St. Hildegard’s Spice of Life

St. Hildegard called this the “spice of life.” That’s how important it was to her! It appears in many of her recipes for healing.

She wrote, “Whoever has pain in the heart area or is suffering weakness due to the heart, should immediately eat enough galangal and he will recover. A person with a burning fever should drink galangal powder in spring water to relieve the burning fever.”

But what is galangal exactly?  It’s not a spice that everyone is familiar with.

Lesser galangal, or Alpinia officinarum, is a plant that is in the ginger family and grown in Southeast Asia. It can grow to be about 5 – 6 ½ ft. tall with long leaves and reddish-white flowers.

The rhizomes of the plant are known as galangal which have a sweet, spicy flavor and are used in cooking and healing remedies.

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​St. Hildegard of Bingen was one of the foremost authorities on the benefits of herbs and spices in her day.  She used galangal for treating fever, heart failure, respiratory illnesses and mucus in the nose and throat.

It was the main spice in Hildegard’s cure for heart problems including heart pain. She regarded galangal as a potent aid to digestion and quick reliever of pain, such as the pain associated with angina pectoris, heart attacks, and gall bladder symptoms. Today, galangal continues to be used as a healing remedy worldwide particularly as a heart medicine. Physicians in Germany who use Hildegard Medicine in their practice have reported that galangal is as effective as nitroglycerin, but without the harmful side effects.

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Health Benefits of Galangal
Today, we know that galangal has many benefits when used as a healing remedy. Galangal and ginger are closely related, so the health benefits of galangal are very similar to those of ginger. Here are some of the known healing properties of galangal:

  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-bacterial, anti-viral
  • Lowers blood sugar levels
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Anti-cancer
  • Pain reliever

Never had galangal before?  Give it a try!  Usually you can find it for purchase at Asian supermarkets or sometimes even at Whole Foods. Here’s a recipe that I love that includes galangal.

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                                                                      CREAMY ZUCCHINI SOUP
(from Saint Hildegard’s Kitchen: Foods of Health, Foods of Joy by Jany Fournier-Rosset)
2 lbs zucchini, unpeeled and thickly sliced
3 tbsps oil
4 cups water
1 tbsp heavy cream
mint leaves for garnish
galangal, salt, pepper to taste

  1. Sauté the zucchini slices in the oil. Season with the galangal, salt, and pepper.
  2. Add the water and cook for about 15 minutes.
  3. Purée the mixture in a blender or food processor. Return to pot and heat gently.
  4. When ready to serve, add the cream and garnish with the mint leaves.

Come and join me for more creative adventures with St. Hildegard. My online course, Master Your Creativity, will begin again this fall. You’ll join a supportive and creative community on a journey with St. Hildegard and me to open the door to explore the longings of your soul. Find out more here. I hope to see you there!