Often mistaken for ginger, Galangal is a completely different root crop that offers a variety of benefits. Used both for culinary and medicinal purposes, this popular spice has come a long way from its native Southeast Asia to become one of the most utilized spice, particularly in Asian cuisine. Find out more about the spice below.
A close cousin of ginger, this spice is a root crop that traces its origin in Southeast Asia. Its resemblance with ginger does not only stop at appearance. Its taste and smell are similar, too. There is a slight difference, however. While both are spicy and aromatic, it has this distinct citrusy sweetness to it while ginger is not sweet at all. This contrast in flavors make it impossible to interchange the two when cooking.
Galangal comes in different names. Some of its names are:
- Thai ginger
- Siamese ginger
- Alpinia officinarum
- China Root
- Chinese Ginger
- East India Root Galangal Officinal
- India Root
And the list goes on. This spice usually needs to grow in tropical regions because of the humidity that supports their growth. However, it has already been imported to other parts of the world, you just really need to know where to find them. Apart from medicinal and culinary use, it is also used as an ornamental plant in some parts of Asia.
Types of Galangal
Galangal comes in two recognized forms: greater galangal and lesser galangal. Here are how different these two are:
- Reaches about six feet high when fully grown
- Also known as Alpinia galangal
- This is the type of galangal that is usually a favorite spicy addition in culinary applications.
- This is a lot thicker, has dark skin, with meat that has a pale reddish color.
- Reach to only three feet high when fully grown
- Also known as alpinia officinarum
- This is the type of galangal used for medicinal purposes.
- Its skin is a lot darker and the color of its meat is distinctly red.
While those mentioned above are the differences, they have similarities as well. Here are some of them:
- Just like ginger, the outward covering is tough. It may even come a lot harder than ginger that it resembles wood.
- Both greater and lesser galangal have similar taste: citrusy sweet and spicy.
- Like ginger, they both have a pleasant aroma. In fact, when dry, these two have a faint cinnamon smell.
Health Benefits of Galangal
Now that you understand what galangal is, the next question is: what is galangal used for? Here are some of the health benefits of galangal that everyone can make full use of:
- Antioxidants: It is packed with antioxidants that keep cancer-causing free radicals at bay. This also slows down the aging process as well as boosts the immune system. By its antioxidants content alone, you should definitely look into adding galangal as a beverage or as part of one’s dining experience.
- Anticancer: It is said to have properties that help fight cancer particularly liver, pancreatic, liver, colon, blood, and breast cancer.
- Anti-bacterial: It can be used to treats cuts and wounds. It fights off possible infection.
- Anti-inflammatory: Many diseases and conditions are caused by inflammation. You can reduce the risk of developing these conditions with galangal’s anti-inflammatory properties.
- Anti-viral: It can also be used to combat viruses as well.
- Anti-fungal: It can be used topically.
- Anti-hypertensive: It keeps old folks look and feel old.
Other conditions that you can use galangal for include the following:
- Digestive problems
- Motion sickness or diarrhea
- Topical treatments for fungal scratches and wounds
- Respiratory concerns such as cough, sore throat, bronchitis, and asthma
- High blood sugar
- Chronic halitosis
- Relief for common cold
- High cholesterol
- Lethargy, weakness, exhaustion
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved circulation
- Fertility treatment
- Common cold
How to Use Galangal
Galangal can be used in food, beverages, even in cream. As something that you consume, you can use dried galangal, galangal roots, and galangal powder. For both dried galangal and galangal roots, you can cut them into really small pieces after peeling and add them in soup or in any beverage, usually tea. The best thing about this is that you can store it for a long time for as long as it is kept in a refrigerator (much like ginger). If you do not want to go through the whole process of peeling and mincing (which can be a tad difficult because the exterior of galangal is tough), you can use galangal powder. Reddish in color, this is available in many stores that specialize in spices. Make sure you check its nutrition facts to make sure that it is made of pure galangal without any additives.
Just like ginger, galangal does not pose any risks that you should be concerned about. However, there are things that you have to be aware of:
- It increases stomach acid so it is not advisable to use if you are susceptible to develop bloatedness due to gas buildup or have a history with ulcerative colitis.
- Since it increases stomach acid, this might affect the effect of certain medications that you maintain. Inform your doctor if you plan to take this with your current medication (if any) to see if they fit.
- Pregnant or lactating women should avoid this until they gain clearance from their doctors.
Galangal has been used for medicinal and culinary applications since time immemorial. It is about time that you also give it a try. With its myriad benefits and minor risks, it is definitely worth your attention. However, if you are maintaining any medication or are pregnant, it would be best to gain clearance from your doctor before mixing it in your food or your drink. That way, you do not have to worry about any adverse reaction though rare it may be.