Galangal is a herbaceous perennial from Indochina and Southeastern China. It has thick reddish-brown creeping rhizomes, long and thin lanceolate acuminate leaves, and white showy flowers with red streaks, appearing at the top of the spike.
Since very ancient times, it has been conventionally used in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicinal Systems. In China, galangal rhizome is used to treat colds, relieve stomach aches, invigorate the circulatory system, and diminish swelling. Its dry root and rhizome are known as potent antidiabetic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti diarrhea, anti-ulcer, antiemetic, antibacterial, anticancer, analgesic, and anticoagulant.
In medieval Europe, the galangal rhizome was famous for its rose-like fragrance and sweet-spicy taste. Today in Asia, its root powder is used in making curries, jellies, drinks, perfumes, and teas. It possesses certain biologically active compounds that not only impart galangal its distinguishing taste but also its characteristic pharmacologic actions. It has been found to contain galangin, beta-sitosterol, quercetin, and emodin.