Lesser galangal rhizomes

Chinese: 高良姜

Pinyin: Gāo Liáng jiāng

Parts used: Dried root and rhizome

TCM category: Herbs that warm the Interior and/or expel Cold

TCM nature: Hot

TCM taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomach

Scientific name: Alpinia officinarum

Other names: Galanga, Galanga, Gāo liáng jiāng

Use of lesser galangal rhizomes (Gao Liang jiang) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities, wash, soak in water, slice and dry.

Dosage: 3 to 6g.

Main actions according to TCM*: For any conditions of Cold in the Middle Burner where there are symptoms such as pain in the abdominal region, vomiting, diarrhea and chronic inflammation in the digestive tract caused by Cold.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which lesser galangal rhizomes may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Abdominal pain Vomiting Diarrhea Acid reflux Loss of appetite

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with Deficiency with Heat signs or by those with true Heat signs.

Common TCM formulas in which lesser galangal rhizomes are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind lesser galangal rhizomes (Gao Liang jiang)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), lesser galangal rhizomes are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that warm the Interior and/or expel Cold' category. Herbs in this category are used for Internal Coldness with Qi and Yang Deficiency. In the Yin and Yang system of thought (see our explanation on Yin and Yang) Yang is Hot in nature. A deficiency of Yang will therefore lead to Internal Coldness since there will as a result be more Yin (Cold in nature) than Yang. In extreme cases this can lead to so-called 'Yang collapse' with convulsions or coma and these herbs are particularly indicated to treat such scenarios.

As suggested by its category lesser galangal rhizomes are plants that are Hot in nature. This means that lesser galangal rhizomes typically help people who have too much "cold" in their body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much cold in their body are said to either have a Yin excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition lesser galangal rhizomes can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Lesser galangal rhizomes also taste Pungent. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Pungent ingredients like lesser galangal rhizomes tend to promote the circulations of Qi and body fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such lesser galangal rhizomes are thought to target the Spleen and the Stomach. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, blood coagulation and fluid metabolism in the body. The Stomach on the other hand is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine.

Research on lesser galangal rhizomes (Gao Liang jiang)

Lesser galangal was found to have antiemetic (i.e. against vomiting and nausea) principles1


1. D Shin, K Kinoshita, K Koyama et al (2002). "Antiemetic Principles of Alpinia officinarum" J. Nat. Prod. 65, 9, 1315-1318

Use of lesser galangal rhizomes (Gao Liang jiang) as food

Lesser galangal rhizomes are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Thai Galangal Chicken Soup Tom Ka Gai.