Zingiber officinale

Family Zingiberaceae
Genus Zingiber
Species Officinale


Synonyms and Common names: African ginger; Black ginger; Jamaican ginger

Description and Habitat: Although ginger is considered to be a spice, its use in holistic healing is too important not to include in any collection of Herbal Monographs. Although commonly referred to as a root, it is actually the rhizome of the monocotyledonous (a flowering plant with an embryo that bears a single cotyledon or seed leaf) perennial plant Zingiber officinale.   Ginger seems to originate from Southern China. Today, it is cultivated all over tropic and subtropical Asia.   50% of the world's harvest is produced in India, in Brazil, Jamaica (where the best quality is exported from) and Nigeria, whose ginger is rather pungent, but lacks the fine aroma of other provenances. Ginger is a knotted, thick, beige underground stem (rhizome). The stem extends roughly 12 inches above ground with long, narrow, ribbed, green leaves, and white or yellowish-green flowers.  It has a pungent smell and a specific taste, which enhances many food recipes.


Parts used: Rhizome


Harvesting and storage: Most ginger is obtained from commercial outlets, it isn’t possible to grow in Britain as the climate is not conducive for its successful cultivation.  Storage is best in a fridge, where it will deteriorate after a week of storage, so is best bought when required and used as fresh as possible.  It is possible to buy ginger as a spice ready powdered, but the quality is inferior to using the root freshly grated or chopped.


Constituents:  Volatile oil, acrid soft resin, resin insoluble in ether and oil, gum, starch, lignin, vegeto matter, asmazone, acetic acid, acetate of potassa, sulphur.


Actions: stimulant, carminative, rubefacient, diaphoretic, aromatic, emmenagogue, sialogogue.

Indications: Ginger root is widely used as a digestive aid for mild stomach upset and is commonly recommended by health care professionals to help prevent or treat nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness, and cancer chemotherapy. Ginger is used as support in inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, and may even be used in heart disease or cancer.

Therapeutics and Pharmacology:   Ginger may be used as a stimulant of the peripheral circulation in cases of bad circulation, chilblains and cramps. In feverish conditions, Ginger acts as a useful diaphoretic, promoting perspiration.

As a gargle, it may be effective in the relief of sore throats.  Externally it is the base of many fibrositis and muscle sprain treatments.

Ginger has been used worldwide as an aromatic carminative and pungent appetite stimulant. In India, and in other countries with hot and humid climates, ginger is eaten daily and is a well-known remedy for digestion problems. Its wide-spread use is not only due to its flavour but to the anti-oxidant and anti-microbial effects, necessary for the preservation of food which is essential in such climates.

Contraindications: Side effects associated with ginger are rare, but if taken in excessive doses the herb may cause mild heartburn.   Some of the mild gastrointestinal side effects, such as belching, heartburn, or stomach upset, may be relieved by taking ginger supplements in capsules rather than using the raw Herb.

People with gallstones should consult a doctor before taking ginger. Make sure to tell your doctor if you are taking ginger and will be having surgery or will be placed under anaesthesia for any reason. Do not take ginger if you have a bleeding disorder or if you are taking blood-thinning medications, including Aspirin.

Preparation and dosage:
Decoction: if you are using the dried root in powdered or finely chopped form, make a decoction by putting l l/2 teaspoonfuls to a cup of water. Bring it to the boil and simmer for 5-l0 minutes. This can be drunk whenever needed.

Tincture: Take 2-4 drops in water up to 3-4 times daily.


Additional comments & Folklore: Young ginger roots are juicy and fleshy with a very mild taste. They are often pickled in vinegar a snack or just cooked as an ingredient in many dishes.

Ginger is also candied.  It is used as a flavouring and is the main flavour in ginger ale, as well as the similar, but somewhat spicier beverage ginger beer. In Arabic, ginger is called Zanjabil and in some parts of the Middle East, ginger powder is used as a spice for coffee.

In South Asia, ginger is called Inji in Tamil and Malayalam and Adrak in Hindi and Urdu. Fresh ginger is one of the main spices used for making pulse and lentil curries.

It is used fresh as a spice for boiled tea, especially in winter.  Also, ginger powder is used in certain food preparations that are made particularly for expectant and feeding mothers, the most popular one being Katlu which is a mixture of gum resin, ghee, nuts and sugar, traditionally made for women after they have delivered the child especially in India

Powdered dry ginger root (ginger powder) is typically used to add spiciness to gingerbread and other recipes. Ground and fresh ginger taste quite different and ground ginger is a particularly poor substitute for fresh ginger. Fresh ginger can be successfully substituted for ground ginger and should be done at a ratio of 6 parts fresh for 1 part ground. Better results are achieved by substituting only half the ground ginger for fresh ginger.

In Myanmar ginger is used in a salad dish called gyin-tho, which consists of shredded ginger preserved in oil, and a variety of nuts and seeds.

In India, ginger is used in all sub-varieties of the Indian cuisines. In south India, ginger is used in the production of a candy called Inji-murappa ("ginger candy" from Tamil). This candy is mostly sold by vendors to bus passengers in bus stops and in small tea shops as a locally produced item.

Additionally, in Tamil Nadu, especially in the Tanjore belt, a variety of ginger which is less spicy is used when tender to make fresh pickle with the combination of lemon juice or vinegar, salt and tender green chillies. This kind of pickle was generally made before the invention of refrigeration and stored for a maximum of 4-5 days. The pickle gains a mature flavour when the juices cook the ginger over the first 24 hours. Ginger is used in the curries of North Indian food or cooked into the food.

During the 15th century, gingerbread became a gift of love and respect. In the 1800s, Ginger was commonly sprinkled on top of beer or ale, then stirred into the drink with a hot poker

Ginger root is used as a powerful protection from evil. It is also used in love and improving sexuality. Put under your pillow to protect from evil spirits, bad dreams and hag-riding.  Ginger is said to encourage attraction, courage, love, money, peace, prosperity and purification.   The spice also helps to clear negativity.