Galangal root is a spice native to Southern Asia. It’s closely related to ginger and turmeric and has been used in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.
The word galangal refers to the root of several plants of the Zingiberaceae family. Lesser galangal, or Alpinia officinarum, is most commonly used.
Similarly to ginger and turmeric, galangal can be eaten fresh or cooked and is a popular addition to many Chinese, Indonesian, Malaysian, and Thai dishes.
This spice is also used to improve certain ailments, as it’s believed to help treat infections, reduce inflammation, boost male fertility, and even fight different types of cancer.
Galangal root has been employed in traditional medicine as a remedy for various ailments, and an increasing number of scientific studies support these uses.
Rich in antioxidants
Galangal root is a rich source of antioxidants, which are beneficial plant compounds that help fight disease and protect your cells from damaging free radicals.
It’s especially rich in polyphenols, a group of antioxidants linked to health benefits, such as improved memory and lower blood sugar and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
Polyphenols are also thought to protect against mental decline, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
May protect against certain cancers
Galangal root may help protect your body against certain types of cancer.
Test-tube studies suggest that the active compound in galangal root, known as galangin, may kill cancer cells or prevent them from spreading.
May boost male fertility
Emerging evidence suggests that galangal root may boost male fertility. In a study in 66 men with low sperm quality, taking a daily supplement containing galangal root and pomegranate fruit extract experienced a 62% increase in sperm motility, compared with a 20% increase in those in the placebo group.
May fight inflammation and pain
Galangal root may reduce disease-causing inflammation, as it contains HMP, a naturally occurring phytochemical that test-tube and animal studies have suggested boasts potent anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, plants of the Zingiberaceae family, including galangal, appear to mildly reduce pain, a common symptom of inflammation. For instance, in one 6-week study in 261 people with osteoarthritis of the knee, 63% of those who took a ginger and galangal extract daily reported a reduction in knee pain when standing, compared with 50% of those taking a placebo.
However, more studies on the pain-reducing effects of galangal root specifically are needed before strong conclusions can be made.
May protect against infections
Essential oils extracted from galangal root may fight a range of microorganisms. As such, galangal root may prolong the shelf life of certain foods. Also, adding fresh galangal root to your recipes may reduce your risk of vibriosis, an infection caused by eating undercooked shellfish. Furthermore, test-tube studies suggest that galangal root may kill harmful bacteria, including E. coli, Staphyloccocus aureus, and Salmonella Typhi, although its effectiveness appears to vary between studies.
Finally, some research suggests that galangal root may protect against fungi, yeasts, and parasites.
Precautions and side effects
Galangal root has been used in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine for centuries and is likely safe when consumed in the amounts typically found in foods. That said, there’s limited information regarding a safe dosage or the potential side effects of consuming it in larger amounts, such as those found in supplements.
One animal study observed that doses of 909 mg per pound (2,000 mg per kg) of body weight resulted in serious side effects, including a drop in energy levels, lack of appetite, excessive urination, diarrhea, coma, and even death.
These side effects were absent at significantly smaller dosages of 136 mg per pound (300 mg per kg) of body weight.
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