History

Ginger is a perennial plant with thick tuberous rhizomes from which an above-ground stem rises approx 3 feet (1). The plant produces an orchidlike flower (2) with petals that are greenish-yellow streaked with purple (3). Ginger is cultivated in areas of abundant rainfall (at least 80 inches/year) (3). Native to southern Asia, ginger is cultivated in tropical areas such as Jamaica, China, Nigeria, and Haiti (1). Ginger was introduced to Jamaica and the West Indies by Spaniards in the 16 th century, and exports from Jamaica to the rest of the world amount to more than two million pounds per year (4).

From Forensic Science and Medicine: Herbal Products: Toxicology and Clinical Pharmacology, Second Edition Edited by: T. S. Tracy and R. L. Kingston © Humana Press Inc., Totowa, NJ

Ginger is an ingredient in more than one-half of all traditional Chinese medicines (5), and has been used since the 4th century bce (4). Marco Polo documented its use in India in the late 13th century (4). African and West Indies cultures have also used ginger medicinally (5), and the Greeks and Romans used it as a spice (4). The Chinese used ginger for stomach aches, diarrhea, nausea, cholera, bleeding (1), asthma, heart conditions, respiratory disorders (3), toothache, and rheumatic complaints (5). In China, the root and stem are used to combat aphids and fungal spores (2). Ginger is purported to have use as a carminative, diaphoretic, spasmolytic, expectorant, peripheral circulatory stimulant, astringent, appetite stimulant, antiinflammatory agent, diuretic, and digestive aid (3). It has also been used to treat migraines, fever, flu, amenorrhea (3), snake bites, and baldness (1).

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