LifestyleExplore the health benefits of galangal, ginger's lesser-known cousin

Explore the health benefits of galangal, ginger's lesser-known cousin

Galangal resembles ginger, but has a more intense flavor.
Galangal resembles ginger, but has a more intense flavor.
Images source: © Freepik | jcomp
2:22 PM EST, November 15, 2023

Galangal, also known as galingale, serves dual purposes—as both a spice and a component of various natural medications. The health benefits of galangal can be attributed to a substance it incorporates, called galangin. This component assists with weight loss, along with regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Resembling ginger, galangal is a fiery and intense spice, balancing bitterness and peppery flavours. This plant is renowned for its medicinal properties, and is used not only in cooking but also in traditional medicine. In its native region, Southeast Asia, people use it as a remedy for an array of conditions such as arthritis, cough, asthma, diabetes, and obesity.

Discover the health benefits of galangal—ginger's relative

Through various studies, scientists have uncovered that it’s primarily galanin, abundantly present in galangal, responsible for its medicinal advantages. Galangin represents a naturally occurring compound, a member of a group of flavonoids known as flavonols.

Researchers from India's KLE University's College of Pharmacy propose that galangal possesses properties that promote weight loss. In their studies involving rodents, galanin spurred the burning of existing fat and deterred the formation of new fat. The fiber present in galangal further supports weight loss, while also providing relief from digestive discomfort.

Another powerful benefit of galangal is its hypoglycemic properties, meaning it has the potential to lower blood sugar levels. Pakistani researchers from the Postgraduate Medical Institute demonstrated these effects in a study conducted with rabbits, revealing that both powdered galangal root (Alpinia galanga) and its extract of water and alcohol successfully reduced glucose levels.

Galangal is a cousin of ginger.
Galangal is a cousin of ginger.© Pixabay

Additionally, galangal contains substances that have demonstrated the capacity to reduce cholesterol levels. According to scientists from the Indian state of Kerala, writing for the "Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry," these substances found in galangal root can lower total cholesterol, "bad" LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides while significantly increasing "good" HDL cholesterol levels.

Galangal—the spice for every dish

Galangal has a significant presence in cuisine, particularly in Thailand, where it enhances various dishes. Its most favored use is in popular soups like tom yum kung (or tom yum goong) and tom kha kai (or tom ka gai). It is also popular in seafood, meat dishes, salads, and sauces, including dips. In Indonesia, galangal season, the traditional soup Soto is found in an herbal drink called Jama. In Malaysia, there is a rice dish called nasi ulam.

Galingale went from Asia to Central and Eastern Europe thanks to the Tatars. Primarily, it was used as a spice for various alcoholic beverages—a tradition that persists today. Presently, an extract from the rhizome of this plant features as one of the ingredients in a renowned Polish vodka. Meanwhile, in Russia, it is favored for flavoring the liqueur nastoyka.

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