A member of the ginger family, galanga is also

known as the galgant-spice lily, resurrection lily,

and hinguru-piyali. It is found in the tropical

regions of Africa and in Southeast Asia. The very

aromatic rootstock (rhizome), which often looks

like a hand and is usually referred to as maraba, is

used throughout the range of the plant as a spice

and as a remedy for treating digestive ailments.

Kaempferia has a strong, refreshing taste. In

Malaysia, the root formerly was added to an arrow

poison made with Antiaris toxicaria (Schultes and

Hofmann 1995,47*). Kaempferia galanga is one of

the ingredients in the Indonesian spice mixture

known as jamu (Rehm 1985) and is the main

ingredient in those mixtures that are produced for

tonic and aphrodisiac purposes (Macmillan 1991,

424*). In Japan, the root is sometimes used in the

manufacture of incense. In Thailand, the root and

young leaves are added· to curries. The crushed

root, mixed with whiskey (cf. alcohol), is applied

as a paste to the forehead and scalp as a folk

medicine for treating headaches (Jacquat 1990,


The inhabitants of the area around Mount

Hagen (Papua New Guinea) supposedly use or

once used the rhizome as a hallucinogen, similar

to Homalomena spp. (Barrau 1962). "The root is

used as a spice and inebriant throughout all of

Southeast Asia.... The rhizome induces hallucinations

(without any side-effects)" (Bremness

1994, 180*). A European report states that ingestion

of the powdered root produces "a surprising

clarity of thought and alterations in vision"

(Schuldes 1995,46*).

The rootstock is rich in essential oils, the composition of which is unknown. It may contain

psychoactive substances (Schultes and Hofmann

1992, 47*). Reports following ingestion of the

powder often indicate mild or even no effects

(Schuldes 1995, 95*). This may be due to the fact

that the experimenters did not use genuine

Kaempferia roots, for galanga is a name that has

produced much confusion. Another member of

the ginger family, galgant (Alpinia officinarum

Hance [syn. Languas officinarum]), is known by

the name galanga or little galanga. It too is used as

a spice (Norman 1991, 64*). In Germany, Alpinia

galanga (1.) Willd. [syn. Galanga major Rumpf.,

Maranta galanga 1., Languas galanga Sw.] is

known by the name large galanga root, and Alpinia

officinarum by the name little galanga root

(Jacquat 1990, 118; Norman 1991,45*; Seidemann

1993, 180*).

Barrau, Jacques. 1962. Observations et travaux

recents sur les vegetaux hallucinogens de la

Nouvelle-Guinee. Journal d'Agriculture Tropicale

et de Botanique Appliquee 9:245-49.

Jacquat, Christiane. 1990. Plants from the markets of

Thailand. Bangkok: Editions Duang Kamol.

Rehm, Klaus D. 1985. Jamu-die traditionellen

Arzneimittel Indonesiens. Curare, Sonderband


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