Ginger is a perennial herb, with underground branching stems (rhizomes) which are swollen and tough. The leaves and rhizomes of ginger have a characteristic fragrance when cut or bruised. Rhizomes are dug out after the leafy parts are dried. The sun-dried ginger is known as sounth in Hindi.
There are numerous references to ginger in Sanskrit literature and in Chinese medical treatises. The Sanskrit name Singabera gave rise to the Greek Zingiber and to the Latin Zingiber. Ginger has been used as a medicine in India from Vedic period and is called maha-aushadhi, meaning the great medicine. Ancient physicians used it as a carminative or anti?flatulent. Galen, the Greek physician, used ginger to rectify the defective humours or fluids of the body. He used ginger to treat paralysis caused by phlegmatic imbalance in the body. Aviceena used it as an aphrodisiac. Pomose also used ginger in the treatment of gout, centuries ago.
Ginger is believed to have originated in India and was introduced in China at a very early date. It appears to have been used as a spice and a medicine from early times by the Indians and the' Chinese. It was known in Europe in .the first century A.D. and was mentioned by Dioscoredes and Pliny.
An analysis of fresh ginger shows it to contain moisture 80.9 per cent, protein 2.3 per cent, fat 0.9 per cent, minerals 1.2 per cent, fibre 2.4 per cent and carbohydrates 12.3 Per cent per 100 grams. Its mineral and vitamin contents are calcium, phosphours, iron, carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin C. Its calorific value is 67. The composition of ginger varies with the type or variety, region, agro-climatic conditions, methods of curing, drying, packaging and storage. Chemical analysis of 26 varieties of ginger grown in India was conducted at CITRI, Mysore, which showed the following important ingredients: volatile oil, oleoresin (acetone extract), water extract, cold alcohol extract, substantial amount of starch, total ash, water soluble ash, acid insoluble ash and alkalinity of ash of unpeeled ginger.
On steam distillation, dried, cracked and crushed ginger yields a pale yellow, viscid oil. The oil possesses the aromatic odour but not the pungent flavour of the spice. The odour of the oil is lingering.
Ginger is widely used in local medicines in India and the Far East. Taken internally, it is a stimulating carminative and externally, it is used as a rubefacient that is, counter-irritant for relief of muscular pain. Like many other spices, ginger is believed to have aphrodisiac properties.
Ginger is extremely useful in the treatment of dyspepsia, flatulence, colic, vomiting, spasms and other painful affections of the stomach and the bowels, not accompanied by fever. Chewing a piece of fresh ginger regularly after meals prevents these ailments. This protective action is due to the excessive secretion of saliva, diastase enzyme and volatile oil.
Half a teaspoon of fresh ginger juice, mixed with one teaspoon each of fresh lime and mint juices and a tablespoon of honey, constitutes an effective medicine for dyspepsia, nausea and vomiting due to biliousness, indigestion caused by intake of heavy
non-vegetarian and fried fatty food, morning sickness, jaundice and piles. This mixture should be taken thrice daily in the treatment of these conditions.
The herb is an excellent remedy for coughs and colds. Extracted juice of ginger with honey is taken three or four times a day in case of coughs. In case of colds, ginger cut into small pieces is boiled in a cup of water. After straining, with half-a?teaspoon of sugar, it should be taken hot. Ginger tea, prepared by adding a few pieces of ginger into boiled water before adding tea leaves, is another effective remedy for frequent colds and associated fevers.
A teaspoon of fresh ginger juice mixed with a cup of fenugreek decoction and honey to taste, makes an excellent diaphoretic mixture to proliferate sweating and reduces fever in influenza. It acts as an expectorant in bronchitis, asthma, whooping cough and tuberculosis of the lungs.
Ginger juice is aphrodisiac. For better results, half a teaspoon of ginger juice honey with a half-boiled egg and is taken at night for a month. It tones up the sex organs and cures impotency, premature ejaculation and spermatorrhoea, or involuntary seminal discharge.
For menstrual disorders, a piece of fresh ginger is pounded and boiled in a cup of water for a few minutes. The infusion, sweetened with sugar, is taken thrice daily after meals for painful or irregular menstruation caused by exposure to cold winds or by cold bath.
Ginger is an excellent pain killer. It can cure all types of pain. In headache, ginger ointment made by rubbing dry ginger with a little water on a grinding stone and applied to the forehead affords relief. It allays toothache when applied to the gum. In case of earache, a few drops of ginger juice gives relief.
Ginger is available in two forms, fresh and dried. Both the forms are effective. As the taste of ginger is not very palatable, it is carefully adapted to the palate by putting it in vegetables. In western countries, it is widely used for culinary purposes in gingerbread, biscuits, cakes, puddings, soups and pickles. It is a common constituent of curry powder. Ginger is the most widely?used spice in Chinese. cookery.
The essential oil from the rhizomes is used in the manufacture of flavouring essence and in perfumery. An oleoresin is also extracted, in which the full pungency of the spice is preserved; it is used for flavouring and medicinal purposes.