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Alpinia zerumbet

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Alpinia zerumbet
Alpinia zerumbet as a landscape plant
A. zerumbet fruit dehiscing.[1]
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Zingiberales
Family: Zingiberaceae
Genus: Alpinia
A. zerumbet
Binomial name
Alpinia zerumbet
(Pers.) B.L.Burtt and R.M.Sm.[2]
  • Costus zerumbet Pers.
  • Alpinia cristata Griff.
  • Alpinia fimbriata Gagnep.
  • Alpinia fluvitialis Hayata
  • Alpinia penicillata Roscoe
  • Alpinia schumanniana Valeton
  • Amomum nutans (Andrews) Schult.
  • Catimbium speciosum (J.C.Wendl.) Holttum
  • Languas schumanniana (Valeton) Sasaki
  • Languas speciosa (J.C.Wendl.) Small
  • Renealmia nutans Andrews
  • Renealmia spectabilis Rusby
  • Zerumbet speciosum J.C.Wendl.

Alpinia zerumbet, commonly known as shell ginger among other names, is a perennial species of ginger native to East Asia. The plants can grow up to 2.5 to 3 meters (8 to 10 ft) tall and bear colorful funnel-shaped flowers. They are grown as ornamentals and their leaves are used in cuisine and traditional medicine.



Alpinia zerumbet is called a "shell ginger" or "shell flower" most commonly, because its individual pink flowers, especially when in bud, resemble sea shells. Other common names in English include "pink porcelain lily", "variegated ginger, "butterfly ginger", and "light galangal".

In Japan, A. zerumbet is called gettō (ゲットウ [月桃]) in standard Japanese. In the languages of the Ryukyu Islands, it is known as sannin (サンニン) on Okinawa, shanin (シャニン) on Tanegashima in the Ōsumi Islands, sa'nen (サネン) on Amami Ōshima, sani (サニ) on Okinoerabujima, samin (サミン) on Miyako-jima, samin (サミン), sa'nin (サニン) and sami (サミ) on Ishigaki Island, sami (サミ) on Taketomi Island and sa'nin (サニン) on Iriomote Island. It is known as souka (ソウカ) on Chichijima in the Bonin Islands and sōka (ソーカ) in the Daitō Islands east of the Ryukyus.[3][4]

In Taiwan, A. zerumbet is called yuètáo (月桃) in Mandarin Chinese, hó͘-chú-hoe (虎子花) or ge̍h-thô/go̍eh-thô (月桃) in Taiwanese Hokkien kiéu-kiông (枸薑) or ngie̍t-thò (月桃) in Siyen Hakka. In the island's aboriginal languages, it is known as silu in Bunun, jiaboe and garyo in Paiwan, bussiyan, bissiyan and bassiyan in Atayal[5] and lalengac in Sakizaya.[6]

In China, it is called yànshānjiāng (艷山薑), as well as yùtáo (玉桃), cǎoběn zhíwù (草本植物) and dà húluóbo (大胡蘿蔔) among other names.[7]



Native to eastern Asia, Alpinia zerumbet is a rhizomatous, evergreen tropical perennial that grows in upright clumps 8 to 10 ft (2.4 to 3.0 m) tall in tropical climates. It bears funnel-formed flowers. Flowers have white or pink perianths with yellow labella with red spots and stripes.[8] There are three stamens, but only one has pollen. There is one pistil. The fruit is globose with many striations. In more typical conditions, it reaches 4 to 8 ft (1.2 to 2.4 m) feet tall in the green house, and 3 to 4 ft (0.91 to 1.22 m) feet tall, as a house plant.[9]

It was originally called Alpinia speciosa, which was also the scientific name of torch ginger. To avoid the confusion, it was renamed A. zerumbet while torch ginger was reclassified in the genus Etlingera. No species is accepted as A. speciosa today.[10]

Alpinia zerumbet



Alpinia zerumbet is best grown in rich medium-wet, to wet well drained soils in full sun to part shade. Afternoon shade in hot summer climates, is recommended. Indoors, the plant must have bright light and humid conditions. Flowering rarely occurs before the second year.



The long leaf blades of A. zerumbet are used for wrapping zongzi, a traditional Chinese dish made of rice stuffed with different fillings. In Okinawa, Japan, its leaves are sold for making an herbal tea and are also used to flavor noodles and wrap muchi rice cakes.

The plant's dried fruits are treated as one of the numerous medicinal spice ingredients in a Sichuan hot pot soup base under the name shārén (沙仁) in Sichuan Mandarin Chinese.

Statistically, Okinawan natives who consume a traditional diet that includes A. zerumbet have a very long life expectancy.[11] Recent research has investigated its effects on human longevity and the phytochemicals that may be responsible.[12]

A. zerumbet contains many kavalactones structurally related to the compounds in kava (Piper methysticum) and may[clarification needed] help prevent high glucose induced cell damage.[13]



  1. ^ "Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger)". Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk project. Retrieved March 19, 2011.
  2. ^ "Alpinia zerumbet (Pers.) B.L. Burtt & R.M. Sm". United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. Retrieved March 19, 2011.
  3. ^ "月桃の香りや効果効能がパワフル!" Retrieved 5 July 2023. (in Japanese)
  4. ^ "由来記月桃" [The origin of 'getto'] at 月桃インフォメーション [Alpinia zerumbet information]. Retrieved 5 July 2023. (in Japanese)
  5. ^ "Alpinia zerumbet (Pers.) B. L. Burtt & R. M. Smith" at Plants of Taiwan. (Archived) Retrieved 5 July 2023. (in English and Chinese)
  6. ^ Kapah kanen kapah malakazali ku lalengac 2018-06-16 Sakizaya IPCF-TITV 原文會 原視族語新聞 Retrieved 5 July 2023. (in Sakizaya)
  7. ^ "艷山薑 Yanshanjiang". 香港浸會大學中醫藥學院藥用植物圖像數據庫. Archived from the original on 2017-03-05. Retrieved 2011-09-02. (in Chinese)
  8. ^ Jackes, Betsy (14 Dec 2012). "Alpinia zerumbet (Shell Ginger, Pink Porcelain Lily)". Discover Nature at JCU. Plants on Cairns Campus. Australia: James Cook University. Retrieved 17 May 2013.
  9. ^ "Alpinia zerumbet (Pers.) B. L. Burtt & R. M. Sm". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved March 19, 2011.
  10. ^ "Alpinia speciosa (J.C.Wendl.) K.Schum.". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 2023-07-05 – via The Plant List. Note that this website has been superseded by World Flora Online
  11. ^ Bouthier, Antoine. "Okinawan plant holds promise of elixir of youth". Business World Online. BusinessWorld Publishing. Retrieved 4 November 2018.
  12. ^ Teschke, Rolf; Xuan, Tran Dang (2018). "Viewpoint: A Contributory Role of Shell Ginger (Alpinia zerumbet) for Human Longevity in Okinawa, Japan?". Nutrients. 10 (2). US National Institute of Health: 166. doi:10.3390/nu10020166. PMC 5852742. PMID 29385084.
  13. ^ You, Hualin; He, Min; Pan, Di; Fang, Guanqin; Chen, Yan; Zhang, Xu; Shen, Xiangchun; Zhang, Nenling (2022). "Kavalactones isolated from Alpinia zerumbet (Pers.) Burtt. Et Smith with protective effects against human umbilical vein endothelial cell damage induced by high glucose". Natural Product Research. 36 (22): 5740–5746. doi:10.1080/14786419.2021.2023866. PMID 34989299. S2CID 245771677.