Galangal Root (Gao Liang Jiang)

Alpiniae officinarum RhizomaDried galangal root, also known as Gao Liang Jiang herb, is the most important raw materials in famous Chinese medicine of Ertianyou balm, universal oil, menthocamphorate (cooling oil), and Tiger balm, a fact known to few people. These mentioned ointments are one of the most convenient and popular treatments for headaches, itchy skin, mild scalds, mosquito and insect bites, and other minor ailments. Besides of its medicinal uses, galangal herb is also widely used as seasonings in cooking like powder for salt roasted chicken, savory spice, medicated wine, insect repellant, and more. Actually it seems to be everywhere in our lives. So, is galangal root edible? What is galangal root used for? Is galangal root safe in pregnancy? If you are still wondering questions like these, now, let’s find out the secret behind this amazing medicinal herb native to Zhanjiang.

What is galangal root?

First dried galangal root is ginger. Other common names are Lesser Galangal Rhizome, Galanga, Alpiniae officinarum Rhizoma, Rhizoma Alpiniae Officinarum, rhizoma galangae, Chinese ginger, and so on. Medicinally It refers to the dried rhizomes of Alpinia officinarum Hance, a plant in the family Zingiberaceae. Its name actually has tipped off a lot of information. It mainly comes from Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan in China. It was named so because it was mainly cultivated and produced in ancient Gao Liang county, where now is known as Zhanjiang and Maoming in Guangdong. This herb, namely the 4 to 6 years fresh galangal roots, is usually harvested in late summer and early autumn for best medicinal value. After that, remove the aerial stem of plant, fibrous roots and residual flakes, wash clean, cut into segments, dry in the sun, and used raw.

It is cylindrical, curved in most of them, 5 to 9cm long, 1 to 1.5cm in diameter, and with branches. Surface is from reddish brown to dark brown, and with fine longitudinal wrinkles and gray-brown wavy rings. Internode length is between 0.2 to 1cm and with rounded root marks on one side. It is tough and difficult to break. Cross section is fibrous and gray-brown or reddish-brown. Stele approximately takes up to one third. It has fragrant odor and spicy flavor.

Main chemical constituents are 0.5 to 1.5% volatile oil, which is composed of 1, 8-cineole, methylcinnamate, eugenol, pinene, cadinene, etc. And it also contains flavonoids, such as galangin, quercetin, kaempferol, kaempferide, isorhamnetin, quercetin-5-methylether, galangin-3-methyl ether, and possibly rhamnocitrin and 7-hydroxy-3, 5-dimethoxyflavone.

Galangal root health benefits

As previously mentioned, galanga is tropical perennial ginger plant belonging to the genus of Alpinia. The uses for galangal root are extensive. It can be consumed for both medicinal and culinary purposes thanks to the facts that it is high in the nutrients. As a result today it is made into many different products to cater to different needs, such as galangal root tea, beer, powder, extract, essential oil, etc. So, how to use this herb to maximize its health benefits? Maybe we can get inspiration from its pharmacology.

Modern pharmacological actions of galangal herb

1. Its water extract has analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects while its ether extract only has the analgesic effect. Both of them can resist the formation of animal experimental gastric ulcer and castor oil-induced diarrhea, and extend the duration of decapitated mouse’s mouth action and the survival time of potassium cyanide poisoned mice;

2. Its decoction by intragastric administration can increase the total gastric acid output in dogs, excite the movement of isolated rabbit’s intestine, and resist the ink progradation rate after the mice’s gastrointestinal inhibition induced by atropine;

3. Both its water extract and volatile oil resist thrombosis induced in vivo in rats received gavage;

4. 100% decoction has antibacterial effect on bacillus anthracis, α-or β-hemolytic streptococcus, diphtheria and diphtheroid bacilli, pneumococcus, staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus, and other gram positive bacteria.

Proven galanga herbal remedies

Basic theory of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) holds the view that it is acrid in taste and hot in properties. And it covers two meridians of spleen and stomach. Chief functions are warming spleen and stomach for dispelling cold and regulating the flow of qi to alleviate pain. Prime galangal uses and indications include epigastric and abdominal cold pain, vomiting, belching, and more. Recommended galangal root dosage is from 3 to 6 grams in decoction, teapills, or powder.

1. Gao Liang Jiang Tang. Gao Liang Jiang Tang comes from Qian Jin Fang (Thousand Pieces of Gold Formulae). It is basically formulated for sudden angina in heart and abdomen, fullness in both rib-sides, and intolerable irritancy. Other herbal ingredients include Hou Po (Magnolia Bark), Dang Gui (Dong Quai), and Gui Xin (Cinnamomi Cortex).

2. Er Jiang Wan. Er Jiang Wan is from Tai Ping Hui Min He Ji Ju Fang (Formulas of the Peaceful Benevolent Dispensary). It is mainly designed for heart-spleen pain and all injury by cold. Other herb is Gan Jiang (Dried Ginger Root).

3. Liang Fu Wan. Liang Fu Wan comes from Liang Fang Ji Ye (A Small Collection of Fine Formulas). This prescription is primarily used for a bit of a pain in chest. Other herb is Xiang Fu Zi (Cyperus rotundus rhizome).

4. Bing Hu Tang. Bing Hu Tang is from Sheng Ji Zong Lu (Complete Record of Holy Benevolence). This prescription is exclusively used for nonstop vomiting in cholera. Other herb is Da Zao (Jujube fruit).

5. Qun Xun San. Qun Xun San comes from Bai Yi Xuan Fang (Precisely-selected Prescriptions). This recipe is principally used for wind-induced toothache. The other herb is Quan Xie (Scorpion).

Potential galangal root side effects and contraindications

In terms of dried galangal root toxicity, the median lethal dose of the ether extracts is 4.2 ± 0.4ml/kg to mice received intragastric administration. Poisoning is manifested as loss of righting reflex and death for lasting more than 8 hours. But no deaths were found in mice received gavage of 120g/kg water extract. In addition, it can induce the mutagenesis of TA98 and TA100 salmonella typhimurium. TCM wise, it shouldn’t be used in case of heat formation from yin deficiency.

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