Learning about Spices
What is a spice?
Why were spices important?
Sources of spices
Perfumes and Incenses 
Use of spices as aphrodisiacs
Use of spices as medicines
Culinary herbs
A spice timeline

Table of Spices
Allspice (Pimento)
Anise
Black Pepper
Cardamom
Cassia
Chile Pepper
Chocolate
Cinnamon
Clove
Coriander (Cilantro)
Cumin
Dill
Fennel
Fenugreek
Frankincense and Myrrh
Galangal
Garlic
Ginger
Horseradish
Licorice
Mustard
Nutmeg and Mace
Onion
Saffron
Sugar
Sumac
Tamarind
Turmeric
Vanilla

Contacts and Acknowledgments
Common Name GREATER GALANGAL GREATER GALANGAL
Click image to enlarge
Genus SpeciesLanguas galangal or Alpinia galanga
FamilyZingiberaceae
Origin India, Southeast Asia, Laos
Cultivated Indonesia, Southwest India, eastern Himilayas
  
Common Name LESSER GALANGAL
Genus SpeciesLanguas officinarum or Alpinia officinarum
FamilyZingiberaceae
Origin Southern China
Cultivated Indonesia, Malaysia
Description This spice is popular in Asiatic cooking and was well-known in European medieval cooking. The plant Alpinia galanga (or Languas galangal) has numerous common names, including greater galangal, galangale and galang. It is also known as Siamese ginger or laos, since the plant is indigenous to Southeast Asia, and its rhizome (root) resembles ginger in appearance and in taste. The word galangal is probably derived from the Arabic translation of its Chinese name, liang-tiang, which means “mild ginger”. Sometimes the word galingale is used for the various galangale and associated gingery rhizomatous spices, but this term has also been used to describe tubers from the roots of certain cypress and sedge plants. These popular tubers of ancient Egypt are now available in Spain, and are know as tiger nuts, earth nuts, or chufa nuts. In Spain a sweet drink that is made from chufa nuts is called horchata; it differs from the Mexican drink of the same name which is made from rice.

Different galangal specimens vary in their hotness and flavor. The spice is said to have a flowery taste, while others describe it as tasting like ginger with cardamom. However, some feel the taste of galangal is more like peppery cinnamon, while lesser galangal has a stronger, hotter, and more medicinal taste. The lesser galangal Languas officinarum is sometimes confused with greater galangal. It comes from China, where it is used as a medicinal herb, but is grown in Indonesia and is regarded as a spice flavor for use in food. Another plant in this group is zedoary, also called white turmeric; this spice is sometimes used in foods, but it is currently of minor importance.

Galangal and other gingery spices are used in Asia and in the Middle East in cooking, perfumes, snuffs, and aphrodisiacs. The galangal spices have been used as flavors for condiments, including vinegar, beers, and wines in Russia, and they are used in Germany and elsewhere in teas.

A ruther related group of spicy plants are those members of the Kaemplferia genus, such as Kaemplferia galanga; this is sometimes confused with lesser galangal. See a list of spices by Taste and Hotness.
Useful Parts The roots of galangal contain the flavor.
Medicinal Properties They have no well-defined medicinal use, although they have been advocated for many of the disorders that are treated with ginger. In Germany, herbalists use lesser galangal for dyspepsia biliary symptoms, bowel spasm and angina.
See chemicals in spices.
Historical View Alpinia officinarum: “Galangal is an aromatic stimulant like ginger. It was formerly much employed by the Arabians and Greeks, and was used to some extent in this country, but it has now become obsolete here”.

Bentley, Robert and Henry Trimen. Medicinal Plants; being descriptions with original figures of the principal plants employed in medicine and an account of the characters, properties, and uses of their parts and products of medicinal value. London, Churchill, 1880. (WZ 295 B556m 1880)

Quote and image of Lesser galangal from Bentley and Trimen, (1880)

Image of Greater galangal from
Crevost, Charles, 1858- Catalogue des produits de l'Indochine, par Ch. Crevost et Ch. Lemarié. Published/distributed: [Hanoi, Impr. d'Extrême-Orient, 1917-
GREATER GALANGAL
GREATER GALANGAL
Click image to enlarge
LESSER GALANGAL
LESSER GALANGAL
Click image to enlarge

Spice Exhibit URL: http://unitproj.library.ucla.edu/biomed/spice/index.cfm

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