Zingaberaceae, Alpina galanga, galangal
Alpinia galanga, syns. Languas galanga, Kaempferia galanga
Galangal is a ginger, turmeric and cardamom relative, larger than the former two, slightly smaller than a mature cardamom patch, growing to a four foot hedge. Both the roots and leaves can be used in a wide variety of ways. The roots have a flavour vaguely reminiscent of its relatives, much more powerful.
The plant is cultivated in Southern China, Thailand, and India. It forms large woody that are commercially harvested. Since ancient times, these roots have been used in Asia as a spice and medicine. The Arabian physician Ibn-al-Baytar attributed love-promoting properties to the pungent root. The rhizome has been used as an aphrodisiac since the eighth century and was a popular additive to stimulating herbal liquors. According to Mattioli (sixteenth century), “it aromatizes the breath, promotes digestion, remedies flatulence, and stimulates the bodily lusts.” In German folk medicine, it is said that persons who eat the root are able to have coitus twelve times. Galangal roots contain essential oils, resins, and flavonoids.