Facts about Lesser Galangal

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Lesser galangal Quick Facts
Name: Lesser galangal
Scientific Name: Alpinia officinarum
Origin China, mainly on the southeastern coast, including Hainan, Gg and Guangxi, and is uangdonalso grown in Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Colors Initially green and then turn yellow before finally maturing to red
Shapes Small, round capsule 1 cm in diameter
Taste Acrid
Health benefits Support abdominal pain, emesis, diarrhea, impaired renal function, dysentery, dyspepsia, flatulence, vomiting, gastralgia, colic, fever and malaria
Alpinia officinarum, commonly known as lesser galangal in English and Petit galanga or Galanga officinal in French is an herbaceous, perennial plant belonging to the Zingiberaceae botanical family. The plant is native to China, growing mainly on the southeastern coast, including Hainan, Guangdong and Guangxi, and is also grown in Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam. It is also cultivated in the plains of West Bengal, Assam and Eastern Himalayas in Indi. Hong Kong is the commercial center for the sale and distribution of the lesser galangal. Its rhizomes have been used as spices in Europe for over 1000 years. Some of the popular common names of the plant include Chinese Ginger, China Root, Colic Root, East India Catarrh Root, and Galangal, India Root, lesser Galanga, lesser Galangal, Blue ginger, Chewing John, Galangal root, Greater galangal, Kulanjan, Laos and Little John chew.

The genus is named for Prospero Alpini, a 17th-century Italian botanist who specialized in exotic plants. The word “galangal” comes from the Arabic form of a Chinese word for the plant, “高良薑” (“gou-loeng-goeng” in Cantonese, “gao-liang-jiang” in Mandarin). In Tamil it is known as a “சிற்றரத்தை or சித்தரத்தை”, widely used in Siddha Medicine and in culinaries. The plant has been used as a medicine and spice for well over 1,000 years, having arrived in Europe from China in about the 9th century. It is cultivated throughout the tropics of Asia as a spice and medicinal plant. Its rhizome has been traditionally used to treat many ailments that differ according to the region. Its essential oil is used in cosmetics. The plant is also used as a tea in several countries.

Lesser Galangal Facts

Name Lesser galangal
Scientific Name Alpinia officinarum
Native China, growing mainly on the southeastern coast, including Hainan, Guangdong and Guangxi, and is also grown in Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam. It is also cultivated in the plains of West Bengal, Assam and Eastern Himalayas in Indi. Hong Kong is the commercial center for the sale and distribution of the lesser galangal
Common Names Chinese Ginger, China Root, Colic Root, East India Catarrh Root, Galangal, India Root, Lesser Galanga, Lesser Galangal, Blue ginger, Chewing John, Galangal root, Greater galangal, Kulanjan, Laos, Little John chew
Name in Other Languages Arabic : Kulanjan, khulinjan saghir (خولنجان صغير)
Azerbaijani: Dərman alpiniyası
Bengali: Punnagchampa
Burmese: P tell kaw layy (ပတဲကောလေး)
Chinese : Gao Liang Jiang (高良薑)
Czech : Galgán Lékařský
Danish : Lille Galangal , Galanga, Lille Galangarod
Dutch : Galgant, Kalanswortel
Estonian: Väike Kalganirohi
English: Chinese-ginger, Lesser galanga, Lesser galangal, Galangal, small galangal
Finnish: Pikkukalangajuuri
French : Galanga Du Chine, Galangal Officinal, Petite galanga
Petite Galanga
German : Galgant, Echter Galgant, Galgantwurzel, Kleiner Galgant, Siam-Ingwer
Hebrew:   גלנגל  
Hindi: Kúlinján
Hungarian: Galangál, Kínai Gyömbér
Italian: Galanga, Galanga minore
Japanese: Kouryoukyou (コウリョウキョウ)
Korean: Gal Len Gal (갈렌갈), golyang-gang (고량강)
Kurdish: Xavlêcan
Lithuanian: Vaistinė alpinija 
Norwegian : Galangarot, Kinarot
Persian : Khusro-Daru, خولنجان
Polish : Galgant Chinski
Portuguese: Alpinia-menor, galanga-menor       
Russian : Kalgan Lekarstvennyi (Калган лекарственный), Al’piniia lekarstvennaia
Sanskrit: Malayavaca, kulanjana bheda
Slovak:  Alpínia liečivá   
Spanish : Galanga, Galangal
Swedish : Galangarot, Liten galangarot
Tamil: Cirrarattai, Chitharathai, Cittarattai (சிற்றரத்தை)
Thailand: Kha Ling (ข่าลิง), Kha Lek (ข่าเล็ก), K̄h̀ā n̂xy (ข่าน้อย)
Turkish: Havlıcan
Vietnam : Rieng, Rieng Thuoc, Cao Luong Khuong, Co Kha, Kim Sung
Plant Growth Habit Herbaceous, perennial rhizomatous plant
Growing Climates Grasslands and thickets, warm and humid climate
Soil Prefers shady locations and moist, fertile soil rich in organic matter but will grow in full sun
Plant Size Grow 1.5 to 2 m high
Rhizome Woody, branched, dark brown to almost black, cylindrical with distinct nodes and internodes. Nodes are provided with light brown sings, whereas the internodes are finely ridged
Leaf Sessile; ligule lanceolate, entire, 2–3(–5) cm, membranous; leaf blade linear, 20–30 × 1.2–2.5 cm, glabrous, base attenuate, apex caudate
Flowering season April – September
Flower Flowers are numerous; rachis is tomentose; bracteoles are very small, less than 1 cm. Its calyx is tubular and puberulent, and the apex is 3-toothed. Corolla tube is slightly shorter than calyx; lobes are oblong, with the central one hood-like
Fruit Shape & Size small, round capsule 1 cm in diameter
Fruit Color Initially green and then turn yellow before finally maturing to red
Flavor/Aroma Aromatic odor
Taste Acrid
Plant Parts Used Dried rhizome, leaves, flowers, roots
Propagation By division of rhizomes and seeds
Available Forms Fresh, dried, and powdered form
Season May–Nov
Other Facts
  • The reddish-brown powder from the rhizome is used as snuff, and in India the oil is valued in perfumery.
  • Lesser Galangal is used in cattle medicine, and the Arabs use it to make their horses fiery.

Plant Description

Lesser galangal is an herbaceous, perennial rhizomatous plant that normally grows about 1.5 to 2 m high from an underground, copiously branched, creeping rhizome. The plant is found growing in grasslands, thickets, warm and humid climate. The plant prefers shady locations and moist, fertile soil rich in organic matter but will also grow in full sun. Rhizomes are 8 – 12 mm in diameter, woody, branched, dark brown to almost black, cylindrical with distinct nodes and internodes. Nodes are provided with light brown sings, whereas the internodes are finely ridged.

Its rhizomes are marked at short intervals by narrow, whitish, somewhat raised rings, which are the scars left by former leaves and are covered with brownish red scales. The inner section shows a dark center surrounded by a wider, paler layer which becomes darker in drying. Its odor is aromatic, and their taste pungent and spicy. Pseudo stems are 40–110 cm high. The rhizomes are valued for their sweet spicy flavor and aromatic scent. These are used throughout Asia in curries and perfumes, and were previously used widely in Europe. They are also used as an herbal remedy.

Leaves

Dark green leaves are sessile; ligule is lanceolate, entire and membranous. Lamina is linear–lanceolate, 25 to 30 cm (10 to 12 in) long and 2 cm (0.8 in) wide, glabrous, base attenuate and apex caudate.

Flowers

Inflorescences of its terminal are erect; dense racemes are 10–20 cm long. Flowers are numerous; rachis is tomentose; bracteoles are very small, less than 1 cm. Its calyx is tubular and puberulent, and the apex is 3-toothed. Corolla tube is slightly shorter than calyx; lobes are oblong, with the central one hood-like. Its labellum is 2 cm long, white with red streaks and ovate. Ovary is tomentose and is 3-celled. Flowering normally takes place in between April and September.

Fruits

Fertile flowers are followed by small, round capsule 1 cm in diameter. Fruits are initially green and then turn yellow before finally maturing to red.

Traditional uses and benefits of Lesser Galangal

  • Alpinia officinarum has been used both in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine since very early times (circa AD 500 in China) and in Europe since the middle Ages.
  • Rhizome is reported to be a very effective herb that acts mainly on the digestive system, also relieves pain, lowers fevers and controls bacterial and fungal infections.
  • It is given to young children to make them talk early.
  • It is especially useful in flatulence, dyspepsia, vomiting and sickness at stomach, being recommended as a remedy for sea sickness.
  • It tones up the tissues and is occasionally recommended in fever.
  • Homoeopaths use it as a stimulant.
  • The powder is used as a snuff for catarrh.
  • Dry root stock of A. officinarum Hance is collected in late summer and is used for the treatment of dyspepsia, gastralgia and emesis.
  • Traditional Chinese medicine has used the herb as an aromatic stomachic, analgesic and antiemetic in Asia.
  • The rhizome of Alpinia officinarum has been used in China for relieving stomach ache, treating colds, invigorating the circulatory system and reducing swelling.
  • Dry root and rhizome of Alpinia officinarum has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine for its anti-oxidation, anti-diabetic, antiulcer, anti-diarrhea, antiemetic, analgesia, anti-inflammatory and anticoagulation effects.
  • Alpinia officinarum has been used in traditional medicine for the treatment of several conditions, such as abdominal pain, emesis, diarrhea, impaired renal function and dysentery.
  • Juice from the boiled rhizome is used to stimulate digestion and treat stomach ache and malaria in Vietnam.
  • Crushed rhizome in wine or vinegar is used topically for ringworm skin infections.
  • It is included in several compound preparations, but is not now often used alone.
  • Rhizomes are widely used in Vietnam for treating stomach problems including dyspepsia, flatulence, vomiting, gastralgia, colic, diarrhea, fever and malaria, and are locally applied to infected gums.
  • In Thailand, they are used as a carminative and for indigestion.
  • Seeds are used in China, for treating heartburn, cholera, toothache, ague and colds.
  • In traditional Chinese medicine lesser galangal is a warming herb used for abdominal pain, vomiting, hiccups, and diarrhea.
  • In India it is also used for arthritis and intermittent fevers.
  • An infusion of lesser galangal can be used to alleviate painful canker sores and sore gums.
  • It is often recommended as a treatment for seasickness.

Culinary Uses

  • Alpinia officinarum rhizome is pungent, is aromatic and is used as spice for flavoring food throughout Asian countries.
  • Rhizome has been used in Europe as a spice for over 1000 years, but it has now largely gone out of use except in Russia and India.
  • Closely resembling ginger, it is used in Russia for flavoring vinegar and the liqueur ‘nastoika’; it is a favorite spice and medicine in Lithuania and Estonia and the Tartars prepare a kind of tea that contains it, and it is used by brewers.
  • In Asia the rhizomes are ground to powder for use in curries, drinks, and jellies.
  • In India an extract is used in perfumes, and Tatars prepare a tea with it.
  • Rhizome can be thinly sliced and added to stir-fries, boiled into curries, cooked into satay, mixed in applesauce, lightly tossed into salads, or used to flavor soups such as tom kha gai, a Thai coconut soup, or samlor kor ko, which is a Cambodian vegetable soup.
  • It can also be used in stews, rice, and noodle dishes.

References:

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=506514#null

https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=287591

https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/g/galang01.html

http://germoplasma.iniaf.gob.bo/gringlobal/taxonomydetail.aspx?id=101035

https://gd.eppo.int/taxon/AIIOF

http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl/record/kew-218941

http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Alpinia+officinarum

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpinia_officinarum

https://plants.usda.gov/home/plantProfile?symbol=ALOF4

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