Ginger II

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Ginger, (Part II of III – General Information and Uses, con’t)

Family:  Zingiberaceae

(Also known as African Ginger, Black Ginger, Fingerroot, Chinese Ginger, Sunthi, East Indian Pepper, Jamica pepper, German ingwer, Italian zenzero jengibre, and many others.)

(One of my pet peeves is when TV shows leave us hanging, requiring a week’s wait for resolution of many unanswered questions.  Such, I fear, is this three part piece on Ginger!  However with so many varieties and uses, anything less, would seem to be an injustice.)

A few more of the interesting, local medicinal uses of ginger are: In Burma, ginger and a sweetener made from palm tree juice are boiled together and taken to prevent the flu. In China a drink is made with sliced ginger cooked in water with brown sugar or a cola and used for the common cold.  Also, “ginger eggs” (scrambled eggs with finely diced ginger root) is a home remedy for coughing; In the Congo, it is crushed and mixed with mango tree sap to make juice considered to be a panacea.  In India, ginger is applied as a paste to the temples to relieve headaches, and taken when suffering a cold. Ginger with lemon and black salt is also used for nausea.  In Indonesia, it is utilized as an herbal preparation to reduce fatigue, prevent and cure rheumatism and control poor dietary habits.  On Trinidad and Tobago, juice from the Costus species is mixed with crushed Renealmia alpinia berries treat dogs bitten by snakes. And, in the United States ginger water was commonly used to avoid heat cramps.  (Earlier I spoke of certain species being most used.  Four other – lesser known but growing in popularity – plants are these: Throughout Asia the yellow leaves and some floral petals of some Z. Etlingera plants and all of the white butterfly ginger flower (Hedychium coronarum) is mixed in salads.  Myoga (Zingiber mioga) is somewhat common in the food of Japan with the flower buds being the part eaten. And galangal, or fingeroot, (boesenbergia rotunda) – called Thai Ginger – is often used in the delicious cuisine of Thailand.) 

Beyond basic culinary or native/folk lore medicinal uses what of this intriguing plant species?  Well, in tests with mice, ginger oil has been shown to prevent skin cancer. And a University of Michigan study has demonstrated that it can kill ovarian cancer cells.  We also know that it acts as a useful food preservative.  In addition to frequently being used to mask the bitter taste of medicines, the historical, medical form of ginger was classified as a stimulant, carminative and used for dyspepsia, gastroparesis, constipation and colic. Certain ginger compounds are successful in combating a form of diarrhea that is a leading cause of infant death in several developing countries.  Studies are also going on regarding ginger decreasing arthritis pain, blood thinning and cholesterol lowering properties which could make it useful for treating heart disease. As alluded to last week, it has also been found effective in treating nausea caused by seasickness, morning sickness and chemotherapy as well as a safe remedy for nausea relief during pregnancy.  (Boating?  Take Ginger Snaps!)

 “Enough”, my gardener readers shout, “what of its uses around our homes?”  Well asked!  As a result of the numerous varieties, with such striking flowers, ginger’s aesthetic appeal lends itself to effective landscape use around subtropical homes.  In a rather broad description – what with so many species – it is a perennial reed-like plant with annual leafy stems, one to three meters (3 to 10’) tall of almost limitless varieties:  Bamboo Ginger; Black Ginger; Midnight Ginger; White, Pink or Red Torch Ginger; Beehive (Golden, Green or Pink) Ginger; Shampoo Ginger; Goldbrush Ginger: Indonesian Wax Ginger; Spiral Ginger and Red Tower Ginger and many more wait for you!  (Next week – Planting and Caring for Ginger.)

1 Spiral ginger variegata

Even the foliage of the Spiral Ginger Variegata is attractive!

2 Etlingera corneri Siam rose 2

Several have recently enjoyed seeing Ginger such as this Siam Rose (Etlingera corneri) at my pal Luc’s nursery – lucvleeracker@yahoo.com

3 Etlingera elatior Red torch

The Red Torch Ginger (Etlingera elatior) is one of my personal favorites – and they last a long time when used in an inside floral arrangement.

4 Etlingera elatior White torch

But, the White Torch Ginger (Etlinger elatior) is a beauty too!