Zingiber officinale Rosc
Family : Zingiberaceae
Ginger is one of the earliest known
oriental spices and is being cultivated in India both as a fresh
vegetable and as a dried spice since time immemorial. Ginger is
obtained from the rhizomes of Zingiber officinale. The ginger
family is a tropical group especially abundant in Indo-Malaysia,
consisting of more 1200 plant species in 53 genera. The genus Zingiber
includes about 85 species of aromatic herbs from East Asia and tropical
Australia. The word ginger is derived from a Sanskrit word singabera
meaning 'shaped like a deer's antlers (horn)'. Ginger is not known
in a wild state and has been cultivated for so long in both China
and India that its exact origin is unclear. It is believed to be
a native of Southern Asia.
Ginger has a long respected history
as a spice. It reached the West at least two thousand years ago,
recorded as a subject of a Roman tax in the second century after
being imported via the Red Sea to Alexandria. Tariff duties appear
in the records of Marseilles in 1228 and in Paris by 1296. Rosengarten
(1969) recorded that ginger was mentioned by the Chinese philosopher
Confucius (551-479 BC). Its medicinal properties are mentioned by
Dioscorides (1 century A.D) in his D. Materia Medica. It was introduced
to Germany and France in the ninth century and to England in the
tenth century. Ginger is known in England before the Norman Conquest,
as it is commonly found in the 11th century Anglo-Saxon leech books.
Ginger is detailed in a 13th century work, "Physicians of Myddvai,"
a collection of recipes and prescriptions written by a physician,
Rhiwallon, and his three sons, by mandate of Rhys Gryg, prince of
South Wales (who died in 1233). By the 13th and 14th centuries it
was familiar to English palates, and next to pepper, was the most
popular spice. Ginger, as a product of the Far East, was indelibly
imprinted on the taste buds of Westerners before potatoes, tomatoes,
and corn were even known to exist by Europeans. Arabs took it from
India to East Africa (13th century). The Portugese Mendoja, introduced
ginger into Mexico soon after the discovery of that country. They
in turn introduced in Jamaica. Since the ginger rhizomes can be
easily transported in a living state, the plant has been introduced
to several tropical and sub-tropical countries. Ginger is now commercially
cultivated in nearly every tropical and subtropical country in the
world with arable land for export crops. The major production is
in India, Jamaica, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Brazil, China, Japan,
Indonesia, Taiwan and Australia. Jamaica and India produce the best
quality ginger. In India, about 70% of the total ginger production
is confined to Kerala. Other states which grow ginger are Assam,
Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Sikkim.
Ginger is a slender herbaceous perennial
herb belonging to Zingiberaceae family. It forms a spreading, tuberous,
underground stem or rhizome. The plant produces erect, tall and
dark green leafy shoots (pseudostems) 30-100 cm of high. The aerial
pseudostems ususally bear 8-12 distichous leaves. Leaves are alternate,
lanceolate or linear-lanceolate, acute, smooth and with subsessile
sheathing. They are 5-25 cm long and 1-3 cm wide. There is a broad,
thin, glabrous ligule (about 5mm long) and slightly bilobed. Flowers
are borne in a bracteal, imbricated spike, terminating in a leafless
stem reaching to about 15-25 cm in height. They are situated in
the axils of large, greenish - yellow obtuse bracts. They are small,
fraile, short lived, very a few, and usually arising one or two
at a time. The evanoscent flowers are yellowish and speckled with
a purplish lip. Calyx is thin, tubular, spathaceous, 1-1.2 cm long
and is three-toothed. Corolla tube is 2-2.5 cm long with three lobes.
The dorsal lobe is 1.5-2.5 cm long, 8 mm wide and is curved over
the anther and narrowed to the tip. The labellum or lip corresponds
to three stamens, is nearly circular, dull purple with cream blotches
at base. The perfect stamen has a short filament; the anther is
cream coloured and is prolonged into a beak-like appendage. The
rhizome, protruding just below the apex of the appendage, has a
circular apical aperture surrounded by stiff hairs. There are two
slender free styloids. The inferior ovary is trilocular with several
ovules per locule on axile placentation. Fruit is an oblong, thin
walled, three - valved capsule but is rarely produced. The seeds
are small, black and arillate. Rhizomes are fleshy sympodial, hard
and thick, laterally compressed, often palmately branched with about
1.5-2.5 cm in diameter. The inner core is usually pale yellow while
the outer is light yellow. They are covered with small distichous
scales with an encircling insertion and fine fibrous roots in the
Though a perennial plant, ginger
is usually grown as an annual for harvesting as a spice. Ginger
requires a warm and humid climate. It is cultivated from almost
sea level to an altitude of 1500 m above MSL either under heavy
rainfall conditions (150-300 cm/year) or under irrigation. The crops
thrive well in sandy or clayey loam, red loam or laterite loam soils
having good drainage and humus content. Ginger does the best in
partial to complete shade. It can be grown as a pure crop as well
as an inter-crop in coconut, coffee and orange plantations. Ginger
is propagated vegetatively through rhizomes. The size of the planting
material varies from place to place and variety to variety. Seed
rhizomes are treated with fungicides and insecticides to avoid any
seed-borne diseases and scales. Planting is done during April -
May with the receipt of pre-monsoon showers. When the crop is raised
under rainfed conditions, seed rhizomes are planted in raised beds.
In irrigated crop, it is done on ridges. After planting, the beds
are mulched with green leaves thrice at intervals of one month.
Adequate weed control, earthing up and plant protection measures
against shoot borer (Conogethes punctiferalis) and soft rot disease
caused by Pythium aphanidermatum should be carried out as and when
needed. Incidence of rhizome scales (Aspidiella hartii), plant parasitic
nematodes (Meloidogyne spp., Pratylenchus spp. and Radopholus similis)
and bacterial wilt caused by Ralstonia solanacearum can be managed
by selecting healthy seed rhizomes.
Ginger is harvested by digging out
rhizomes when the tops have died down. The harvesting and processing
of dried ginger varies in different countries. The rhizomes are
lifted from the earth, cleared of all adhering matter by washing,
blanched and then sun-dried. A few of farmers scald the rhizomes
in hot water before drying in the sun. Others scald and then peel
or scape them to remove before drying. In Jamaica, the rhizomes
are peeled, washed and sun dried. It requires about 6-8 days to
dry the rhizomes. If the ginger is for vegetable purpose or for
preparation of candied ginger, salted ginger or for soft drinks,
pickles, etc. the harvesting should be done at 4-5 months of planting,
when these rhizomes are still immature, tender, succulent and mild
in pungency. The ginger of commerce consists of the thick scaly
rhizomes (underground stems) of the plant. They branch with thick
thumb-like protrusions, thus individual divisions of the rhizome
are known as "hands."
Aroma and flavour
Ginger contains 1.5-3.0% volatile
oil. The volatile oil is composed mainly of sesquiterpene hydrocarbons.
Oxygenated sesquiterpenes are present up to 17% and the remainder
is composed of monoterpene hydrocarbons and oxygenated monoterpenes.
Of the sesquiterpene hydrocarbons, about 20-30% is (-) a -zingeberene,
up to 12% (-) - b -bisabolene, up to 19% (+)-ar-curcumene and up
to 10% farnasene. The volatile oil possesses the aromatic odour
and flavour but not the pungent flavour of the spice. Studies have
shown that b-sesquiphellendrene and ar-curcumine were the major
contributors to the 'ginger' flavour whereas a-terpenol and citral
contributed a lemony flavour. The pungent components of ginger are
three compounds: gingerol, shogoal and zingerone. Gingerols are
a series of compounds with the general structure, 1-(4'- hydroxy
-3' methoxyphenyl) -5-hydroxyalkan - 3 ones. They are mainly condensation
products of zingerone. The presence of zingerone and shogoals in
fresh extract is non existant. They are formed during the drying
Ginger, being a major spice, has
many uses in food, flavouring and medicinal products. The aroma
of ginger is pleasant and spicy and flavour penetrating, pungent
and slightly biting. It is a common ingredient in Asian cooking
and it flavours several products like confectionary, gingerole,
curry powders, pickles, several soft drinks and alcoholic beverages.
It is also essential in Western baking like in taditional gingerbreads,
cakes, biscuits etc. It is available fresh and preserved in brine
or syrup. Besides these, ginger oils and oleoresins also have a
variety of uses. The essential oil is used in commercial flavourings.
Medicinal and other use
Ginger has several medicinal properties.
It is carminative, diaphoretic and spasmolytic. Ginger is truly
a world domestic remedy. Asian cultures have used it for centuries.
Experimental data developed by Chinese scientists verifies the ability
of ginger to "strengthen," the stomach while acting as a mild stomach
and intestinal stimulant. It has also been shown to inhibit vomiting.
Animal experiments have also shown analgesic and anti-inflammatory
activity. Even in modern China, while an essential ingredient in
almost any meal, it is also one of the most widely consumed drugs.
Both fresh and dried roots are official drugs of the modern Chinese
pharmacopoeia, as is a liquid extract and tincture of ginger. Ginger
is used in dozens of traditional Chinese prescriptions as a "guide
drug" to "mediate" the effects of potentially toxic ingredients.
In fact, in modern China, Ginger is believed to be used in half
of all herbal prescriptions. Several of its pharmaceutical uses
are mentioned in Ayurveda. Like the ancient Chinese, in India the
fresh and dried roots were considered distinct medicinal products.
Fresh ginger has been used for cold-induced disease, nausea, asthma,
cough, colic, heart palpitation, swellings, dyspepsia, loss of appetite,
and rheumatism. Ginger is as popular a home remedy in India today,
as it was 2,000 years ago. Studies by Japanese researchers indicate
that ginger has a tonic effect on the heart, and may lower blood
pressure by restricting blood flow in peripheral areas of the body.
Further studies show that ginger can lower cholesterol levels by
reducing cholesterol absorption in the blood and liver.
Ginger extracts have been extensively
studied for a broad range of biological activities including antibacterial,
anticonvulsant, analgesic, antiulcer, gastric antisecretory, antitumor,
antifungal, antispasmodic, antiallergenic, and other activities.
Gingerols have been shown to be inhibitors of prostaglandin biosynthesis.
Other scientific studies show that gingerol, one of the primary
pungent principles of ginger, helps counter liver toxicity by increasing
bile secretion. Ginger has potent anti-microbial and anti-oxidant
(food preservative) qualities as well. A recent study, furthering
ginger's reputation as a stomachic, shows that acetone and methanol
extracts of ginger strongly inhibits gastric ulceration. Several
studies published in the last two decades have confirmed the traditional
claims for use as an anti-vomiting or anti-motion sickness agent.
Ginger is valued the world over,
as a culinary herb, condiment, spice, home remedy, and medicinal
agent. It is likely that ginger will be enjoyed and valued for the
next millennium, and new research will undoubtedly reveal new value
for this ancient herb.