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Ginger is a tuber which is consumed whole as a delicacy, medicine, or spice. It is the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale. It lends its name to its genus and family (Zingiberaceae). Other notable members of this plant family are turmeric, cardamom, and galangal.

Ginger cultivation began in Asia and has since spread to Indiamarker, West Africa, and the Caribbeanmarker. It is sometimes called root ginger to distinguish it from other things that share the name ginger.

Nomenclature & taxonomy


The English name ginger comes from the French gingimbre, from medieval Latin gingiber, from Greek zingiberis, from Pali siṅgivera, ultimately of Dravidian origin from Tamil inji ver (meaning root of inji).


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. Ginger oil has been shown to prevent skin cancer in mice and a study at the University of Michiganmarker demonstrated that gingerols can kill ovarian cancer cells.

Ginger section
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.

Ginger has a sialagogue action, stimulating the production of saliva, which makes swallowing easier.


Culinary use

Fresh ginger rhizome.
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 stewed in boiling water to make ginger tea, to which honey is often added; sliced orange or lemon fruit may also be added.

Mature ginger roots 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 Chinese cuisine to flavor dishes such as seafood or goat meat and vegetarian cuisine.

Ginger acts as a useful food preservative, and has been proven to kill the harmful bacteria salmonella.

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.

Ginger is also made into candy. Powdered dry ginger root is typically used as a flavoring for recipes such as gingerbread, cookies, crackers and cake, ginger ale, and ginger beer.

Fresh ginger may be peeled before being eaten. For storage, the ginger can be placed in a plastic bag and refrigerated or frozen for longer-term storage.

Regional use

In Indiamarker, ginger is called Aada in Bengali and Urdu, Adrak, in Gujarati, Shunti in the Kannada language of Karnatakamarker, Allam (అల్లం) in Telugu, Inji in Tamil and Malayalam, Alay in Marathi, and Aduwa in Nepali, in somalilandmarker,ginger is called Sinjibil

Fresh ginger is one of the main spices used for making pulse and lentil curries and other vegetable preparations. It is used fresh to spice tea 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.

In South India, ginger is used in the production of a candy called Inji-murappa meaning ginger candy in Tamil. This candy is mostly sold by vendors to bus passengers in bus stops and in small tea shops as a locally produced item. Candied or crystallised ginger (ginger cured with sugar) is also common. Additionally, in Tamil Nadumarker, especially in the Tanjore belt, a variety of ginger which is less spicy (also known as mango ginger because of the raw mango-like flavor it renders) is used when tender to make fresh pickle with the combination of lemon juice or vinegar, salt, and tender green chili peppers. 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 flavor when the juices cook the ginger over the first day. Ginger is also added as a flavoring in tea. Dried ginger (sukku சுக்கு) is used in tea or coffee and also in siddha medicine.

In Bangladeshmarker, ginger is called Aadha and is finely chopped or ground into a paste to use as a base for chicken and meat dishes alongside onion and garlic.

In Burmamarker, 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 Indonesiamarker 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 Vietnammarker, 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 Chinamarker, sliced or whole ginger root is often paired with savory dishes such as fish. However, candied ginger is sometimes a component of Chinese candy boxes, and a herbal tea can also be prepared from ginger.

In Japanmarker, 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 satozuke.

In the traditional Korean kimchi, ginger is finely minced and added to the ingredients of the spicy paste just before the fermenting process.

In Western cuisine, ginger is traditionally used mainly in sweet foods such as ginger ale, gingerbread, ginger snaps, parkin and ginger biscuits. A ginger-flavored liqueur called Canton is produced in Jarnacmarker, Francemarker. Green ginger wine is a ginger flavored wine produced in the United Kingdommarker, traditionally sold in a green glass bottle. Ginger is also used as a spice added to hot coffee and tea.

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 speciality Jamaican Ginger Cake.

On the island of Corfumarker, Greecemarker, a traditional drink called τσιτσιμπύρα (tsitsimpira), a type of ginger beer, is made. The people of Corfu and the rest of the Ionian islands picked up the drink from the British, during their occupation of the islands.

In Arabic, ginger is called zanjabil and in some parts of the Middle East ginger powder is used as a spice for coffee.

In the Ivory Coastmarker, ginger is ground and mixed with orange, pineapple and lemon to produce a juice called Nyamanku.

Medicinal use

The medical form of ginger historically was called Jamaica ginger; it was classified as a stimulant and carminative, and used frequently for dyspepsia and colic. It was also frequently employed to disguise the taste of medicines. Ginger 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. Ginger may also decrease pain from arthritis, though studies have been inconsistent, and may have blood thinning and cholesterol lowering properties that may make it useful for treating heart disease.


Ginger compounds are active against a form of diarrhea which is the leading cause of infant death in developing countries. Zingerone is likely to be the active constituent against enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli heat-labile enterotoxin-induced diarrhea.


Ginger has been found effective in multiple studies for treating nausea caused by seasickness, morning sickness and chemotherapy, though ginger was not found superior over a placebo for post-operative nausea. Ginger is a safe remedy for nausea relief during pregnancy.

Folk medicine

A variety of uses are suggested for ginger. Tea brewed from ginger is a folk remedy for colds. Three to four leaves of Tulsi taken along with a piece of ginger on an empty stomach is considered an effective cure for congestion, cough and cold. Ginger ale and ginger beer have been recommended as stomach settlers for generations in countries where the beverages are made, and ginger water was commonly used to avoid heat cramps in the United Statesmarker. 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. Research on rats suggests that ginger may be useful for treating diabetes.

Regional medicinal use
A pack of ginger powder
In the West, powdered dried ginger root is made into capsules and sold in pharmacies for medicinal use.

  • In Burmamarker, ginger and a local sweetener made from palm tree juice (Htan nyat) are boiled together and taken to prevent the flu.
  • In Chinamarker, 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.
  • In Congomarker, ginger is crushed and mixed with mango tree sap to make tangawisi juice, which is considered a panacea.
  • In Indiamarker, ginger is applied as a paste to the temples to relieve headache and consumed when suffering from the common cold, people use ginger for making tea, in food etc.
  • In Indonesiamarker, ginger ("Jahe" in Indonesian) is used as a herbal preparation to reduce fatigue, reducing "winds" in the blood, prevent and cure rheumatism and controlling poor dietary habits.
  • In the Philippinesmarker a traditional health drink called "salabat" is made for breakfast by boiling chopped ginger and adding sugar; it is considered good for a sore throat.
  • In the United Statesmarker, 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.


Allergic reactions to ginger generally result in a rash, and although it's 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.


Ginger field
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 root is gathered when the stalk withers; it is immediately scalded, or washed and scraped, in order to kill it and prevent sprouting. Scalding, applied generally to the older and poorer roots, produces black ginger; washing and scraping gives white ginger. The natural color of the white scraped ginger is a pale buff; it is often whitened by bleaching or liming, but this generally reduces its value.

Production trends

Indiamarker, with over 30% of the global share, now leads in global production of ginger, replacing Chinamarker, which has slipped to the second position (~20.5%), followed by Indonesiamarker (~12.7%), Nepalmarker (~11.5%) and Nigeriamarker (~10%).

Top Ten Ginger Producers — 11 June 2008
Country Production (Tonnes) Footnote
420,000 F
285,000 F
177,000 F
138,000 F
57,000 F
42,000 F
34,000 F
28,000 F
World 1,387,445 A
No symbol = official figure, F = FAO estimate, A = Aggregate (may include official, semi-official or estimates);

Source: Food And Agricultural Organization of United Nations: Economic And Social Department: The Statistical Division

Similar species

Myoga (Zingiber mioga Roscoe) appears in Japanese cuisine; the flower buds are the part eaten.

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.


Compendial status

See also


External links

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