|Color plate from Köhler's Medicinal Plants|
Ginger or ginger root is the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale, consumed as a delicacy, medicine, or spice. It lends its name to its genus and family (Zingiberaceae). Other notable members of this plant family are turmeric, cardamom, and galangal. The distantly related dicots in the Asarum genus have the common name wild ginger because of their similar taste.
Mid-14c., from Old English gingifer, from Medieval Latin gingiber, from Latin zingiberi, from Greek zingiberis, from Prakrit (Middle Indic) singabera, from Sanskrit srngaveram, from srngam "horn" + vera- "body," so called from the shape of its root. But this may be Sanskrit folk etymology, and the word may be from an ancient Dravidian name that also produced the Malayalam name for the spice, inchi-ver, from inchi "root." Cf. gin (v.). The word apparently was readopted in Middle English from Old French gingibre (Modern French gingembre). Meaning "spirit, spunk, temper" is from 1843, American English. Ginger-ale recorded by 1822; ginger-snap as a type of cookie is from 1855, American English.
Ginger produces clusters of white and pink flower buds that bloom into yellow flowers. Because of its aesthetic appeal and the adaptation of the plant to warm climates, ginger is often used as landscaping around subtropical homes. It is a perennial reed-like plant with annual leafy stems, about a meter (3 to 4 feet) tall. Traditionally, the rhizome is gathered when the stalk withers; it is immediately scalded, or washed and scraped, to kill it and prevent sprouting. The fragrant perisperm of Zingiberaceae is used as sweetmeats by Bantu, also as a condiment and sialogogue.
Ginger produces a hot, fragrant kitchen spice. Young ginger rhizomes are juicy and fleshy with a very mild taste. They are often pickled in vinegar or sherry as a snack or just cooked as an ingredient in many dishes. They can also be steeped in boiling water to make ginger tea, to which honey is often added; sliced orange or lemon fruit may also be added. Ginger can also be made into candy, or ginger wine which has been made commercially since 1740.
Mature ginger rhizomes are fibrous and nearly dry. The juice from old ginger roots is extremely potent and is often used as a spice in Indian recipes, and is a quintessential ingredient of Chinese, Korean, Japanese and many South Asian cuisines for flavoring dishes such as seafood or goat meat and vegetarian cuisine.
Fresh ginger can be substituted for ground ginger at a ratio of 6 to 1, although the flavors of fresh and dried ginger are somewhat different. Powdered dry ginger root is typically used as a flavoring for recipes such as gingerbread, cookies, crackers and cakes, ginger ale, and ginger beer.
Candied ginger, or crystallized ginger, is the root cooked in sugar until soft, and is a type of confectionery.
Fresh ginger may be peeled before eating. For longer-term storage, the ginger can be placed in a plastic bag and refrigerated or frozen.
In Western cuisine, ginger is traditionally used mainly in sweet foods such as ginger ale, gingerbread, ginger snaps, parkin, ginger biscuits and speculaas. A ginger-flavored liqueur called Canton is produced in Jarnac, France. Green ginger wine is a ginger-flavored wine produced in the United Kingdom, traditionally sold in a green glass bottle. Ginger is also used as a spice added to hot coffee and tea.
In India and Pakistan, ginger is called adrak in sanskrit, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu, aad in Maithili, aadi in Bhojpuri, aada in Assamese and Bengali, Adu in Gujarati, Allam (అల్లం) in Telugu hashi shunti (ಹಸಿ ಶುಂಟಿ) in inji (இஞ்சி) in Tamil and Malayalam, inguru (ඉඟුරු) in Sinhalese, alay in Marathi, and aduwa(अदुवा ) in Nepali. Fresh ginger is one of the main spices used for making pulse and lentil curries and other vegetable preparations. Fresh, as well as dried, ginger is used to spice tea and coffee, especially in winter. Ginger powder is also used in certain food preparations, particularly for pregnant or nursing women, the most popular one being katlu which is a mixture of gum resin, ghee, nuts, and sugar. Ginger is also consumed in candied and pickled form. In Bangladesh, ginger is finely chopped or ground into a paste to use as a base for chicken and meat dishes alongside onion and garlic.
In Burma, ginger is called gyin. It is widely used in cooking and as a main ingredient in traditional medicines. It is also consumed as a salad dish called gyin-thot, which consists of shredded ginger preserved in oil, and a variety of nuts and seeds. In Indonesia, a beverage called wedang jahe is made from ginger and palm sugar. Indonesians also use ground ginger root, called jahe, as a common ingredient in local recipes. In Malaysia, ginger is called halia and used in many kinds of dishes, especially a soup. In the Philippines it is brewed into a tea called salabat. In Vietnam, the fresh leaves, finely chopped, can also be added to shrimp-and-yam soup (canh khoai mỡ) as a top garnish and spice to add a much subtler flavor of ginger than the chopped root.
In China, sliced or whole ginger root is often paired with savory dishes such as fish, and chopped ginger root is commonly paired with meat, when it is cooked. However, candied ginger is sometimes a component of Chinese candy boxes, and a tisane can also be prepared from ginger.
In Japan, ginger is pickled to make beni shoga and gari or grated and used raw on tofu or noodles. It is also made into a candy called shoga no sato zuke. In the traditional Korean kimchi, ginger is either finely minced or just juiced in order to avoid the fibrous texture and added to the ingredients of the spicy paste just before the fermenting process.
In the Caribbean, ginger is a popular spice for cooking, and making drinks such as sorrel, a seasonal drink made during the Christmas season. Jamaicans make ginger beer both as a carbonated beverage and also fresh in their homes. Ginger tea is often made from fresh ginger, as well as the famous regional specialty Jamaican ginger cake.
On the island of Corfu, Greece, a traditional drink called τσιτσιμπύρα (tsitsibira), a type of ginger beer, is made. The people of Corfu and the rest of the Ionian islands adopted the drink from the British, during the period of the United States of the Ionian Islands.
In Arabic, ginger is called zanjabil, and in some parts of the Middle East, gin�gayu (生姜湯). In Philippine cuisine it is called salabat and served in the relatively cold month of December. From its main ingredient ginger tea derives a flavor that is spicy and stimulating. Ginger, known as Adarak in Hindi, is used frequently in tea made in all parts of India as well.
Medicinal use and research
According to the American Cancer Society, ginger has been promoted as a cancer treatment "to keep tumors from developing", but "available scientific evidence does not support this". They add: "Recent preliminary results in animals show some effect in slowing or preventing tumor growth. While these results are not well understood, they deserve further study. Still, it is too early in the research process to say whether ginger will have the same effect in humans."
In limited studies, ginger was found to be more effective than placebo for treating nausea caused by seasickness, morning sickness and chemotherapy, although ginger was not found superior to placebo for pre-emptively treating post-operative nausea. Some studies advise against taking ginger during pregnancy, suggesting that ginger is mutagenic, though some other studies have reported antimutagenic effects. Other preliminary studies showed that ginger may affect arthritis pain or have blood thinning and cholesterol lowering properties, but these effects remain unconfirmed.
Advanced glycation end-products are possibly associated in the development of diabetic cataract for which ginger was effective in preliminary studies, apparently by acting through antiglycating mechanisms.
The characteristic odor and flavor of ginger is caused by a mixture of zingerone, shogaols and gingerols, volatile oils that compose one to three percent of the weight of fresh ginger. In laboratory animals, the gingerols increase the motility of the gastrointestinal tract and have analgesic, sedative, antipyretic and antibacterial properties. A study at the University of Michigan demonstrated that gingerols can inhibit growth of ovarian cancer cells in vitro. -gingerol (1-[4'-hydroxy-3'-methoxyphenyl]-5-hydroxy-3-decanone) is the major pungent principle of ginger.
Ginger contains up to three percent of a fragrant essential oil whose main constituents are sesquiterpenoids, with (-)-zingiberene as the main component. Smaller amounts of other sesquiterpenoids (β-sesquiphellandrene, bisabolene and farnesene) and a small monoterpenoid fraction (β-phelladrene, cineol, and citral) have also been identified.
The pungent taste of ginger is due to nonvolatile phenylpropanoid-derived compounds, particularly gingerols and shogaols, which form from gingerols when ginger is dried or cooked. Zingerone is also produced from gingerols during this process; this compound is less pungent and has a spicy-sweet aroma. Ginger is also a minor chemical irritant, and because of this was used as a horse suppository by pre-World War I mounted regiments for feaguing.
The traditional medical form of ginger historically was called Jamaica ginger; it was classified as a stimulant and carminative and used frequently for dyspepsia, gastroparesis, slow motility symptoms, constipation, and colic. It was also frequently employed to disguise the taste of medicines.
Some studies indicate ginger may provide short-term relief of pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting. Studies are inconclusive about effects for other forms of nausea or in treating pain from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or joint and muscle injury. Side effects, mostly associated with powdered ginger, are gas, bloating, heartburn, and nausea.
- In Burma, ginger and a local sweetener made from palm tree juice (htan nyat) are boiled together and taken to prevent the flu.
- In China, ginger is included in several traditional preparations. A drink made with sliced ginger cooked in water with brown sugar or a cola is used as a folk medicine for the common cold. "Ginger eggs" (scrambled eggs with finely diced ginger root) is a common home remedy for coughing. The Chinese also make a kind of dried ginger candy that is fermented in plum juice and sugared, which is also commonly consumed to suppress coughing. Ginger has also been historically used to treat inflammation, which several scientific studies support, though one arthritis trial showed ginger to be no better than a placebo or ibuprofen for treatment of osteoarthritis.
- In Congo, ginger is crushed and mixed with mango tree sap to make tangawisi juice, which is considered a panacea.
- In India, ginger is applied as a paste to the temples to relieve headache, and consumed when suffering from the common cold. Ginger with lemon and black salt is also used for nausea.
- In Indonesia, ginger (jahe in Indonesian) is used as a herbal preparation to reduce fatigue, reducing "winds" in the blood, prevent and cure rheumatism and control poor dietary habits.
- In Nepal, ginger is called aduwa, अदुवा and is widely grown and used throughout the country as a spice for vegetables, used medically to treat cold and also sometimes used to flavor tea.
- In the Philippines, ginger is known as luya and is used as a throat lozenge in traditional medicine to relieve sore throat. It is also brewed into a tea known as salabat.
- In the United States, ginger is used to prevent motion and morning sickness. It is recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration and is sold as an unregulated dietary supplement. Ginger water is also used to avoid heat cramps.
- In Peru, ginger is sliced in hot water as an infusion for stomach aches as infusión de Kión.
- In Japan it is purported to aid blood circulation. Scientific studies investigating these effects have been inconclusive.
If consumed in reasonable quantities, ginger has few negative side effects, and is on the FDA's "generally recognized as safe" list, though it does interact with some medications, including warfarin. Ginger is contraindicated in people suffering from gallstones, as it promotes the production of bile.
Allergic reactions to ginger generally result in a rash, and although generally recognized as safe, ginger can cause heartburn, bloating, gas, belching and nausea, particularly if taken in powdered form. Unchewed fresh ginger may result in intestinal blockage, and individuals who have had ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease or blocked intestines may react badly to large quantities of fresh ginger. Ginger can also adversely affect individuals with gallstones. There are also suggestions that ginger may affect blood pressure, clotting, and heart rhythms.
Products in Taiwan made from Hebo Natural Products Limited (禾博天然產物有限公司) of China contained ginger contaminated with DIBP, some 80,000 nutritional supplement capsules made with imported ginger powder were seized by the Public Health Department of Taiwan in June 2011.
Another plant in the Zingiberaceae family, galangal, is used for similar purposes as ginger in Thai cuisine. Galangal is also called Thai ginger. Also referred to as galangal, fingerroot (Boesenbergia rotunda), or Chinese ginger or the Thai krachai, is used in cooking and medicine.
A dicotyledonous native species of eastern North America, Asarum canadense, is also known as "wild ginger", and its root has similar aromatic properties, but it is not related to true ginger. The plant also contains aristolochic acid, a carcinogenic compound.
|Top ten ginger producers – 11 June 2008|
From 1585, Jamaican ginger was the first oriental spice to be grown in the New World and imported back to Europe. India, with over 30% of the global share, now leads in global production of ginger, replacing China, which has slipped to the second position (~20.5%), followed by Indonesia (~12.7%), Nepal (~11.5%) and Thailand (~10%).
- Bu Zhong Yi Qi Wan – contains ginger material
- Kaempferia galanga
- Xiao Yao Wan – contains ginger material
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