The Benefits of Galangal

Galangal root
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Galangal is a plant used in herbal medicine. A member of the ginger family, it's often used for gastrointestinal issues such as nausea. Galangal extract is typically extracted from the root of the plant.

Galangal contains a number of compounds thought to influence health. These compounds include antioxidants and tannins (a class of substances with anti-inflammatory properties). In addition, galangal extract appears to act as an antimicrobial (i.e., a substance that destroys or suppresses the growth of microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi).

Uses for Galangal

In alternative medicine, galangal is said to aid in the treatment of the following health problems:

bad breath 
diabetes
diarrhea
indigestion 
motion sickness
• nausea
• ulcers

In addition, galangal is thought to improve digestion, stimulate circulation, promote weight loss, and protect against obesity. Proponents also suggest that galangal can stave off some forms of cancer.

When applied topically (i.e., directly to the skin), galangal is purported to reverse signs of aging, as well as fight acne. Topical use of galangal is also said to help treat burns.

The Health Benefits of Galangal

Although it's long been used in certain systems of alternative medicine, galangal has been tested in few scientific studies. While there's currently a lack of clinical trials evaluating the potential health benefits of galangal, several preliminary studies indicate that it may be effective against some health conditions.

For example, an animal study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2012 found that galangal may possess anti-obesity properties.

For the study, a group of mice were placed on a high-fat diet and then treated with galangal extract. Researchers observed that treatment with galangal helped prevent high-fat-diet-induced increases in weight and in fat tissue.

Galangal also appeared to affect the animals' levels of leptin (a hormone that plays a key role in fat metabolism).

In addition, another animal study (published in the Italian journal Fitoterapia in 2002) suggests that galangal may help regulate blood sugar levels. In tests on rabbits, the study's authors observed that treatment with powdered galangal extract reduced blood sugar levels in normal test animals. However, researchers also found that galangal failed to improve blood sugar levels in rabbits with diabetes.

There's also some evidence that galangal may offer cancer-fighting benefits. In a preliminary study published in Molecular Medicine Reports in 2013, for instance, tests on human breast cancer cells demonstrated that galangal extract may help inhibit the growth and spread of breast cancer, in part by inducing apoptosis (a type of programmed cell death essential for stopping the proliferation of cancer cells).

Caveats

Because so few studies have examined its health effects, little is known about the safety of long-term use of galangal.

However, there's some concern that this herb may trigger such side effects as heartburn and skin rash.

If you're considering the use of galangal in treatment of a condition (such as diabetes), make sure to consult your physician. Self-treating a chronic condition with galangal and avoiding or delaying physician-prescribed treatment may have serious consequences.

Alternatives to Galangal

Often referred to as a cousin of galangal, ginger may offer a number of health effects similar to those claimed for this herb.

For example, preliminary studies show that intake of ginger may help regulate blood sugar and treat insulin resistance in people with diabetes. Some preliminary research also indicates that ginger may support weight-loss efforts.

Where to Find It

Available for purchase online, dietary supplements containing galangal extract are sold in many natural-foods stores and drugstores.

Sources

Akhtar MS, Khan MA, Malik MT. "Hypoglycaemic activity of Alpinia galanga rhizome and its extracts in rabbits." Fitoterapia. 2002 Dec;73(7-8):623-8.

Ghil S. "Antiproliferative activity of Alpinia officinarum extract in the human breast cancer cell line MCF-7." Mol Med Rep. 2013 Apr;7(4):1288-92.

Huang H, Wu D, Tian WX, Ma XF, Wu XD. "Antimicrobial effect by extracts of rhizome of Alpinia officinarum Hance may relate to its inhibition of beta-ketoacyl-ACP reductase." J Enzyme Inhib Med Chem. 2008 Jun;23(3):362-8.

Jung CH, Jang SJ, Ahn J, Gwon SY, Jeon TI, Kim TW, Ha TY. "Alpinia officinarum inhibits adipocyte differentiation and high-fat diet-induced obesity in mice through regulation of adipogenesis and lipogenesis." J Med Food. 2012 Nov;15(11):959-67.

Ly TN, Shimoyamada M, Kato K, Yamauchi R. "Antioxidative compounds isolated from the rhizomes of smaller galanga (Alpinia officinarum Hance)." Biofactors. 2004;21(1-4):305-8.

Srividya AR, Dhanabal SP, Misra VK, Suja G. " Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Activity of Alpinia officinarum." Indian J Pharm Sci. 2010 Jan;72(1):145-8.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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