Kaempferia galanga - Galangal RootFAMILY: Zingiberaceae

GENUS: Kaempferia

SPECIES: Galanga

COMMON NAMES: Galanga, Galgant-spice Lily, Resurrection Lily, Hinguru-Piyali, Maraba, Shannai (TCM), Kuunkuun, Sidhoul, Camphor Root, Gisol

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This short-stemmed herb has flat, green, round leaves that measure 3-6 inches across. The white flowers (with a purple spot on the lip) are ephemeral, grow from the center of the plant, and grow to about 1 inch breadth. Kaempferia galanga is found in tropical areas of Africa, and in Southeast Asia (Hofmann et al. 1992, 46).

TRADITIONAL USES: Kaempferia galanga is used as an entheogen and aphrodisiac in New Guinea. There, it is taken as part of the final three stages of initiation rituals along with species of Boletus mushrooms, Heimiella sp., Russula sp. and psilocybe mushrooms (Voogelbreinder 2009, 207). Every species in the genus is prized for the highly aromatic rhizome, which is used to flavor rice, and as a medicine. In Malaysia, the plant was added to arrow poison prepared from Antians toxicaria. It is used to make incense in Japan. In Thailand, the root and leaves are put into curries as a flavoring, and the plant is used as a medicine, as well (Ratsch 1998, 563).

TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: Being exposed to the vapors and smoke of wild galangal when burned as an incense is thought to increase energy and overcome exhaustion, melancholy, and sadness. Many Tibetan and Japanese incense formulas still contain galangal, especially in formulas to promote awareness, overcome physical exhaustion, and create a peaceful and contemplative internal environment.

Galangal was known to the ancient Indians, and has been used in the West since the Middle Ages. Its stimulant and tonic properties are recognized by the Arabs who ginger up their horses with it, and by the Tartars, who take it in tea. In India, the root is often chewed with betel nut (Areca catechu). In the East, it is taken powdered as a snuff, and is used in perfumery and in brewing (Voogelbreinder 2009, 207). Another mystical property of this root is that, when dried, it may be reused several times when used for making tea. Simply boil 1 oz of the root in 3 cups of water for 5 minutes, remove the galangal and let dry. Reuse when you are ready for another journey to awareness.

MEDICINAL USES: K. galanga is used in the folk medicines of Asia as an expectorant and carminative. A tea made of the leaves is employed for sore throat, swellings, rheumatism, and eye infections in India. In Thailand, the crushed root mixed with whiskey is applied to the head as a headache treatment. The stimulant and tonic properties of the plant, which immediately reduce fever and inflammation, are highly prized by Arabic peoples. In TCM, the root of K. galanga is considered warm, fragrant, and pungent, and very beneficial for the lungs. It is used for cold in the chest and abdomen, vomiting, diarrhoea, intestinal parasites, and toothache (Voogelbreinder 2009, 207).

TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: Beyond the high content of essential oil in the rhizome, little is known of the chemistry of the plant. Hallucinogenic activity may be due to constituents of the essential oils (Hofmann et al. 1992, 46).

The inhabitants of Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea use the rhizome as a hallucinogen, and is said to produce hallucination without side-effects.  They also report that it is an aphrodisiac, euphoric, and creator of pleasant and prophetic dreams. A Western report indicates that consuming the powdered root creates clarity of thought and visual alterations. Some reports indicate no effects from consuming galanga powder, but this may be due to the use of a type of galanga that is not genuine Kaempferia root (Ratsch 1998, 563-564).



Hofmann, A., Ratsch, C., Schultes, R., Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers. Rochester: Healing Arts Press, 1992.

Ratsch, Christian., The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and its Applications. Rochester: Park Street Press, 1998.

Voogelbreinder, Snu, Garden of Eden: The Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Flora and Fauna, and the Study of Consciousness. Snu Voogelbreinder, 2009.