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Essential Oils

Galangal Essential Oil: The Spice of Life

Galangal essential oil comes from the same family of plants as ginger and turmeric. Although not as well-known as its cousins, it still packs a powerful health punch. Galangal essential oil can be used topically, aromatically, and internally to treat digestive issues, give a boost to the immune system and increase energy in times of fatigue.



The History of Galangal


Galangal comes from the Zingiberaceae family, which also includes turmeric, ginger, and cardamom. The word ‘galangal’ can refer to four different plants in the ginger family, which are Alpinia galanga, Alpinia officinarum, Boesenbergia rotunda, and Kaempferia galanga . We’ll be focusing on the essential oil distilled from Kaempferia galanga , which is also commonly referred to as kencur, sand ginger, aromatic ginger, or resurrection lily.


The plant itself is a perennial aromatic herb with an underground rhizome and beautiful white flowers with purple accents that resemble orchids. It is a highly prized medicinal plant native to India, and is cultivated mainly in Southeast Asia and China. Galangal loves shady areas and thrives in a warm humid climate.


In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, K. galanga is used to treat diarrhea, reduce the pain of migraines and increase energy to help overcome fatigue. The plant is also used to treat various skin disorders, rheumatism, asthma, cough, bronchitis, ulcers, fever, wounds and inflammatory tumors. The rhizomes are known for their carminative, diuretic, expectorant, digestive, vulnerary, febrifuge and stimulant properties.


Indigenous medical practices in Eastern Asia used the rhizomes of this plant to treat bacterial infections, tumors and psoriasis. Rheumatism, fever, sore throat, swelling and abdominal pain were treated by creating a lotion or poultice from the leaves, which are thought to have antioxidant, antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory properties.


Both the leaves and rhizomes are also used in cosmetics, food, beverages, as well as in homemade perfumes and shampoos. 1



Chemical Properties


Galangal essential oil is steam distilled from the rhizome of Kaempferia galanga . The resulting oil is pale yellow in color and has a spicy, woody scent with citrus notes. Galangal essential oil is known for having antibacterial, antifungal, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, anticarginogenic, antinociceptive and larvicidal properties. This is all due to its chemical composition, which is primarily:




    • Ethyl cinnamate

    • Ethyl-p-methoxycinnamate

    • γ-cadinene

    • 1,8-cineole

    • δ-carene

    • Borneol

    • Ethyl-m-methoxycinnamate

    • Camphene

    • Linoleoyl chloride

    • A-pinene


Ethyl cinnamate, ethyl-p-methoxycinnamate and ethyl-m-methoxycinnamate are esters that contribute anticancer, antituberculosis, anti-inflammatory, antifungal and larvicidal properties to the essential oil. 2

Therapeutic Uses of Galangal Essential Oil



    • Calms Digestive Upsets


Galangal essential oil can help to treat digestive disorders including flatulence, nausea, vomiting, motion sickness, and indigestion. It can also help to increase appetite, which is helpful for those who have problems with their appetite or are recovering from anorexia.


If you are suffering from stomach pain or other digestive problems, you can take galangal essential oil internally by diluting a drop in a cup of water. Alternatively, mix a few drops with a carrier oil and massage gently onto the stomach and lower abdomen.




    • Diminishes Fatigue


The stimulating effects of galangal essential oil help fight fatigue and improve mental clarity. If you’re feeling a bit under the weather or need a quick energy boost, diffusing galangal essential oil throughout the home can give you the jolt you need. You can also carry around a bottle of galangal essential oil to sniff throughout the day when you need a quick pick-me-up, or add a few drops to a terracotta necklace and keep the stimulating aroma close to you.




    • Fights off harmful pathogens


The antibacterial and antifungal properties in galangal essential oil help rid the body of harmful pathogens and keep you healthy. Not only can it treat cold, flu, and other minor illnesses, but it can fight off the viruses that cause them before they can affect you.


For a quick boost to the immune system, take a drop of galangal essential oil internally in a glass of water, or diffuse throughout the home.


The same antibacterial and antifungal properties help to protect against various bacteria and fungi, such as Salmonella typhi, Escherichia coli and Candida albicans , as studied in 2004. The results of this study show that K. galanga may be beneficial when treating fungal skin disorders and eczema. 3




    • Eases Sore Muscles


Galangal essential oil has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve the pain of sore muscles and joints. It is also known to increase circulation, especially when used in a massage. The analgesic properties also make galangal essential oil good for treating migraines.


In a 2008 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, the antinociceptive (inhibiting the sensation of pain) properties of K. galanga were tested on mice and rats. All dosages exhibited antinociceptive properties in every test. This study supports the use of galangal for treating pain caused by a variety of different sources. 4


If you are suffering from arthritis or are simply sore after a long day, dilute a few drops of galangal essential oil in a carrier oil and gently massage onto the sore areas. You can also add a few drops to a warm bath and soak to relieve the pain.




    • Potential anticancer properties


In a 2010 study, the anticancer effects of an ethanol extract of K. galanga were tested against tumor bearing mice. The mice were given a dose of K. galanga extract for 14 days. The results showed that the mice showed a decrease in tumor volume, packed cell volume and viable cell volume. These results suggest that K. galanga exhibits antitumor activity and could possibly be used as a future treatment for tumors in human patients. 5



Safety and Precautions


Galangal essential oil can be used aromatically, topically, and internally when used with caution. It is important to only purchase therapeutic grade essential oils, especially when the oil will be taken internally.


When using topically, a patch skin test should always be conducted before use to ensure there is no negative reaction. Before applying directly to the skin, the essential oil should be diluted with a carrier oil.


If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should avoid the use of essential oils unless directed by a doctor. Never use galangal essential oil to treat a chronic condition before first consulting a medical professional.


When stored correctly in a cool, dark place, galangal essential oil should last for approximately four to five years. 6



Conclusion


Although not one of the most well-known essential oils, galangal essential oil has a lot of health benefits and is a great addition to anyone’s oil collection. It can be added to massage oils, used in a relaxing bath, taken internally, and diffused throughout the home. Whether you’re looking to reduce fatigue, minimize stomach pain or fight fungal infections, galangal essential oil is an easy, natural way to ease your symptoms.


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