural Medicines Database. Alpinia. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=276. Accessed 11/20/18. Updated 10/31/18.
Dosha Guru. Galangal. https://doshaguru.com/galangal/. Accessed 11/29/18.