Source, Etc

Galangal root is the rhizome of Alpinia officinarum, Hance (N.O. Scitamineae), a reedlike plant, attaining about a metre in height, a native of and cultivated on the island of Hainan and the neighbouring south-east coast of China. The rhizome is dug up in the autumn, washed, trimmed, cut into pieces, and dried; during the latter process the pale colour of the fresh rhizome turns to a reddish brown. The drug is exported in bales made of split cane, plaited, and bound round with cane.

Galangal root is not now much used in England, but is still employed in some parts of Russia both as a spice and as a medicine.


The drug consists of a branched rhizome, about 12 mm. thick, that has evidently been cut whilst fresh into pieces about 5 or 10 cm. long. These are frequently cylindrical, but sometimes tapering or enlarged, and often branched. They are dull reddish brown, longitudinally striated or shrivelled, and bear, at intervals of about 5mm., pale, encircling, sinuous or frilled remains of cataphyl-lary leaves. Here and there the broken upper end of a root remains attached to the rhizome, but these are by no means numerous. It is hard, tough, and difficult to break.

Fig. 203.   Galangal root. Natural size.

Fig. 203. - Galangal root. Natural size.

The interior of the drug has a reddish brown colour, sometimes deeper, sometimes paler than that of the exterior. The transverse section exhibits a distinct central column (stele) surrounded by a wide cortex. In both of these portions paler fibro-vascular bundles and numerous deep red resin-cells may be distinguished under the lens. The drug has an agreeable spicy odour and a strongly pungent spicy taste. The student should observe

(a) The reddish brown colour,

(b) The remains of the cata-phyllary leaves,

(c) The pungent taste,

(d) The structure exhibited by the transverse section.


Galangal rhizome contains a little volatile oil (cineol, methyl cinnamate), and a pungent oily body, galangol. It also contains three tasteless, yellow crystalline substances, viz. kaempferide, galangin, and the monomethyl ether of galangin. Alpinin, which was formerly considered to be a constituent of the drug, appears to be a mixture of kaempferide and galangin. Galangin is dioxyflavanol and has been obtained synthetically. Kaempferide is 1.3-dioxy-4-methoxyflavonol.

Fig. 204.   Galangal rhizome. Transverse

Fig. 204. - Galangal rhizome. Transverse section, magnified 3 diam. a, cortex; v, endodermis; b, stele; y, vascular bundles. (Berg).


Galangal rhizome has stimulant and carminative properties and is used for flatulent dyspepsia.

Varieties, Etc

Greater galangal, the rhizome of A. Galanga, Will-denow, which is occasionally imported from Java, is much larger, orange-brown externally and pale buff internally; it has similar properties, but is less pungent.