Ginger is used extensively as a spice in cuisines throughout the world. Though commonly referred to as a root, it
is actually the rhizome of the monocotyledonous perennial plant Zingiber officinale.
Originating in southern China, cultivation of ginger spread to India, Southeast Asia, West Africa, and the Caribbean.
Young ginger roots 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 as a sweetener. 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 Chinese cuisine to flavor dishes such as in seafood
and mutton .
Ginger is used as a flavoring for candy, cookies, crackers and cake.
Chinese women traditionally have taken ginger root during pregnancy to combat morning sickness. Ginger ale and
ginger beer have been recommended as "stomach settlers" for generations in countries where the beverages are made.
Ginger water was commonly used to avoid heat cramps in the United States in the past.
In Western-hemisphere nations, powdered dried ginger root is made into capsules and sold in pharmacies for
medicinal use. In the US, ginger is not approved by the FDA for the treatment or cure of any disease. Ginger
is instead sold as an dietary supplement. In India, ginger is applied as a paste to the temples to relieve
headache. In Myanmar, ginger and local sweet (Htan nyat) which is made from palm tree juice are boiled together
and taken to prevent the Flu. A hot ginger drink (made with sliced ginger cooked in sweetened water or a
Coca-Cola-like drink) has been reported as a folk medicine for common cold.
Ginger has also historically been used in folk medicine to treat inflammation, although medical studies as to
the efficacy of ginger in decreasing inflammation have shown mixed results. There are several studies that
demonstrate a decrease in joint pain from arthritis after taking ginger, though the results have not been
consistent from study to study. It may also have blood thinning and cholesterol lowering properties, making it
theoretically effective in treating heart disease; while early studies have shown some efficacy, it is too early
to determine whether further research will bear this out.