Lesser Galangal (Alpinia officinarum)
Lesser Galangal is a plant from the ginger family. It's scientific name is Alpinia officinarum, and it is native to Asia, although it is cultivated elsewhere. This plant has been used for thousands of years in China, and was an important herb/spice for early trade with the Middle East and later Europe. Fun fact! The word Galangal is in fact an arabicized form of the Chinese name for the plant, "Gao-Liang-Jiang".
Lesser Galangal is a herbaceous perennial, capable of growing to large heights, sometimes even up to 10 feet! The plant sports green, lance like leaves, and blossoms in small petaled clusters from flowering stems. These flowers are generally white with colored streaks in the middle. The plant grows best in warm, humid, and well-drained areas. The plant is cultivated for it's highly aromatic rhizome, which is dried and used as a culinary and medicinal spice, as well as a perfume. It has been also used to make jam's, candies, curries, and teas.
The primary constituent of Galangal is a flavanoid Galangin. This is the compound responsible for the rhizomes unique taste and spicy properties. Galangal has been studied and determined to be antibacterial and antiviral in nature. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Galangal is used as a bitter aromatic herb for stimulating the body and digestive system. The rhizome is best harvested for medicinal use after at least 2 years of growth.