1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Galangal

GALANGAL, formerly written “galingale,” and sometimes “garingal,” rhizoma galangae (Arab. Kholínjan;[1] Ger. Galgantwurzel; Fr. Racine de Galanga), a drug, now obsolete, with an aromatic taste like that of mingled ginger and pepper. Lesser galangal root, radix galangae minoris, the ordinary galangal of commerce, is the dried rhizome of Alpinia officinarum, a plant of the natural order Zingiberaceae, growing in the Chinese island of Hainan, where it is cultivated, and probably also in the woods of the southern provinces of China. The plant is closely allied to Alpinia calcarata, the rhizome of which is sold in the bazaars of some parts of India as a sort of galangal. Its stems attain a length of about 4 ft., and its leaves are slender, lanceolate and light-green, and have a hot taste; the flowers are white with red veins, and in simple racemes; the roots form dense masses, sometimes more than a foot in diameter; and the rhizomes grow horizontally, and are 3/4 in. or less in thickness. Galangal seems to have been unknown to the ancient Greeks and Romans, and to have been first introduced into Europe by Arabian physicians. It is mentioned in the writings of Ibn Khurdádbah, an Arabian geographer who flourished in the latter half of the 9th century, and “gallengar” (gallingale or galangal) is one of the ingredients in an Anglo-Saxon receipt for a “wen salve” (see O. Cockayne, Saxon Leechdoms, vol. iii. p. 13). In the middle ages, as at present in Livonia, Esthonia and central Russia, galangal was in esteem in Europe both as a medicine and a spice, and in China it is still employed as a therapeutic agent. Its chief consumption is in Russia, where it is used as a cattle-medicine, and as a flavouring for liqueurs.

  1. Apparently derived from the Chinese Kau-liang-Kiang, i.e. Kau-liang ginger, the term applied by the Chinese to galangal, after the prefecture Kau-chau fu in Canton province, formerly called Kau-liang (see F. Porter Smith, Contrib. to the Materia Medica . . . of China, p. 9, 1871).