Lesser galangal – characteristics, cultivation and use

Lesser galangal
Lesser galangal - by Franz Eugen Köhler

The lesser galangal is native to the island of Hainan in the South China Sea and is also grown throughout Southeast Asia. Similar to ginger (Zingiber officinale), the bulbous rhizomes of the plant are being used.

Profile of lesser galangal:

Scientific name: Alpinia officinarum

Plant family: ginger family (Zingiberaceae)

Other names: symphytumoot

Sowing time / Planting time: February – May

Flowering period: April

Harvest time: April – October

Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers, roots

Location: sunnyto half shady

Soil quality: moderately moist, nutrient-rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: heart failure, digestive problems and inflammation of the mucous membranes

Use as aromatic herb: asian soups, vegetable, meat dishes, fish dishes

Plant characteristics and classification of lesser galangal

Origin and occurrence of lesser galangal

Lesser galangal is native to the island of Hainan in the South China Sea and is also grown throughout Southeast Asia.

Plant order of lesser galangal

Lesser galangal (Alpinia officinarum), also called galangal root, is a plant within the family of ginger family (Zingiberaceae). Also known as “Galangal” is the Greater Galangal or blue ginger (Alpinia galanga) – the plant belongs to the same family.

Characteristics of the lesser galangal


The lesser galangal is a perennial herbaceous plant with cylindrical, white-brownish rhizomes that have an orange-reddish flesh. From the bulbous rhizomes form upright shoots that are between one and a half meters (3 to 5 ft) high. The whole plant exudes a pleasant scent reminiscent of cinnamon and cardamom.


Lesser galangal has sessile, entire and dark green leaves. They are about 2 cm (0.8 in) wide and 25 to 30 cm (10 to 12 in) long.


From April appear racemose inflorescences of hermaphrodite white flowers with reddish lines. However, we rarely see the flowers of the genuine galangal in temperate climate.


The fruits are small, round capsule fruits.

Lesser galangal – cultivation and care


The lesser galangal grows in temperate climate best as a potted plant in the greenhouse or on the windowsill, as it needs a warm location all year round. The galangal root tolerates both sunny and partially shaded places.


The substrate in the pot should be permeable and nutrient-rich. Make sure you have a sufficiently large vessel and a drainage layer of expanded clay, so that the irrigation water can always drain off well.

Planting / Sowing

You can buy lesser galangal as a potted plant and place it in a warm place on the windowsill, in the winter garden or in the greenhouse. Alternatively, you can plant parts of the thickened rhizomes in the spring in the garden and use it to get new galangal plants. Suitable for this are about 5 cm (2 in) long sections of the rhizomes, which you put in a pot of loose and nutrient-rich soil and lightly cover with soil. In order to increase the humidity and promote the proliferation, cover the pot with a foil hood. Room temperatures of 20 to 22 °C (68 to 72 °F) are ideal.


The simplest way is to multiply by dividing the rhizomes, which you dig up in the autumn and plant in a new and sufficiently large vessel.

Watering / Fertilization

The lesser galangal needs regular watering with lukewarm water – best during the growth phase daily. However, make sure that it does not come to waterlogging, since the roots otherwise start to rot quickly. The galangal root is also happy if you spray the leaves occasionally and give liquid fertilizer to the irrigation water every two weeks.

Harvest and conservation

The bulbous rhizomes of galangal root can only be harvested after four to five years – then they have reached a diameter of two to five cm (0.8 to 2 in). Dig the yellowish-brown rhizomes best in the fall.

You can preserve lesser galangal by drying the rhizomes and then grinding them into a powder. Even in commerce, the spice is available mainly in powder form.

Diseases and pests

As far as plant diseases and pests are concerned, the lesser galangal is relatively insensitive due to its essential oils. However, if the culture is too wet, root rot can easily occur, causing the plant to die.


Lesser galangal is not hardy. It always needs temperatures of 20 to 22 °C (68 to 72 °F).

Use of the lesser galangal

Lesser galangal in the kitchen

You can peel, slice or grate fresh root tubers and use them to season Asian soups as well as vegetable, meat and fish dishes. Often the woody-fibrous rhizomes are also cooked only to give the food a spicy-hot aroma. It tastes almost as spicy as ginger, but is also reminiscent of cardamom, lemon and cinnamon.

Lesser galangal as a medicinal herb

Lesser galangal has a long tradition not only as a food spice: Due to its pungency, the lesser galangal is regarded as a warming and heart strengthening agent in traditional Chinese medicine. Hildegard von Bingen attributed great importance to the plant, which was brought west by Arab merchants: She described galangal as a “spice of life” and used it as a tonic for heart failure, digestive problems and inflammation of the mucous membranes.

The galangal root is rich in essential oils and gingerols, which make up the spicy aroma. In addition, the rhizomes contain flavonoids, tannins and anti-inflammatory substances. The abbess used the powdered galangal root for heartache, nausea, and as a stomach-strengthening agent. In addition, galangal is a component of Habermus, a warm spelled porridge, and was added to bitters and herbal liqueurs.

Today, lesser galangal is an anticonvulsant, bacteria and anti-inflammatory and appetite-stimulating effect attributed. Therefore, one uses galangal in powder or tablet form in herbal medicine for digestive problems, gastrointestinal complaints, bloating, flatulence and also for a healthy oral flora. Since the active ingredients are absorbed through the oral mucosa, it is advised to slowly dissolve lesser galangal tablets in the mouth. Due to its sharpness, it is also considered to be an immune-boosting agent in natural medicine, providing inner warmth and well-being. For circulatory problems, fatigue and circulatory disorders, a tea from the galangal root can help.

Preparation of a lesser galangal tea

For a tea from the galangal root, put two teaspoons of galangal root powder in a cup, dash with boiling water and let it steep for about ten minutes. Alternatively, you can cut the rhizomes into thin slices and brew with 2 to 3 liters (4 to 6 pint) of boiling water. For an appetizing effect, you should drink the tea in sips before meals.

Lesser galangal can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • bloating
  • circulatory disorders
  • circulatory problems
  • cold
  • digestive problems
  • fatigue
  • fever
  • flatulence
  • gastrointestinal complaints
  • headache
  • healthy oral flora
  • heartache
  • nausea
  • stomach-strengthening

Medicinal properties

  • antibacterial
  • anticonvulsant
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antipyretic
  • appetite-stimulating
  • mucus-dissolving

Side effects

Not known.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

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