Plant name : Arathai - “It prevents indigestion and good for all sort of Vatha ailments”
Botanical name : Alpinia galangal
Family : Zingiberaceae
Actions : Anti-inflammatory, Febrifuge, Expectorant, Stomachic, Anti-rhuematic.
It is also used as a seasoning agent. It has many health benefits and used as a medicinal herb as well. The botanical name of Chitharathai is Alpinia galanga. It is a rhizome with culinary and medicinal uses. Though it resembles (and is related to) ginger in appearance, it tastes little like ginger. In its raw form, galangal has a soapy, earthy aroma and a pine-like flavor with a faint hint of citrus. It is available as a powder.
The galangal rhizomes contain volatile oil, methyl cinnamate, eugenol and volatile diarylheptanoids, known as galangol.
Furthermore, the plant contains gingerol, flavonoids (galangin, galangin-3-methyl ether and Kaempferide), starch, tannins and resins.
The herb has been used in both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine since ancient times and still is. Galangal was first brought from the Asia to England and northern Europe in the 13th century by the crusaders and soon became a popular spice as well as medicine.
The Medieval mystic Hildegard of Bingen recommended the herb as a tonic for the heart, and called it “the spice of life” and said it was a gift from God meant to keep disease at bay.
The medical applications of galangal are in many ways the same as its close relative ginger.
It is a bitter herb that is used to promote digestion and stimulate appetite and production of digestive fluids. The herb is therefore used to treat anorexia, indigestion (dyspepsia), colic and stomach ache.
It is also used traditionally for hiccups, nausea, vomiting, chronic gastritis and ulcers in the digestive tract.
The rootstock of galangal has shown inhibitory effect in vitro on many pathogenic bacteria like anthrax bacillus, hemolytic streptococcus and various strains of staphylococcus.
Galangal can also be applied as a treatment for infections of the upper respiratory tract such as chronic bronchitis and cough. An extract of the root is used as a mouthwash and a gargle for mouth ulcers, gum inflammation and other inflammation in the mouth and throat and as a treatment for bad breath (halitosis).
In the Middle East there is a tradition of using the herb as a remedy for rheumatic pains and arthritis.
In traditional Chinese medicine galangal root is regarded as a warming herb that can be used for stomach pain, vomiting, hiccups and diarrhea. When used against hiccups it is often combined with poor man’s ginseng (Codonopsis pilosula) and the fungi fu-ling (Chinese) also known as Indian bread (Wolfiporia extensa).
The herb is used extensively in the Indonesian cuisine and it’s a basic spice in the Indonesian national dish “nasi goreng”, a rice dish cooked with vegetables, meat, gravy, fruit and mushrooms.
Galangal is used as a seasoning in many meat, vegetable and fish dishes and it’s also an important ingredient in many spice blends that originate from the Far East.
Galangal is for the most part a safe herb to use in recommended doses.
People with ulcers should not take the herb because it stimulates the secretion of gastric acid.