Alpinia galanga (Thai Ginger) Uses, Research, Remedies, Side Effects

Mahabhari Vacha –  Alpinia galanga is an Ayurvedic herb used for the treatment of sore throat, erectile dysfunction, cough, common cold, oral freshness and increased urination. 

Latin name- Alpinia galanga wild.
Family- Zingiberaceae

Names in different languages:        
Hindi name- Kulanjan
English name- Java galangal, Greater galangal, Blue ginger, Thai ginger, Siamese ginger
Bengali name- Barakalinjan
Gujarati name- Kolinjan
Kannada name- Doddarasa Gadde
Malayalam name- Aratta
Marathi name- Koshthkulinjan
Tamil name- Aruttai
Telugu name- Dumpara stramu
Urdu name- Kulanjan
Arabic name – Khalanjan, Khulanjan – e – kabir
Chinese name – Liyang – chiang
Burmese name – Padagoji
Deccan name – Barakhulanjan
Malay name – Launcher
Persian name – Khurduwari
Portuguese  – Galanga
Sindh name – Kathi
Urdu name – Kuknjan

Sanskrit Synonyms of Kulanjan: 
Sthoola granthi- Have big rhizome
Sugandha, Gandha moola, Ugra gandha- Rhizome have good, strong aroma
Elaparni- Leaf resembles to the leaf of cardamom plant
Rakta pushpa- Flowers are red in color
Kapidruma, Malaya Vacha, Koraj, Sthulagranthi, Nakuli, patala, Elaparni, Gandha Varuni

Morphology of Alpinia galanga:
It is a small plant growing to a height of 1.5-2 m. the stem is leafy like that of Vacha (Acorus calamus). The leaves are 1-2 feet long and 4-6 inch wide, green and soft. The flowers are seen in clusters, 1-2 feet long, having hair like structures and greenish white in color. They are seen in the summer season. The fruits are round, reddish inside and have a smell like that of cardamom. Seeds are pale brown, flat and slightly triangular in shape and have a strong odor. The rhizome of the plant is thick and can grow up-to 1 foot long and 2 inch thick and has a pleasant, strong odor like that of pepper.

The plant belongs basically to Java, Indonesia and is available throughout South East India. In South India, the herb ‘Rasna’ is used for Alpinia galanga.

Rasa (Taste) – Katu (Pungent)
Guna (Qualities) – Laghu (Light for digestion), Teekshna (Strong), Ruksha (Dry in nature)
Vipaka – Katu (Undergoes Pungent taste after digestion)
Veerya (Potency) – Ushna (Hot)
Karma (Actions) – Kaphavata shamaka (reduces vitiated kapha and vata dosha)

Part used- Rhizome
Root powder- 3 to 6 g

Chemical composition of Alpinia galanga:
Major constituents of the essential oil, which is obtained from the plant, are methyl cinnamate, cineole and d-pinene. Three flavonoids- Alpin, Galangin and Kaempferide are also found in the plant.

Uses of Thai Ginger – Mahabhari vacha:

  • 2-3 g of the powder of the rhizome of Alpinia galangal mixed with hot water or honey is given to patients suffering from sore throat, cough and common cold as part of treatment.
  • The powder of the rhizome of Mahabhari vacha is rubbed slightly over the penile region in cases of erectile dysfunction and lack of libido in males.
  • Small piece of rhizome is kept in the mouth and chewed slowly in conditions of bad odor of mouth, sore throat and hoarseness of the voice.
  • The powder of the rhizome is rubbed all over the body in case of hypothermia, to increase the peripheral circulation and increase the body temperature.
  • 2-3 g of powder is added with a glass of buttermilk or hot water and consumed to improve the appetite and treat case of indigestion.
  • The powder is added with hot water and made into paste and this is applied over the joints having inflammation and pain.
  • To decrease the quantity of urine output, the powder or decoction of the rhizome of Alpinia galanga is consumed.

Uses of Greater Galangal as per Ayurveda:
It is similar to Vacha – Acorus calamus in qualities. But it is slightly less potent than Vacha.
Ruchya – improves taste, relieves anorexia.
Deepana – improves digestion strength
Svarya – improves voice tone and quality
Hrudya – acts as cardiac tonic, congenial for heart
Mukha Vishuddhikrut – cleanses oral cavity
Kanthavishuddhi krut – cleanses throat

Indicated in
Shwasa – asthma and chronic respiratory disorders
Kasa – cough, cold
Vataroga – Vata Dosha imbalance disorders such as neuralgia, paralysis, constipation, bloating, etc

Folklore Uses:
In convulsion – chew the corns and apply to head
Food posing – Rhizome is crushed and used internally
Bronchial catarrh – kwatha – herbal decoction of rhizome is used.
It is used in respiratory troubles in children
Rhizome is carminative and stomachic
Effective in sour throat and hoarseness of voice
Cough, throat infection, asthma, impotency, coryza, catarrhal affection nervine disorders abdominal colic, anorexia, vata vyadhi, urinary, ailments, mouth foul, excess colds
Indigestion – dry powder of rhizome is administered orally.

On external use: 
It acts as stimulant it is rubbed on the body to treat hypothermia, to relieve excess perspiration and pain.

Side Effects Of Greater Galangal:
The herb is a nerve stimulant and slightly increases the blood pressure and flow; hence people suffering from hypertension should use this herb with caution.

Ayurvedic medicine containing Mahabhari vacha:
P-Kof-syrup: This is a proprietary ayurvedic cough syrup which is beneficial for the treatment of cough, asthma and allergic conditions.

Research articles related to Alpinia galanga:
Anti- melanoma activity: Two compounds, 1,7-bis(4-hydroxyphenyl)-1,4,6-heptatrien-3-one (BHPHTO) and bisdemethoxycurcumin (BDMC) they have been isolated from the rhizomes of Alpinia galangal, and the structures of both pure constituents were determined using spectroscopic analyses. The study examined the bioeffectivenesses of the two compounds on the human melanoma A2058 and showed that significantly inhibited the proliferation of melanoma cells in the cell viability assay.

Anti- microbial activity: The present study was carried out to determine antimicrobial and radical scavenging effect of leaf and rhizome extract of A. galanga. The powdered leaf and rhizome were extracted by soxhlet extraction using methanol. Antimicrobial activity of extracts was determined by Agar well diffusion assay against 15 clinical isolates of bacteria (from burn, dental caries and urinary tract infection) and two fungi (Candida albicansand Cryptococcus neoformans). Rhizome extract was found to possess high inhibitory activity against fungi and clinical isolates of bacteria. The plant can be used for the development of agents active against pathogenic microbes and radical induced damage.

Action against gastric cancer cells: This study evaluated the effect of Alpinia galangal on AGS cells (human gastric adenocarcinoma epithelial cell line) and L929 cells (as a standard cell line originated from mouse fibroblast cells). After culturing the cells in Roswell Park Memorial Institute (RPMI) medium, the cells were incubated with different doses of Alpinia galangal (0 (control), 125, 250, 500, 750 and 1000 µg/ml) in 24, 48 and 72 hour periods and then, cells viability were assessed using MTT based cell proliferation assay. After 24 hours, the percentage of living AGS cells compared to the control group showed no significant decrease at the concentrations of 125 and 250µg/ml. But in the rest concentrations were significant (p<0.05). We have demonstrated, using cell culture model, anti-proliferative effect of aqueous extract of Alpinia galangal on human gastric tumor (AGS) and L929 cell lines. This effect was prominent in high concentrations.

Classical categorization:
Bhavaprakasha- Hareetakyadi Varga
Raja Nighantu- Pippalyadi Varga
Priya Nighantu – Shatapushpadi Varga

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Zingiberales
Family: Zingiberaceae
Subfamily: Alpinioideae
Tribe: Alpinieae
Genus: Alpinia
Species: A. galanga

Probably it is brought to India in 12th AD. Shodhala quoted Kalinjanadi avaleha in Gada Nigraha. Bhavamisra (16 AD ) described two varietes Mahabharivacha and sthulagranthi vaca. The former is pungent in smell while the later has aroma. Raja nighantu described it as kulanjan where as no mentioning is made in Dhanvanthari Nighantu.

Author: Dr.B.K.Prashanth M.D (Ayu), Ph.D
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  1. Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

    Alpinia galanga powder (also called Kulanjan powder) is available in amazon website here

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