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Ginger

SCIENTIFIC NAME(S): Zingiber officinale Roscoe; occasionally Z. capitatum Smith.
Family: Zingiberaceae

COMMON NAME(S): Ginger, ginger root, black ginger, zingiberis rhizoma

Ginger root is used extensively as a spice in many if not most cuisines of the world. Though called a root , it is actually the rhizome of the monocotyledonous perennial plant Zingiber officinale.

It was one of the earliest spice known in Western Europe, used since the ninth century. It became so popular in Europe that it was included in every table setting, like salt and pepper. A common article of medieval and Renaissance trade, it was one of the spices used against the plague. In English pubs and taverns in the nineteenth century, barkeepers put out small containers of ground ginger, for people to sprinkle into their beer - the origin of ginger ale. In order to 'gee up' a lazy horse, it is the time honoured practice of Sussex farmers to apply a pinch of ginger to the animal's backside.

History

Medicinal use of ginger dates back to ancient China and India; references to its use are found in Chinese pharmacopoeias, the Sesruta scriptures of Ayurvedic medicine as well as Sanskrit writings.Once its culinary properties were discovered in the 13th century, use of this herb became widespread throughout Europe. In the Middle Ages, it held a firm place in apothecaries for travel sickness, nausea, hangovers, and flatulence. Traditionally, ginger is used as an acrid bitter to strengthen and stimulate digestion. Modern uses include prophylaxis for nausea and vomiting (associated with motion sickness, hyperemesis gravidarum, and surgical anesthesia),dyspepsia, lack of appetite, anorexia, colic, bronchitis, and rheumatic complaints.

Ginger is in the official pharmacopoeias of Austria, China, Egypt, Great Britain, India, Japan, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.It is approved as a nonprescription drug in Germany and as a dietary supplement in the US.Only scraped or un-scraped, unbleached ginger is accepted as a medicinal-grade drug, medicinal grade containing greater than or equal to 1.5% volatile oil. Langner, et al consider Jamaican and Cochin ginger to be the best varieties. and report the Japanese plant to be of inferior quality and do not recommend it for medicinal use. Standards of quality for ginger can be found in The United States Pharmacopeia National Formulary.

Botany :- A native of tropical Asia, this perennial is cultivated in tropical climates such as Australia, Brazil, China, India, Jamaica, West Africa, and parts of the US.The term "root" is actually a misnomer because it is the rhizome that is used medicinally and as a culinary spice. Cultivation with natural manuring is thought to increase the spiciness of the rhizome and is therefore preferred to wild crafting.The rhizome is harvested between 6 and 20 months; taste and pungency increase with maturity.The plant carries a green purple flower in terminal spikes; the flowers are similar to orchids.

Uses of Ginger

Ginger and its constituents have antiemetic, cardiotonic, antithrombotic, antibacterial, antioxidant, antitussive, antihepatotoxic, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, stimulant, diaphoretic, diuretic, spasmolytic, immunostimulant, carminative, and cholagogue actions. Ginger is used to promote gastric secretions, increase intestinal peristalsis, lower cholesterol levels, raise blood glucose, and stimulate peripheral circulation. Traditionally used to stimulate digestion, its modern uses include prophylaxis for nausea and vomiting (associated with motion sickness, hypermesis gravidarum, and anesthesia), dyspepsia, lack of appetite, anorexia, colic, bronchitis, and rheumatic complaints. Ginger can be used as a flavoring or spice as well as a fungicide and pesticide.

Culinary Uses

Fresh ginger is essential to Asian and oriental cookery. It is used in pickles, chutneys and curry pastes and the ground dried root is a constituent of many curry powders

Side Effects of Ginger

Excessive amounts may cause CNS depression and may interfere with cardiac function or anticoagulant activity.

Although ginger may interfere with blood clotting, there have been no scientific or case reports of interactions between ginger and blood-thinning medications. However, people taking these medications with ginger should be monitored closely by a healthcare practitioner for risk of bleeding.

Dosage

For commercial preparations, the following dosages are most common.

  • Indigestion: 2 to 4 grams a day
  • Motion sickness: 1 gram 30 minutes before travel; for continuing symptoms, 0.5 to 1 gram every 4 hours.
  • To prevent vomiting: 0.5 to 2 grams daily
  • Arthritis: 1 to 2 grams daily
  • Pregnancy: For nausea associated with pregnancy, women can take up to 1 gram daily, but should not use ginger for extended period of time.
No dosage recommendations are made for children.
Toxicology

There are no reports of severe toxicity in humans from the ingestion of ginger root.In culinary quantities, the root is generally devoid of activity. Large overdoses carry the potential for causing CNS depression. Inhibition of platelet aggregation has been reported after consumption of large (clinically impractical) amounts of ginger but returned to normal within one week of discontinuation. Reports that ginger extracts may be mutagenic or antimutagenic in experimental test models require confirmation.

There is no convincing evidence regarding the safety of ingesting large amounts of ginger by pregnant women. The German Commission E contraindicates ginger for the use of morning sickness, however, data are lacking to support toxic effects in pregnant women.The FDA considers ginger as a food supplement as generally recognized as safe (GRAS).

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