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Zingiber officinale is best known as the source of the pungent, aromatic spice called ginger. This spice is produced from the rhizome (underground stem) of the plant.

Zingiber officinale (ginger)

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description

Zingiber officinale is best known as the source of the pungent, aromatic spice called ginger. This spice is produced from the rhizome (underground stem) of the plant.

Obtained by the Greeks and Romans from Arab traders, it was one of the first oriental spices to arrive in Europe. Other spices in the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) include cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) and turmeric (Curcuma longa).

Ginger has many medicinal uses. The fresh or dried rhizome is used in oral or topical preparations to treat a variety of ailments, while the essential oil is applied topically as an analgesic. Evidence suggests ginger is most effective against nausea and vomiting associated with surgery, vertigo, travel sickness and morning sickness. However, safe use of ginger during pregnancy is questionable and pregnant women should exercise caution before taking it. The topical use of ginger may cause allergic reactions.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Zingiber officinale is possibly native to India. It is widely grown as a commercial crop in south and southeast Asia, tropical Africa (especially Sierra Leone and Nigeria), Latin America, the Caribbean (especially Jamaica) and Australia.

Description

Underground parts: Ginger has a distinctive thickened, branched rhizome (underground stem) which sometimes looks somewhat like a swollen hand. The rhizome has a brown corky outer layer (usually removed before use) and a pale yellow centre with a spicy lemon-like scent.

Leaves: Shoots (pseudostems), up to 1.2 m tall, arise annually from buds on the rhizome. These pseudostems are formed from a series of leaf bases (sheaths) wrapped tightly around one another with the long (up to 7 cm), narrow (up to 1.9 cm wide), mid-green leaf blades arranged alternately.

Flowers: The flowering heads, borne on separate shorter stems, are cone-shaped spikes and composed of a series of greenish to yellowish leaf-like bracts. Protruding just beyond the outer edge of the bracts, the flowers are pale yellow in colour with a purplish lip that has yellowish dots and striations. Flowering stems are rarely, if ever, produced in cultivated plants.

Uses

The aromatic rhizome of Zingiber officinale is the source of ginger, a spice used for centuries to add flavour in cooking. In Asia the fresh stem is an essential ingredient of many dishes, whereas the dried, powdered spice is more popular in European cooking. Gingerbread, one of the most popular uses for ginger in Britain, dates to Anglo-Saxon times when preserved ginger (produced by boiling the rhizome in sugar syrup) was used, often medicinally.

Crystallised ginger, a sweetmeat traditionally eaten as a delicacy at Christmas, is prepared by coating dried, preserved ginger with sugar. Ginger oil, the oleoresin, is used to flavour ginger beer and ginger ale, and is commonly used as an ingredient in perfumery, cosmetics and medicines.

The pungent principles in ginger are the non-volatile phenolic compounds gingerol, gingeridione and shogaol.

Cultivation

Ginger probably originated as part of the ground flora of tropical lowland forests, where many of its wild relatives can still be found. In cultivation it requires hot, humid, shady conditions and grows best in a fertile loam as it needs large quantities of nutrients.

Zingiber officinale has been successfully propagated at Kew using internodal cuttings. The cuttings are placed in a shallow pot in a mixture of coir and perlite. The pot is placed in a misting unit (or, if not available, in a closed glass case), which is heated at the base to 20 ˚C. It takes time for any activity to become visible, but eventually new roots and shoots are produced. It has been noted that this method produces vigorous plants. The traditional technique for propagation of ginger is by division.

Mature plants are grown in the behind-the-scenes Tropical Nursery at Kew, in a zone that is kept at a temperature of 18-25 ˚C and at high humidity (70-90 % RH). The plants are watered daily throughout most of the year. In the winter they can be watered less often, as long as they are kept moist. They are fed fortnightly with a nitrogen, phosphorus & potassium mix and calcium nitrate.

In winter the older pseudostems are removed from the plants, and the new ones allowed to grow up. At this stage the new pseudostems may need staking, but usually they are strong enough to support themselves. Occasionally mealy bug and red spider mite cause problems. Where possible these pests are removed by hand.

This species at Kew

Zingiber officinale can be seen in Kew's Palm House, alongside other plants from Southeast Asia.

Various members of the ginger family are grown in the hot moist section of the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

Pressed and dried specimens of Zingiber officinale are held in Kew's Herbarium where they are available to researchers by appointment. The details of one of these specimens can be seen online in Kew's Herbarium Catalogue.

Specimens of ginger are held in Kew's Economic Botany Collection in the Sir Joseph Banks Building, where they are available to researchers by appointment.

Distribution
India
Ecology
Humid, partly-shaded habitats in the tropics and subtropics.
Conservation
Least Concern according to IUCN Red List criteria.
Hazards

Ginger may cause allergic reactions when applied to the skin. Pregnant women should use ginger with caution, as its safety is not confirmed.

[CPLC]

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

Distribution
Cultivada en Colombia; Alt. 0 - 1500 m.; Amazonia, Andes, Llanura del Caribe, Pacífico.
Morphology General Habit
Hierba

[KSP]
Use
Food and drink, medicines, cosmetics.

Native to:

Assam, China South-Central, East Himalaya, India

Introduced into:

Andaman Is., Bangladesh, Borneo, Cambodia, Caroline Is., China Southeast, Comoros, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Gulf of Guinea Is., Hainan, Haiti, Honduras, Leeward Is., Lesser Sunda Is., Madagascar, Malaya, Mauritius, Mexico Southwest, Myanmar, New Guinea, Nicobar Is., Philippines, Puerto Rico, Queensland, Rodrigues, Réunion, Solomon Is., Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad-Tobago, Vietnam, Windward Is.

English
Ginger

Zingiber officinale Roscoe appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
s.coll. [Cat. no. 6564], India K001124208
Theilade, I. [66], Sabah Zingiber officinale var. rubrum K000255227 isotype
s.coll. [Cat. no. 6565], India Zingiber missionis K001124209

First published in Trans. Linn. Soc. London 8: 348 (1807)

Accepted by

  • Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. & Strong, M.T. (2012). Catalogue of seed plants of the West Indies Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192.
  • Ahmed, Z.U. (ed.) (2008). Encyclopedia of Flora and Fauna of Bangladesh 12: 1-505. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  • Baksh-Comeau, Y., Maharaj, S.S., Adams, C.D., Harris, S.A., Filer, D.L. & Hawthorne, W.D. (2016). An annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Trinidad and Tobago with analysis of vegetation types and botanical 'hotspots' Phytotaxa 250: 1-431.
  • Balkrishna, A. (2018). Flora of Morni Hills (Research & Possibilities): 1-581. Divya Yoga Mandir Trust.
  • Chang, C.S., Kim, H. & Chang, K.S. (2014). Provisional checklist of vascular plants for the Korea peninsula flora (KPF): 1-660. DESIGNPOST.
  • Choudhary, R.K., Srivastava, R.C., Das, A.K. & Lee, J. (2012). Floristic diversity assessment and vegetation analysis of Upper Siang district of eastern Himalaya in North East India Korean Journal of Plant Taxonomy 42: 222-246.
  • Dy Phon, P. (2000). Dictionnaire des plantes utilisées au Cambodge: 1-915. Chez l'auteur, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
  • Figueiredo, E., Paiva, J., Stévart, T., Oliveira, F. & Smith, G.F. (2011). Annotated catalogue of the flowering plants of São Tomé and Príncipe Bothalia 41: 41-82.
  • Garcia-Mendoza, A.J. & Meave, J.A. (eds.) (2012). Diversidad florística de Oaxaca: de musgos a angiospermas (colecciones y listas de especies), ed. 2: 1-351. Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
  • Girmansyah, D. & al. (eds.) (2013). Flora of Bali an annotated checklist: 1-158. Herbarium Bogorensis, Indonesia.
  • Govaerts, R. (2004). World Checklist of Monocotyledons Database in ACCESS: 1-54382. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Larsen, K. (1996). A prelimanary checklist of the Zingiberaceae of Thailand Thai Forest Bulletin (Botany) 24: 35-49.
  • Nelson Sutherland, C.H. (2008). Catálogo de las plantes vasculares de Honduras. Espermatofitas: 1-1576. SERNA/Guaymuras, Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
  • Tripathi, S. & Singh, K.K. (2006). Taxonomic revision of the genus Zingiber Boehm. in North-East India Journal of Economic and Taxonomic Botany 30: 520-532.

Literature

Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia

  • ColPlantA (2021). "ColPlantA. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; http://www.colplanta.org/"

Kew Species Profiles

  • Beckett, K. A. (1987). The RHS Encyclopedia of House Plants. Century Hutchison.
  • Cobley, L. S. (1976). An Introduction to the Botany of Tropical Crops. Longman.
  • Davidson, A. (2006). The Oxford Companion to Food, Second Edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Jellin, J. M., Gregory, P. J. et al. (2008). Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, 10th Edition. Therapeutic Research Faculty, Stockton.
  • Keesing, J. L. S. (1988). Useful plants. In: Kew Gardens Book of Indoor Plants, ed. J.B. Simmonds, pp. 186-213. George Philip.
  • Purseglove, J. S., Brown, E. G., Green, C. L., & Robbins, S. R. J. (1981). Spices, Volume 2. Longman Tropical Agriculture Series.

Kew Backbone Distributions

  • Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. & Strong, M.T. (2012). Catalogue of seed plants of the West Indies Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192.
  • Ahmed, Z.U. (ed.) (2008). Encyclopedia of Flora and Fauna of Bangladesh 12: 1-505. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  • Baksh-Comeau, Y., Maharaj, S.S., Adams, C.D., Harris, S.A., Filer, D.L. & Hawthorne, W.D. (2016). An annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Trinidad and Tobago with analysis of vegetation types and botanical 'hotspots' Phytotaxa 250: 1-431.
  • Barthelat, F. (2019). La flore illustrée de Mayotte: 1-687. Biotope éditions.
  • Choudhary, R.K., Srivastava, R.C., Das, A.K. & Lee, J. (2012). Floristic diversity assessment and vegetation analysis of Upper Siang district of eastern Himalaya in North East India Korean Journal of Plant Taxonomy 42: 222-246.
  • Dy Phon, P. (2000). Dictionnaire des plantes utilisées au Cambodge: 1-915. Chez l'auteur, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
  • Figueiredo, E., Paiva, J., Stévart, T., Oliveira, F. & Smith, G.F. (2011). Annotated catalogue of the flowering plants of São Tomé and Príncipe Bothalia 41: 41-82.
  • Garcia-Mendoza, A.J. & Meave, J.A. (eds.) (2012). Diversidad florística de Oaxaca: de musgos a angiospermas (colecciones y listas de especies), ed. 2: 1-351. Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
  • Girmansyah, D. & al. (eds.) (2013). Flora of Bali an annotated checklist: 1-158. Herbarium Bogorensis, Indonesia.
  • Kitalong, A.H., DeMeo, R.A. & Holm, T. (2008). Native Trees Palau. A field guide: 1-236.
  • Nelson Sutherland, C.H. (2008). Catálogo de las plantes vasculares de Honduras. Espermatofitas: 1-1576. SERNA/Guaymuras, Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
  • Pandey, R.P. & Dilwakar, P.G. (2008). An integrated check-list flora of Andaman and Nicobar islands, India Journal of Economic and Taxonomic Botany 32: 403-500.
  • Tripathi, S. & Singh, K.K. (2006). Taxonomic revision of the genus Zingiber Boehm. in North-East India Journal of Economic and Taxonomic Botany 30: 520-532.

Art and Illustrations in Digifolia
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew

Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia
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Colombian resources for Plants made Accessible
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Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Science Photographs
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
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