Alpinia zerumbet (PROSEA)

From PlantUse English
Jump to: navigation, search
Logo PROSEA.png
Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

1, habit; 2, inflorescence; 3, bracteole; 4, cincinnus with 2 flowers (one bracteole removed); 5, corolla tube dissected showing stamen, staminodes, epigynous glands and stigma.

Alpinia zerumbet (Pers.) B.L. Burtt & R.M. Smith

Protologue: Notes Roy. Bot. Gard. Edinburgh 31(2): 204 (1972).


  • Zerumbet speciosum J.C. Wendl. (1798),
  • Alpinia speciosa (J.C. Wendl.) K. Schum. (1903),
  • Languas speciosa (J.C. Wendl.) Small (1913),
  • Catimbium speciosum (J.C. Wendl.) Holttum (1950).

Vernacular names

  • Shell ginger, shell flower, light galangal (En)
  • Atoumau (Martinique) (Fr)
  • Indonesia: galoba merah, goloba koi, langkuas laki-laki (Moluccas)
  • Philippines: langkuas na pula (Tagalog)
  • Thailand: khaa khom (northern)
  • Vietnam: riềngấm, gừng ấm.


Considered native to north-eastern India, Burma (Myanmar), Indo-China, China and Japan. Cultivated throughout South-East Asia and in many other tropical and subtropical countries.


In the Philippines a decoction of the leaves is used as a bath against fevers. The rhizome stimulates digestion, and is also employed in the treatment of dyspepsia, flatulence, vomiting, gastralgia, colic, diarrhoea and malaria. In China the plant is used to treat stomach disorders, vomiting and dyspepsia. Its rhizome is traditionally applied as a stomachic, carminative, astringent, tonic and sedative. The seed is used to clear cold, invigorate the spleen and warm the stomach.

In Ambon the leaves are used as perfumed wrappers for cooked rice. The pith of the young stem was commonly eaten in parts of Malaysia. In eastern Asia the leaf sheaths are sometimes used as fibre for rope, while paper is made from the whole plant. In the Philippines it is occasionally planted for ornamental purposes.


A. zerumbet is similar to A. malaccensis. The main differences are:

  • Leafy stem up to 2-3 m tall; petiole up to 2.5 cm long.
  • Inflorescence decurved or drooping, up to 20 cm long, bearing 25 or more cincinni of 2 flowers each, but the flowers are larger; bracteoles white with pink apex.
  • Labellum entire or shallowly lobed.
  • Fruit orange.

A. zerumbet occurs naturally in open, shaded forest.

Selected sources

  • [135] Burkill, I.H., 1966. A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. Revised reprint. 2 volumes. Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Vol. 1 (A—H) pp. 1—1240, Vol. 2 (I—Z) pp. 1241—2444.
  • [215] Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, 1948—1976. The wealth of India: a dictionary of Indian raw materials & industrial products. 11 volumes. Publications and Information Directorate, New Delhi, India.
  • [242] De Pooter, H.L., Aboutabl, E.A. & El Shabrawy, A.O., 1995. Chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of essential oil of leaf, stem and rhizome of Alpinia speciosa (J.C. Wendl) K. Schum. grown in Egypt. Flavour and Fragrance Journal 10(2): 63—67.
  • [326] Fujita, T., Nishimura, H., Kaburagi, K. & Mizutani, J., 1994. Plant growth inhibiting alpha-pyrones from Alpinia speciosa. Phytochemistry 36: 23—27.
  • [407] Heyne, K., 1950. De nuttige planten van Indonesië [The useful plants of Indonesia]. 3rd Edition. 2 volumes. W. van Hoeve, 's-Gravenhage, the Netherlands/Bandung, Indonesia. 1660 + CCXLI pp.
  • [583] Laranja, S.M., Bergamaschi, C.M. & Schor, N., 1992. Evaluation of three plants with potential diuretic effect. Revista da Associacio Medica Brasileira 38(1): 13—16. (in Portuguese)
  • [694] Morita, M., Nakanishi, H., Morita, H., Mihashi, S. & Itokawa, H., 1996. Structures and spasmolytic activities of derivatives from sesquiterpenes of Alpinia speciosa and Alpinia japonica. Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 44(8): 1603—1606.
  • [747] Ochse, J.J. & Bakhuizen van den Brink, R.C., 1980. Vegetables of the Dutch East Indies. 3rd English edition (translation of "Indische groenten"", 1931). Asher & Co., Amsterdam, the Netherlands. 1016 pp.
  • [805] Prudent, D., Périneau, F., Bessière, J.M. & Michel, G., 1993. Chemical analysis, bacteriostatic and fungistatic properties of the essential oil of the Atoumau from Martinique (Alpinia speciosa K. Schum.). Journal of Essential Oil Research 5: 255—264.
  • [810] Quisumbing, E., 1978. Medicinal plants of the Philippines. Katha Publishing Co., Quezon City, the Philippines. 1262 pp.
  • [998] Teng, C.M., Hsu, S.Y., Lin, C.H., Yu, S.M., Wang, K.J., Lin, M.H. & Chen, C.F., 1990. Antiplatelet action of dehydrokawain derivatives isolated from Alpinia speciosa rhizomes. Chinese Journal of Physiology 33(1): 41—48.

Composition of essential-oil of Rhizome oil (from Egypt)

  • 17.3% terpinen-4-ol
  • 14.4% 1,8-cineole
  • 11.1% γ-terpinene
  • 10.1% sabinene
  • 5.9% para-cymene
  • 4.9% α-thujene
  • 4.7% α-terpinene
  • 4.3% β-pinene
  • 2.9% linalool
  • 2.7% β-caryophyllene
  • 2.6% α-pinene
  • 2.3% α-terpineol
  • 2.3% cis-sabinene hydrate
  • 1.8% caryophyllene oxide
  • 1.5% myrcene
  • 1.2% trans-sabinene hydrate
  • 1.1% camphor
  • 0.4% α-phellandrene
  • 0.4% nerolidol (unknown isomer)
  • 0.3% camphene
  • 0.3% trans-piperitol
  • 0.3% α-eudesmol
  • 0.2% β-eudesmol
  • 0.2% (Z)-3-hexenol
  • 0.2% γ-eudesmol
  • 0.1% bornyl acetate
  • 0.1% α-humulene
  • 0.1% hexanal
  • 0.1% trans-α-bergamotene
  • 0.1% 1-hexanol
  • trace (Z)-β-ocimene
  • trace (E)-β-ocimene
  • trace terpinolene
  • 93.9% total
Source: De Pooter et al., 1995.

Sources of illustrations

Burtt, B.L. & Smith, R.M., 1972. Key species in the taxonomic history of Zingiberaceae. Notes from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 31. Fig. 10, p. 206 (bracteole, cincinnus with 2 flowers, dissected corolla tube); Wu, T.L., Tsai, H.T., Tong, S.Q, Chen, P.S. & Li, H.W., 1981. Flora reipublicae popularis Sinicae. Vol. 16(2). Science Press, Peking, China. Fig. 27, p. 87 (habit, inflorescence). Redrawn and adapted by P. Verheij-Hayes.

Main genus page


  • Halijah Ibrahim