When it comes to the Zingiberaceae botanical family, ginger, turmeric and cardamom are universally famous herbs and spices, ubiquitously used in cooking various foods and treating several ailments. Plants belonging to this category are essentially roots and rhizomes that originate from the surface of, or below the soil. Which have also been renowned for their health benefits, valuable nutrients, disease-curing traits since ancient times and work as natural remedies for numerous health woes. But did you know there exists another lesser-known member of this nourishing species of flora – galangal?
Scientifically termed Alpinia galanga and being a wonderfully-flavoured spice indigenous to South Asian countries of China, India, Indonesia, galangal encompasses myriad beneficial phytonutrients and antioxidants, that lower inflammation in the body and fight free radical damage to prevent cancers. It is also rich in dietary fibers, vitamin A and vitamin C, for enhanced digestion, optimal eyesight and bolstered immunity, respectively. The time-tested manuscripts of Ayurveda, Unani and traditional Chinese medicine not only highlight these excellent wellness incentives of galangal, but also reveal its amazing ability to boost sexual stamina, being a natural aphrodisiac. Read on, to discover the nutrition values, health merits, medicinal usage, recipes and side effects of the magical root – galangal.
The Galangal Plant:
The galangal plant flourishes in the warm locales of Southern Asia, in countries including China, India, Thailand, Indonesia. It is commonly called greater galangal, Thai ginger in English, while being known as “Kulanjan”, “Bara Kulanjan” in Hindi, “Dhumarashmi” in Kannada, “Aratta” in Malayalam and “Perarattai” In Tamil. It is a rhizome that sprouts up to a height of 2 meters from the surface of the soil above the ground, with a greenish hued, red or light yellow, strong-smelling feature. The leaves are long, being bright green with an alternate arrangement and flowers are yellow or green, with a pleasant fragrance.
What Is The Difference Between Galangal And Ginger?
While galangal and ginger closely resemble each other in outer appearance, being fibrous, rough, oval or irregular-shaped and hardened rhizomes, there is a distinct difference in their taste. While ginger presents a sweet and spicy palate, galangal comprises tones of pepper, being quite piquant and sharp in flavour. Yet, both these roots can be used interchangeable in Asian cooking, to make teas, soups, curries. Besides fresh ginger and galangal roots, their ground powders are sold widely sold in markets for the plethora of medicinal compounds and therapeutic uses they deliver, to augment overall wellbeing.
Galangal Nutrition Facts:
Galangal is super-rich in Vitamin C. It is also low in calories to help maintain body weight and supplies adequate essential dietary fibers and proteins. Furthermore, galangal also offers the key spectrum of B vitamins to regulate metabolism and cellular energy requirements.
The following is the nutritional value of galangal root, per 100 g, according to the data provided by the US Nutrition Database:
Energy 38 kcal
Carbohydrates 9.62 g
Dietary fiber 1 g
Fat 0.04 g
Protein 0.76 g
Thiamine (B1) 3%
Riboflavin (B2) 2%
Niacin (B3) 1%
Vitamin B6 3%
Vitamin C 73%
Calcium 5 %
Galangal also comprises ample potassium which is sufficient for the daily requirement of adults. Other vital trace minerals in this rhizome include phosphorus, copper, iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc.
Galangal Health Benefits:
Boosts Immune System
Consuming some galangal essence along with regular diet will satisfy the daily vitamin C requirement in healthy adults. Vitamin C not only functions in enhancing iron absorption for enhanced blood circulation, but also works to improve immunity by white blood cells in the system. In addition, vitamin C is obligatory for growth and development of all body tissues and a key antioxidant for removing toxins from the system.
Maintains Heart Health
Being intrinsically high in potassium levels, galangal assists in the maintenance of normal blood pressure. It also functions in promoting cardiac muscle activity, lowers the amounts of bad LDL cholesterol and raises levels of good HDL cholesterol. Galangal is very advantageous in preventing instances of heart attacks and stroke and thereby contributes to a longer and healthier lifespan.
Relaxes Muscle Cramps
Galangal is bestowed with the key mineral for optimal muscle function – magnesium. The significantly high magnesium content in galangal roots makes it an ideal option to provide relief from muscle cramps. Moreover, post a high intensity workout, when muscles in the arms and legs are strained, having warm water infused with galangal powder can instantly alleviate symptoms of pain and discomfort.
Prevents Cold And Flu
Ingestion of fresh galangal enriches the blood circulation with potent antioxidants, which perform the vital task of preventing toxin build-up in the system. Accumulation of harmful substances triggers ailments such as cold, allergies, asthma etc. where the immune system fails to operate normally. Galangal supplies ample vitamin C to boost the body’s innate defense mechanism and circumvents the occurrence of cold and flu.
Effectually Combats Cancer
Galangal root is a treasure trove of powerful nutrients, particularly bioflavonoids, a class of plant-based antioxidants. These significantly lessen the symptoms of pancreatic and intestinal cancers. Galangal also possesses the ability to remove excess estrogen – a female reproductive hormone involved in breast development and thus prevents breast cancer. The inherent dietary fibers infused in galangal ward off colon cancer and enhance gut health.
Galangal comprises valuable dietary fibers which ensure proper bowel movement upon ingestion of heavy meals. This is crucial to regulate kidney function and filter out all the toxic waste products upon digestion of food and assimilation of required nutrients. It also efficiently relieves intestinal conditions like constipation and indigestion.
The calcium present in galangal root is absorbed by bones in the body, thereby helping to maintain optimal bone density for day-to-day functions and flexible, unobstructed movement. The very high potassium content in galangal complements bone health by enhancing mineral uptake by cells and tissues in the body.
Combats Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Galangal offers profuse amounts of vitamin C that confers anti-inflammatory properties to reduce swelling in the bladder, UTI which is more common in women than men. Also, its antioxidant capabilities are useful in removing detrimental free radicals and harmful bacteria from the body. This in turn helps to avoid oxidation of the healthy cells in the excretory system organs, thus ensuring proper elimination of wastes and unnecessary food residues from the body and preventing their accumulation in the system.
Helps Cure Anemia
Vitamin C also performs one very vital function in the human body which is of enhancing the absorption of iron from ingested food. Deficiency in iron quantities leads to a condition known as anemia wherein there is a lack of adequate red blood cells in the body to transport nutrients and oxygen to all cells and tissues. Galangal in the diet will guarantee ample uptake of iron, from foods, into the system and promote red blood cell synthesis and blood passage.
Galangal Uses For Skin And Hair:
Reduces Skin Inflammation
Galangal contains several essential amino acids that help to build healthy skin cells and also suppress any redness and swelling that tends to develop on skin exposed to harsh environmental states. Its high flavonoid content provides antioxidants traits to assist in combating free radical damage, diminish acne, scars and dark spots and lessen skin irritation.
Galangal contains spermidine that aids in delaying skin cells from the process of aging. The carotene class of flavonoid plant antioxidants further plays an important role in reducing the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines and sunken skin. Having a glass of warm galangal tea will also help to boost the production of collagen, a protein essential for maintaining the elasticity and firmness of skin texture.
Uses Of Galangal In Ayurveda
Since time immemorial, galangal has been utilised in the leaf, root, powder and juice forms in ayurveda. These are imbued with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory plant elements, to prepare ayurvedic concoctions and tonics, to remedy sicknesses such as fevers, jaundice, heart ailments and bone disorders.
Remedies Heart Ailments
Galangal extract is considered as one of the best remedies for cardiac ailments such as palpitations, irregular heartbeats, chest pain, high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. In traditional Indian medicine, a dose of two teaspoons of galangal root powder extract is given to those suffering from heart problems, to promote blood circulation and ameliorate the difficulties in performing normal day to day activities.
The phytonutrients or plant compounds in galangal leaves have an inherent temperature reducing potential. The leaves of galangal, when rubbed on a person suffering from high fever, provides immediate relief, reducing body temperature and symptoms of fatigue. Moreover, since normal metabolism is affected during fevers, galangal leaves also expel excess water and salts from the body, in order to help maintain ideal electrolyte balance.
The leaves of galangal contain substances called polyphenols, tannins and quercetin, which play the crucial role of boosting the defense system and liver function in the body. In addition, galangal leaves also contain remarkable amounts of Vitamin C, which adds to the defense function and antioxidant capacity in those suffering from jaundice. The ayurvedic remedy comprises crushing the leaves of galangal along with coriander seeds and consuming it twice a day, to treat jaundice.
Remedies Gum Damage
Lack of proper nutrition from food could lead to bleeding of gums and loose tissue. This is primarily caused due to a deficiency in Vitamin C. In addition, the epidermal layers lining the gums must also be cared for and collagen depletion can cause damage to gums and teeth. Galangal helps to keep dental problems at bay.
Regulates Blood Cholesterol Levels
Galangal root powder holds high value in clearing unwanted deposits in the arteries due to abundant pectin content. It also plays a central role in monitoring the levels of bad LDL and good HDL cholesterol, thereby maintaining an optimal blood cholesterol level. Potassium control electrolyte balance in bloodstream which balances blood pressure levels. Thus, galangal extract helps people with hypertension and augments heart health.
The thyroid hormone levels tend to fluctuate and rise above the normal range in some people, causing hyperthyroidism. Galangal root is profuse in iodine content, which is vital to reduce elevated thyroid hormone levels, as well as zinc, which plays a central role in facilitating enzyme function for optimizing thyroid concentrations.
Treats Hair Loss
A paste prepared from galangal extracts, when applied in instances of severe hair fall, invigorated the blood circulation and nerve function in the scalp, promoting rapid hair growth. Alopecia is characterized by prominent bald spots and excessive hair loss, and the high carotene content in galangal paste extract counters these factors, to reduce constant hair fall and enhance the strength and smoothness of hair.
Recovers Joint Illnesses
Being an effective anti-inflammatory, galangal tea actually reduces bone and muscle pain and heals joint disorders such as arthritis, osteoporosis, gout and fractures. In addition, it is packed with the three essential bone-fortifying minerals namely calcium, magnesium and phosphorous, which in turn increases bone mass and helps regain flexible movement in muscles and joints.
The prominent vitamin B6 or pyridoxine content in galangal root extracts is very beneficial in monitoring brain functions and allowing the unobstructed conduction of nerve impulses. Hence, during instances of insomnia or severe lack of sleep, having a glass of galangal tea with honey can lessen the activity of neurotransmitters and promote sleep.
Being a powerhouse of vitamin C and a host of flavonoids and carotenes, galangal root is a potent agent to boost immune system function in situations of illnesses. Since function of organs is below the optimum during disease, consuming curries and soups with galangal instills vitamin C to blood cells, which is subsequently transported to other organs to recover their peak functioning levels. It also helps to recuperate from tiredness.
Galangal Coconut Soup With Pumpkin
1 medium galangal, finely chopped
2 cups coconut milk
3 tbsp black pepper powder
1 small pumpkin, cut, peeled and boiled
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
3 spring onions, sliced
Salt, as needed
A sprig of coriander leaves, for garnish
Heat the coconut milk, adding some water in a vessel on medium flame.
Put in the galangal pieces and black pepper powder and stir for 10 minutes.
Add the pumpkin slices and cook for another 2 minutes so they become soft and slightly mashed.
Pour in the lime juice, spring onions, soy sauce, salt and allow it to boil for 5 minutes until all the flavours blend in.
Turn off the stovetop, adjust for salt and pepper and serve this galangal coconut soup with pumpkin hot for lunch or dinner.
Galangal abounds in vitamin C, that uplifts inherent immune functions in the body and remedies cough, cold, fever, sore throat and numerous other seasonal infections. Coconut milk is a great option for those on a vegan diet or who are lactose intolerant, being dairy free and rich in proteins, healthy unsaturated fats, for strong muscles and enhanced heart health. Black pepper is a renowned cure for digestive disorders and promotes optimal gut wellness. Vast reserves of vitamin A in pumpkins boost visual functions and eye health.
Galangal Tea With Lemongrass
3 tbsp galangal, cut into tiny pieces
4 medium stalks of lemongrass, finely chopped
2 tsp green tea powder
1 tbsp honey
1 cup milk
2 cups water
In a kettle, boil the milk, switch off the flame and then add some honey to it.
Take some water in a vessel, heat it on high, then transfer the galangal pieces and lemongrass slices and warm for 5 minutes.
Put in the green tea powder, sweetened milk and heat for few minutes to allow the flavours to merge.
Turn off the flame and filter the contents into a bowl.
Sip on this revitalizing galangal tea with lemongrass hot in the evening along with some roasted, slightly salted nuts for a healthy snack.
Laden with antioxidants such as myricetin and eugenol, galangal confers neuroprotective traits to preserve optimal brain activity, improve mental health and alleviate low moods, poor nerve functions in depression and anxiety. Green tea possesses profuse catechins that slow down skin ageing and bestow a natural glowing complexion. Lemongrass is high in potassium content, that helps control blood pressure fluctuations and conserve heart health. Famed for its antibacterial and decongestant properties, honey effectively remedies respiratory problems of cough, sinusitis, common cold and improves lung power.
Side Effects Of Galangal:
Galangal, when consumed in measures amounts as a tea, soup or adding the powder to regular diet, is well-tolerated and does not cause any serious side effects. However, always purchase only fresh produce of galangal from your local market or store.
Moreover, for people with heart conditions and chronic joint illnesses, it is recommended to consult with a professional doctor or ayurvedic practitioner before ingesting high doses of galangal, to prevent any harm to liver, kidneys.