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Galanga-Kaempferia Galanga and others

Updated on September 20, 2012
Kaempferia Galanga
Kaempferia Galanga

Note: Galanga is often erroneously confused with galangal, which is Alpinia galanga1. Galanga actually is an rhizomatous herbaceous plant to the genus Kaempferia belonging to family Zingiberaceae1. Over 70 species of genus Kaempferia are known today. Improtant ones are Kaempferia Galanga and Kaempferia Rotunda.

Synonyms: It is called Kenkur in Indonesia, Krachai in Philippines, Kachai in Thailand. Other names are kencur, aromatic ginger , cutcherry or resurrection lily, sand ginger.

Geographical sources: It is cultivated in southeast asia especially in Indonesia, southern China, Taiwan, Cambodia and India.

What is Galanga

Galanga is an rhizomatous herbaceous plant to the genus Kaempferia belonging to family Zingiberaceae. Over 70 species of genus Kaempferia are known today. Improtant ones are Kaempferia Galanga and Kaempferia Rotunda. The essential oil from the rhizomes is used in perfumery and folk medicines. In Java, the rhizomes are used in seasoning rice dishes, and also pickled. The Javan beverage ‘beras kentjoor’ is made from the rhizomes. In many Asian countries galanga is used interchangeably with galangal. Leaves are eaten raw or after steaming, or cooked with chili. Both rhizomes and leaves are used in Asian countries for perfuming oil, vinegar, hair washes, powders, etc.

How Galanga is Cultivated?

Kurian and Nybe in the year 2003 assembled a collection of 30 genotypes and evaluated them for yield and quality associated characters. They reported that all the characters except numbers of leaves showed a significant difference among the collections. They have identified two high-yielding and high-quality lines and these were released for cultivation under the name ‘Kasthuri’ and ‘Rajani’.

Kaempferia galanga is a potent aromatic, medicinal plant suitable for cultivation in coconut Gardens. Planting time and type of seed material affect the growth, yield and quality of Kaempferia galanga. Mother rhizomes planted in May and harvested after six months gave the highest essential oil and oleoresin yields, compared to those planted in June.

Application of 50–75 kg N, 60 kg P2O5 and 50–75 kg K2O is found to be beneficial for increased rhizome and oil yields. Application of farmyard manure at 30 tonnes/ha is superior to the application of nutrients through inorganic form of fertilizers and it increased the yield by 60%. A well-managed plantation yields about 4–6 tonnes of fresh rhizomes per hectare. Dry recovery varies from 23 to 28%. Leaf rot disease is found to occur during the rainy season and it can be controlled by trenching with 1% Bordeaux mixture. In Kerala, cultivation of Kaempferia galanga is restricted to some localized tracts and the productivity of the crop is low ranging from 2–5 tonnes of fresh rhizomes per hectare. There is an acute shortage of planting material and the absence of seed set limits the scope for breeding. Root Knot nematode (Meloidogyne incognita) is a serious problem in Kaempferia.

A study of phyto-nematodes associated with Kaempferia galanga in Kerala revealed that an initial population of 200 and 1000 J2 (M. incognita) larvae per plant reduced the production of leaves, length and weight of rhizome.

Effects of leaf mulches from Azaridacta indica, Glirizidia maculata, Acacia mangium, Clerodendron infortunatum, Calotropis gigantea, and Chromolaena odorata on root knot nematode and Kaempferia galanga was studied by Nisha and Sheela (2002). Application of A. indica, C.odorata, and G. maculata mulches at 5 kg/m2 at 15 days before planting reduced nematode population by more than 60%, with mulches from A.indica being the most effective. Mulches from A. indica and C. odorata resulted in the lowest gall index. All treatments improved Kaempferia galanga yield and yield components. The highest rhizome yield (5.6 kg per plot) was obtained with A. indica mulches. Occurrence of leaf rot disease during the rainy season was noticed. Pseudomonas solanacearum causing bacterial wilt of Kaempferia galanga from Kerala, India, was reported.

The crop matures in about 6–7 months after planting. The aerial portion dries off on maturity. The rhizomes are dug out, cleaned and washed to remove soil and are dried in the sun. The essential oil is extracted by steam distillation of sliced and driedrhizomes. The oil yield varies with season and maturity stage of the rhizome.

Kaempferia galanga

Rhizome of Kaempferia Galanga
Rhizome of Kaempferia Galanga

How galanga can be identified botanically?

Few Galanga plants attain height of up to 30 cm but most remain much shorter and have fleshy, cylindrical aromatic root tubers. Plant usually have two broad,round leaves that are protrude horizontally slightly above the ground. Leaves are sessile, ovate, deltoid-acuminate, thin and are deep green in colour. Petioles are short channeled; flowers irregular shaped, bisexual in nature, white coloured, 6–12 in numbers present at the center of the plant between the leaves. They are fragrant and open successively; bracts are lanceolate, green, short, calyx is long like the outer bracts, short cylindrical, petals three, corolla tube is usually 2.5 cm long, lanceolate, pure white, stamenone, perfect, filament short, arcuate, anther two celled, cells discreet. Flowering starts from June and continues till the ends of September. The peak flowering months are July and August.

The underground part consists mainly of one or more prominent fairly big, vertically oriented tuberous rootstocks together with several smaller secondary tubers and a cluster of roots. The principal tuber consists of several transverse or horizontal annular scars of scale leaves. These nodes are directly attached with a few vertically oriented smaller tubers. Several roots arise from the rhizomes. The latter roots bear at their tips tubers of various forms, generally oval or conical. Tubers are succulent and watery and differ from the rhizomes.

When transverse section of a mature tuber is observed, it appears more or less circular in outline and shows a narrow light brownish border and a central well marked stele and a narrow cortex in between. A number of small vascular bundles are found scattered throughout the parenchymatous ground tissue. Leaf epidermal morphology of 12 species of Zingibearceae was compared and Kaempferia galanga showed the highest stomatal index. leaf anatomical features could be effectively used to distinguish one species of galanga from another. The somatic chromosome number of Kaempferia galanga is 2n = 54. Beltram and Kam in the year 1984 reported that the Asiatic Kaempferia species have x = 11 and that of African species have x = 14. Pollen morphology studies revealed the absence of exine in Kaempferia and palynologically Alpinia, Amomum, Zingiber and Kaempferia constitute one group.

Are any Tissue culture studies available about Galanga?

In this respect a lot of work has been done on Kaempferia galanga and related species. micropropagation of Kaempferia galanga was reported in 1992. High frequency single step in vitro protocols for rapid propagation from the rhizome buds were also established. A rapid clonal propagation system for Kaempferia galanga, has been developed for large-scale propagation and ex situ conservation . LaiKeng and WengHing(2004) reported in vitro propagation of Zingiberaceae species with medicinal properties.

To get consisted yeild and uniform crop plant regeneration from callus derived from rhizome bud explants and somatic embryo genesis had also been studied and reported by many researchers. Mostly MS medium supplemented with cytokinin like benzyladenine(BA) and auxins such as indole butyric acid (IBA) or a-naphthalene acetic acid was used for in vitro responses. After executing proper acclimatization protocol, in vitro plantlets could be successfully planted in the field with a high percentage of survival.

The micro-propagated plants could not be used on a commercial level as they produce sufficient quantity of rhizome only after three seasons of growth in the nursery. In order to reduce this time gap, efforts were made at the Tissue Culture Facility of Center for Medicinal Plants Research to develop in vitro micro-rhizome technology in Kaempferia galanga in culture media supplemented with higher levels of sucrose (Geetha et al., 2005). The micro-rhizome derived plants exhibited superiority over normal micro-propagated plants in rhizome formation after planting out. Chirangivi and his team in 2005 also reported microrhizome induction in this species. In vitro conservation by slow growth methods were developed for medium-term conservation of this important medicinal plant.

What are Functional properties of Galanga

Galanga is pharmaceutically a very active plant and many biological properties have been reported. As in the case of other zingiberaceous plants like ginger, greater galangal, etc., galanga also shows potent antitumour activities and antimutagenic activities. Vimala et al. reported seven zingiberaceous genera having such activities, and Kaempferia is a potent one that inhibited Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) activation induced by TPA (12-o- tetradecanoylphorbol-3-acetate). The above authors concluded that the naturally occurring non-toxic compounds inhibited the EBV activation. Kaempferia galanga extract exhibited amoebicidal activity against Acanthamoeba (DanMy et al., 1998).

Essential oil from the root induced gutathione-s-transferase activities in the stomach, liver and small intestine of mice. Ethanol extract of dried rhizome showed antispasmodic activity vs. histamine-induced contraction and barium-induced contraction in guinea pigs. An ethanol-water extract indicated smooth muscle stimulant activity. Water extract of dried rhizomes exhibited antitumour activity. Rhizome and root oils showed antibacterial activity against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and antifungal activity against Alternaria, Colletotrichum, Fusarium, etc. (Thomas et al. 1996; Arembawela et al., 1999a,b).

Kaempferia galanga extracts showed strong lipoxygenase inhibitory activities of more than 80% at 0.1 mg/ml (Ling et al., 1998). The hypolepidemic action of the ethanoic extract of Kaempferia galanga was observed in vitro. The oral administration of the extract was effective in lowering the total cholesterol, triglycerides and phospholipid levels in serum and tissues (Achuthan and Padikkala, 1997). Extract of Kaempferia galanga exhibited marked larvicidal effect against Culex quinquefasciatus (Pitasawat et al., 1998) and the hexane fraction exhibited high mosquito larvicidal effect and also repellent activity for adult mosquito (Taesotikul et al., 1999). Xue and Chen (2002) have shown that cis- and trans-ethyl p-methoxy-cinnamate inhibit EBV in vitro and also has an inhibitory effect in TPA assays or croton oil-induced ear edema, ODC activity in mouse epidermis and papilloma indicating a relatively strong anti-carcinogenic potential of ethyl-pmethoxy cinnamate. Ethyl cinnamate (EC) inhibited the contractions induced by high K+ and Phenylephrine (PE) in a concentration-dependent manner. The relaxant effect against PE-induced contractions was greater in the presence of endothelium. This inhibition effect of EC is believed to involve the inhibition of Ca++ influx into vascular cells and release of NO and prostacyclin from the endothelial cells (Othaman et al., 2002). This explains the traditional use of galanga for treating hypertension. Chloroform extract inhibited vascular smooth muscle contraction by the inhibition of Ca2+ influx and Ca2+ sensitivity of contractile elements (Mustafa et al., 1996).

The hexane fraction of Kaempferia galanga rhizome is categorized as a non-irritant both in animal and human volunteer studies (Choochote et al., 1999; Kanjanpothi et al.,2004). Acute toxicity studies using alcoholic extracts of the rhizome on mice and rabbits, indicated that oral administration of 5 g/kg and 10 g/kg of crude extract was non-toxic (Kanjanapothi et al., 2004). Kaempferia galanga demonstrates less toxicity, but it is considered as an effective botanical insecticide with high larvicidal activity and a protective effect against mosquitoes (Choochote et al., 1999).

What are the Major Chemical constituents of Galanga

Kaempferia galanga rhizome contains about 2.5 to 4% essential oil. The main components of the oil are ethyl cinnamate (25%), ethyl-p- methoxycinnamate (30%) and pmethoxycinnamic acid and a monoterpene ketone compound, 3-carene-5-one (Kiuchi et al., 1987). The first three compounds are reported to have larvicidal activity (Kiuchiet al., 1988). The other constituents are camphene, d-3-carene, p-methoxy styrene, gpinene, b-myrcene, p-cymene, 1,8-cineole, isomyrcene, camphor, a-terpineol, pcymene-8-ol, eucarvone, d-cadinene, hexadecane, heptadecane, limonene, octanol,tetradecane, 2-3-dehydro benzofuran, vanillin-p-methoxy phenol, caravacrol, carveol,myrtenol, b-cymene, p-methoxybenzaldehyde, b-cadinene, carcine, m-anisaldehyde, quinasoline-4- phenyl-3-oxide, sandaracopimaradiene-9-ol-1-one, sandaracopimaradiene-1, 9-diol, 6-acetoxy sandaracopimaradiene-9-ol-1-one (and its isomers) etc. (Arembewela and Silva, 1999; Arembewela et al., 2000). The leaves contain kaempferol, quercetin, cyanidin and delphinidin. The camphor present has been characterized as ethyl-p-methoxy-trans-cinnamate (Rastogi and Mehrotra, 1998). The composition of essential oil of rhizome of Kaempferia galanga growing in Malaysia has been investigated by capillary GC, GC-MS and IH-NMR (Wong et al., 1992).

The major components of a Malaysian sample of the oil are ethyl-trans-p-methoxycinnamate(51.6%), ethyl cinnamate, (16.5%), pentadecane (9.0%), delta-car- zone(3.3%), borneol (2.7%) and 1,8-cineole (5.7%). It also contains monoterpene ketone, 3 caren-5 ene. The oil has been reported to possess insecticidal activity which is attributed to ethyl-trans-p-methoxy-cinnamate and ethyl-cinnamate. The rhizome is also reported to display cytotoxic properties.

What are Important Uses of Galanga

Kaempferia galanga is cultivated for its aromatic rhizomes and also as an ornamental and has a long history of medicinal use. The rhizome is chewed and ingested. It is used as a flavouring for rice. The rhizomes are considered stimulatory, expectorant, carminative and diuretic. They are used in the preparation of gargles and administered with honey in cough and chest afflictions. In the Philippines, a decoction of the rhizomes is used for dyspepsia, headache and malaria. The juice of the plant is an ingredient in the preparation of some tonic preparations. The rhizomes and roots are used for flavouring food and in medicine in Southeast Asia (CSIR, 1959). The rhizome is mixed with oil as a cicatrizant applying it to boils and furuncles (Duke, 2003). Bown (2001) cited a mix of four ginger relatives (Alpinia, Curcuma, Kaempferia and Zingiber) called ‘awas empas’, a Jamu remedy for headaches, stiff joints and urinary tract infection.

Kaempferia is indicated in treatment of a large number of common ailments including amebiasis, bruise, childbirth, cholera, cough,dandruff, dyspepsia, enterosis, fever, furuncle, headache, inflammation, lameness, lice, lumbago, malaria, myosin, ophthalmia, pain, parasite, rheumatism, rhinosis, scabies, sore-throat, swellings, toothache and tumor (Duke, 2003). The rhizome mixed with oil is used externally for healing wounds and applied to warm rheumatic regions.

A rhizome based lotion is used against dandruff or scales from the head. A mixture of powdered rhizome and natural honey is given as an expectorant. The leaves are used in locations and poultices for sore eyes, rheumatism and fever. In Thailand, the dried rhizome of this plant is used as a cardiotonic (CSIR, 1959). In India, the dried rhizomes along with some other plants are used for heart diseases. It is also used for the treatment of abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and toothache with the functions of promoting vital energy circulation and alleviating pain. In Kaempferia rhizomes are used in preparation of over 60 ayurvedic formulations.

In Java, the rhizomes are popularly employed for seasoning many rice dishes. Rhizomes are also pickled or used to make ‘beras’, a sweet, spicy beverage. Another beverage, ‘berao kentjoor’ is made from the roots. Dried rhizomes are also added to curry powder. In many Asian countries galanga and galangal are used interchangeably, leaves and rhizomes may be used in curries, eaten raw or steamed, or cooked with chilli. Leaves of the narrow-leaved variety are eaten and both types are used in lalabs. Asians employ the rhizomes and leaves as a perfume in cosmetics, hair washes and powders. Rarely it is used as a hallucinogen (Duke, 2003). In Malaysia, the rhizome is used for chills in elephants. In Sri Lanka, rhizome mixed with oil is used externally for healing of wounds and applied to warm rheumatic regions. The powdered rhizome is mixed with honey and given for coughs and pectoral ailments. Dried rhizome is used as a cardiotonic in Thailand. In Papua New Guinea the rhizome is used orally as an abortifacient. (Arambewela and Silva, 1999). The essential oil is used in flavoring curries, in perfumery and also for medicinal purposes (Bhattacharjee, 2000). Kaempferia rotunda Kaempferia rotunda L. (Indian crocus) is found scattered thoughout India in most localities. It is cultivated occasionally as a garden plant. The tuber is used in about 21 medicinal preparations in Ayurveda. It is a perennial herb having a tuberous rhizome. Leaves are simple, ligulate, few, erect, lanceolate, acute, variegated, green above and tinged with purple below, up to 45 cm long and 10 cm wide, petiole short, channeled, leaf base sheathing, flowers on a short crowned spike, flowers are bractolate, bisexual and trivenous and having the typical Zingiberaceous floral structure. Propagation is though rhizomes.

Tubers are acrid, thermogenic, aromatic, stomachic, anti-inflammatory, sialagogue, and emetic. They are useful in vitiated conditions of Vata and Kapha, gastropathy,dropsy, inflammations, wound, ulcer, blood clot, tumors and cancerous swellings (Warrier et al., 1995). The fresh bruised tubers are in popular use in many parts of India and applied to bruises to reduce swelling. The decoction is also applied to wounds with coagulated blood and with any purulent matter.


1. Handbook of herbs and spices Volume 3 Edited by K. V. Peter, chapter 20 ,Galanga P. N. Ravindran and G. S. Pillai, Centre for Medicinal Plants Research, India, page 347


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      6 years ago

      Its extract when mixed with honey is very effective in relieving sore throat and cough, a household preparation in many parts of south India. In kerla it is cultivated in Home gardens for domestic use.

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      6 years ago

      Thanks for making the difference of galanga and galangal apparent! very well written hub! Add some pictures , that would make things even more clear!


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