Galangal

Scientific Name(s): Alpinia officinarum Hance

Common Name(s): China root , Chinese ginger , East Indian root , galangal , rhizoma galangae . Family: Zingiberaceae (gingers)

Uses of Galangal

Beyond common use as a flavoring, aromatic stimulant, carminative, and traditional use to treat children's respiratory complaints, galangal species show promise as antifungals, hypotensives, and enhancers of sperm count and motility. Antitumor and antidementia effects have been observed in rodents.

Galangal Dosing

There are no recent clinical studies of galangal to provide a basis for dosage recommendations; however, its use is similar to ginger. Classical recommendations are for 1 g of the rhizome as a stimulant and carminative.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Galangal Interactions

None well documented.

Galangal Adverse Reactions

No data.

Toxicology

Toxicity is low; injections can produce psychomotor excitation.

Botany

Galangal is a reed-like perennial herb bearing stems that grow up to 3 feet high and that are covered by sheaths of narrow lanceolate leaves. Its inflorescence is a short raceme of white flowers that are veined and shaded in dull red. The plant has been cultivated for the rhizomes in the midland of Hainan off Southern China, and in coastal areas around Pak-hoi. Galangal rhizomes appear on the market as branched or simple rhizome fragments and show wavy annulations of the leaf bases. These are reddish-brown in color and have an aromatic, spicy and pungent odor and flavor. 1

History

The rhizomes of galangal and its derivatives have long been used for its aromatic stimulant, carminative, and condiment properties much like ginger (the dried rhizome of Zingiber officinale ). Galangal oil is used to flavor French liqueurs and in some tobaccos. 1 The “ginger” of Thailand is obtained from Alipinia galanga Willd., a species related to galangal. Likewise, the large, ordinary, preserved ginger of China also is from A. galanga . 2 A. galanga (greater galangal), containing the volatile oil essence d'Amali, is used in China and northern India for various respiratory complaints in children, particularly bronchial catarrh (mucous membrane inflammation). 3

Chemistry

Galanga contains a greenish-yellow volatile oil containing cineol, eugenol, sesquiterpenes, isomers of cadinene, a resin containing galangol, kaempferide, galangin, as well as starch and other constituents. 1 Recent studies reveal several flavonoids, 4 acetoxychavicol acetate ( A. galanga ), 5 diterpenes ( A. galanga ), 6 starch ( A. galanga ), 7 monoterpenes ( A. galanga ), 8 the pungent principle 5-hydroxy-7-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-1-phenyl-3-heptanone ( A. officinarum ). 9

Galangal Uses and Pharmacology

Although the major uses of galangal involve its use as a carminative and condiment, there have been a number of recent interesting medical applications.

Antifungal

Antifungals are found in A. galanga 5 , 6 and A. officinarum . 10 A. speciosa oils also are effective antifungal agents, inhibiting 80% of the dermatophyte strains tested in a recent in vitro study. 11

Animal/clinical data

Research reveals no animal or clinical data regarding the use of galangal as an antifungal.

Gastric lesions
Animal/clinical data

Research reveals no animal or clinical data regarding the use of galangal for its antiulcer activity.

Other uses

A. galanga shows antitumor activity in mice 12 and has been found to be moderately effective as an anthelmintic against the human Ascaris lubricoides . 13

A. officinarum and ginger ( Zingiber officinalis ) roots contain potent inhibitors against prostaglandin biosynthesizing enzyme (PG synthetase). Gingerols and diarylheptanoids were identified as the active constituents. The structure of these components indicates that they also might be active again arachidonate 5-lipoxygenase, an enzyme of leukotriene (LT) biosynthesis. 14

A. officinarum , used as an antirheumatic in Saudi traditional medicine, does not produce significant inhibition of carrageenan-induced inflammation. 15

Dosage

There are no recent clinical studies of galangal to provide a basis for dosage recommendations; however, its use is similar to ginger. Classical recommendations are for 1 g of the rhizome as a stimulant and carminative.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Research reveals little or no information regarding adverse reactions with the use of this product.

Toxicology

A toxicity study on A. galanga found no significant mortality or weight gain in rats. However, the A. galanga treated animals showed a significant rise in red blood cell levels, weight gain of sexual organs and increased sperm motility and sperm counts. No spermatotoxic effects were noted. 16

Cytotoxic diterpenes have been found in the seeds of A. galanga . 6

Bibliography

1. Youngken HW. Textbook of Pharmacognosy . 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Blakiston Co.; 1950.
2. Osol A, Farrar GE. The Dispensatory of the United States of America . 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: J.B. Lippincott; 1955.
3. Lewis WH, Elvin-Lewis MPF. Medical Botany: Plants Affecting Man's Health . New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons; 1977.
4. Karlsen J, Beker F. Flavonoids of rhizoma galangae ( Alpinia officinarum Hance). Farm Aikak . 1971;80:95.
5. Janssen A, Scheffer JJ. Acetoxychavicol acetate, an antifungal component of Alpinia galanga . Planta Med . 1985;51:507.
6. Morita H, Itokawa H. Cytotoxic and antifungal diterpenes from the seeds of Alpinia galanga . Planta Med . 1988;54:117.
7. Misra SJ, Dixit VK. Pharmaceutical studies on starches of some Zingiberaccous rhizomes. Indian J Pharm Sci . 1983;45:216.
8. Scheffer JJC, et al. Monoterpenes in the essential oil of Alpinia galanga (L.) Willd. Sci Pharm . 1981;49:337.
9. Inque T, et al. Studies on the pungent principle of Alpinia officinarum Hance. J Pharm Soc Jap . 1978;98:1255.
10. Ray PG, Majumdar SK. Antifungal flavonoid from Alpinia officinarum Hance. Indian J of Exp Biol . 1976;14:712.
11. Lima EO, Gompertz OF, Giesbrecht AM, Paulo MQ. In vitro antifungal activity of essential oils obtained from official plants against dermatophytes. Mycoses . 1993;36:333-336.
12. Itokawa H, Morita H, Sumitomo T, Totsuka N, Takeya K. Antitumor principles from Alpinia galanga. Planta Med . 1987;53:32-33.
13. Kaleysa RR. Screening of indigenous plants for anthelmintic action against human Ascaris lumbricoides . Part 1. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol . 1975;19:47.
14. Kiuchi F, Iwakami S, Shibuya M, Hanaoka F, Sankawa U. Inhibition of prostaglandin and leukotriene biosynthesis by gingerols and diarylheptanoids. Chem Pharm Bull . 1992;40:387-391.
15. Ageel AM, Mossa JS, al-Yahya MA, al-Said MS, Tariq M. Experimental studies on antirheumatic crude drugs used in Saudi traditional medicine. Drugs Exp Clin Res . 1989;15:369-372.
16. Qureshi S, Shah AH, Ageel AM. Toxicity studies on Alpinia galanga and Curcuma longa . Planta Med . 1992;58:124-127.

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