Galangal (Alpinia galanga): Anti-Cancer Potential and More


Alpinia galanga, known as Galangal, is a plant in the ginger family and used in Indonesia and Thailand as a spice in the cuisines of these countries.

There are four varieites of galangal, all in the Zingiberaceae (ginger family):

  • Alpinia galanga or greater galangal
  • Alpinia officinarum or lesser galangal
  • Boesenbergia rotunda, called Chinese ginger or fingerroot
  • Kaempferia galanga, called kencur, aromatic ginger or sand ginger

Galangal resembles ginger and has a similar taste as ginger, but stronger.  The most commonly used and consumed Galangal is Alpinia galanga and the one variety that has been the subject of scientific research (See Table below).

There are a number of active compounds and essential oils in Galangal.  The most studied compound in Galangal is 1′-S-1′-acetoxyeugenol acetate.  1′-S-1′-acetoxyeugenol acetate has been shown to have potent anti-cancer capabilities and is a potential source of healthy food for tumor prevention.

The Table below lists the researched compounds in Galangal:

Galangal Active Compounds

Essential Oils
1,8 cineol
methyl cinnamate
Other Compounds
1'-S-1'-acetoxyeugenol acetate
1'-S-1'-acetoxychavicol acetate
Acetoxychavicol Acetate
Trans-P-Coumaryl Diacetate
Coniferyl Diacetate
1’-Hydroxychavicol Acetate
2-propenal, 3-[4-(acetyloxy)-3-methoxyphenyl]
isocoronarin D (IV) and caryolane-1, 9β-diol

The Table below lists the recognized and researched studies on the health benefits of Galangal:

Galangal Health Benefits

ConditionEffect and BenefitReferences
Tumor prevention
Five compounds, 1'-S-1'-acetoxyeugenol acetate (I), 1'-S-1'-acetoxychavicol acetate (II), 2-propenal, 3-[4-(acetyloxy)-3-methoxyphenyl] (III), isocoronarin D (IV) and caryolane-1, 9β-diol (V), were obtained from Alpinia galangal. Compounds I, II, IV and V were the main active ingredients for inducing death of the tested cancer cells, and their IC50 values ranged from 60 to 90 μg mL(-1), indicating that these compounds possessed a wide anti-cancer capability. Therefore, A. galangal seeds could be a potential source of healthy food for tumor prevention.1
Diarylheptanoids derived from A. officinarum have marked activity against neuroblastoma cells, acting through multiple mechanisms. Our results suggest that the two compounds studied here may be useful for the treatment of patients with neuroblastoma.2 3
Myeloma cells
1'-Acetoxychavicol acetate (ACA) has an inhibitory effect on NF-kappaB, and induces the apoptosis of myeloma cells in vitro and in vivo. ACA, therefore, provides a new biologically based therapy for the treatment of multiple myeloma patients as a novel NF-kappaB inhibitor.4
Apoptosis of cancer cells
c 1'-(S)-1'-Acetoxychavicol acetate (ACA) has cytotoxic and apoptotic properties on five human tumour cell lines5
Oral cancers
results suggest that ACA inhibits the growth of oral SCC and further potentiates the effect of standard CDDP treatment by modulation of proinflammatory microenvironment6
Skin tumor promotion
1'-Acetoxychavicol acetate (ACA) and FA showed promising inhibitory effects against skin tumorigenesis in K5.Stat3C mice. ACA also suppressed phospho-p65 NF-κB activation, suggesting a potential mechanism for its action7
Prostate cancer
findings suggest that 1'-Acetoxychavicol acetate (ACA) targets the Src-FAK-Rho GTPase pathway, leading to the suppression of prostate tumor angiogenesis and growth8
Myeloid leukemia
ACA induces apoptosis in myeloid leukemic cells via independent dual pathways. In addition, ACA has potential as a novel therapeutic agent for the treatment of myeloid leukemia9
In the present study, 1′-acetoxychavicol acetate (ACA), a naturally derived antioxidant that inhibits xanthine oxidase, was evaluated for its role as an anti-tumorigenic agent in glioblastomas. Results demonstrate that, despite enhanced expression of compensatory signaling molecules that contribute to tumor cell survival, ACA is an effective pro-apoptotic inducing agent in glioblastomas10
Breast cancer
In tumor metastasis model, ACA potently inhibited the human breast cancer cell-induced osteolysis, and had little apparent in vivo toxicity at the test concentrations. ACA is a novel drug candidate for the inhibition of tumor metastasis through interference with the SHP-1/STAT3/MMPs signaling pathway11
Lung cancer
1′-acetoxychavicol acetate found effective against the COR L23 lung cancer cell line12
Hepatocellular carcinoma
Combined treatment with ACA and sodium butyrate synergistically induced apoptotic cell death via an increase in intracellular ROS and phosphorylation of AMPK. Our findings may provide new insight into the development of novel combination therapies against hepatocellular carcinoma.13
1'-Acetoxychavicol acetate (ACA) inhibited expression of the Th2 cytokines interleukin (IL)-4 and IL-13, and Th1 cytokines IL-12α and interferon-γ. Because asthmatic reactions are mediated by diverse immune and inflammatory pathways, ACA shows promise as an antiasthmatic drug candidate14
May be a potential therapeutic agent for Alzheimer's type of dementia15
Amyloid β induced toxicity
1'-Acetoxychavicol acetate (ACA) exhibited neuroprotective effect against amyloid β-protein fragment 25–35 induced neurotoxicity via upregulation of proteasome activity16
The observed antibacterial, anticandidal and antidermatophyte activity of the extracts and compounds obtained from the rhizome confirm the traditional use of Alpinia cochigera rhizome in the treatment of skin infection.17
Diabetes mellitus
In the present study, the rhizomes of Alpinia galanga demonstrated significant nephro-protective activities in the tested models. The alcoholic extract of the rhizomes of Alpinia galanga holds promise for the development of a standardized phytomedicine for diabetes mellitus and kidney disease treatment.18
Ethanolic extract of Alpinia galanga at the dose of 400 mg/kg b.wt restored the GSH when compared to untreated control. The GSH was found to be increased when compared to untreated control and with doses. SOD was also found to increase with the increase in dosage when compared t the diabetic control group.19
Galangal may be useful for suppressing inflammation due to arthritis20
Galangal completely inhibited stomach ulcers in experimental animals, better than three anti-ulcer drugs.21
Cerebral Ischemia
Pinocembrin, an active ingedient in alpinia galanga, may be a novel therapeutic strategy to reduce cerebral ischemia22
Anti-obesity activities
Results show that ACA exerts anti-obesity activities both in vitro and in vivo and suggests that ACA may have a novel preventive activity against obesity and possibly other metabolic diseases23


Savory Spice Shop – Galangal

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