"The rhizome of Zingiber officinale, Roscoe"—(U. S. P.) (Amomum Zingiber, Linné).
ILLUSTRATION: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 270.
Botanical Source.—The ginger plant has a perennial, tuberous root or rhizome; the stems are erect, oblique, round, annual, and invested by the smooth sheaths of the leaves, 2 or 3 feet in height. The leaves are subsessile, on long sheaths, alternate, lanceolate, linear, acute, smooth above and nearly so beneath, bifarious, 4 to 6 inches long by 1 inch broad; the sheaths smooth and crowned with a bifid ligula. Scapes radical, solitary, a little removed from the stems, 6 to 12 inches high, enveloped in a few obtuse sheaths, the uppermost of which end in tolerably long leaves, and terminate in oblong spikes, about the size of the thumb. Exterior bracts imbricated, 1-flowered, obovate, smooth, membranous at the edge, faintly striated lengthwise; interior enveloping the ovary, calyx, and the greater part of the tube of the corolla. The flowers are small, and of a dingy-yellow color. Calyx tubular, opening on one side, 3-toothed; corolla with a double limb, outer of three, nearly equal, oblong segments; inner a 3-lobed lip, of a dark-purple color. Sterile stamens subulate; filament short. Anther oblong, double, crowned with a long, curved, tapering, grooved horn. Ovary oval, 3-celled, with many ovules in each; style filiform; stigma funnel-shaped, ciliate, and lodged just under the apex of the horn of the anther (L.).
History and Description.—The native country of ginger is unknown, though supposed to be Asia. It is cultivated in the tropical regions of Asia and America, and also at Sierra Leone, on the west African coast. The flowers and stalks have a fragrant odor, which is especially developed when they are rubbed or bruised. The fresh root is perennial, firm, knotted, of a compressed, roundish form, beset with transverse rugae, covered with ash-colored bark, partly of a purplish tinge, and sends off many long fibers and offsets. The internal substance of the younger roots is softish, fleshy, and greenish; of the older it is compact, fibrous, whitish, and, when powdered, has a yellowish appearance (T.). The root forms the ginger of commerce, and is gathered from December to March, or soon after the decay of the stalks. The growth of ginger exhausts the soil to such an extent that, in Jamaica, each succeeding season a new field is planted, for which the ground is supplied by cutting down the forests and burning the timber. The second year's growth on the same field yields an inferior product (ratoon or blue ginger). Yet, by judicious treatment and alternation with other crops (e.g., arrow root), ginger can be grown in the same field for many years (see Win. Fawcett, Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1894, pp. 184 and 593). The rhizomes, dug up, washed, and scraped, e. g., deprived of their epidermis, and then dried in the sun and open air, are termed White ginger (uncoated or scraped ginger). When picked, cleaned, scalded gradually in boiling water, and then dried in the sun, they form the Block ginger (coated, unscraped) of commerce. The White ginger is the official kind, and the best grade is that grown in Jamaica (Jamaica ginger). The U. S. P. describes it as being "about 5 to 10 Cm. (2 to 4 inches) long, 10 to 15 Mm. (⅖ to ⅗ inch) broad, and 4 to 8 Mm. (⅙ to ⅓ inch) thick, flattish, on one side lobed or clavately branched; deprived of the corky layer; pale-buff colored, striate, breaking with a mealy, rather fibrous fracture, showing numerous small, scattered resin-cells and fibrovascular bundles, the latter enclosed by a nucleus sheath; agreeably aromatic, and of a pungent and warm taste"—(U. S. P.). Black gingers are the African, the East Indian, and some grades of Cochin ginger. White Cochin ginger is next in quality to Jamaica ginger. Green ginger is sometimes imported from Jamaica; it consists of soft and juicy rhizomes with buds, which have merely been washed after collection. Preserved ginger, or succades, consist of young rhizomes preserved in syrup. Large quantities are sent to England from the East. Bleaching the ginger, by means of chlorinated lime, is often practiced, also whitewashing the ginger with diluted milk of lime. This procedure, however, does not improve the article. Age, and especially exposure, impair the active properties. Water, proof-spirit, and alcohol take up the virtues of ginger. The best ginger is that which cuts pale, but bright; its quality, however, must be judged by its color, odor, taste, heaviness, and freedom from perforation by insects. (For interesting details regarding the cultivation, etc., of the various commercial grades of ginger, see P. L. Simmonds, Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1891, p. 528; as to Jamaica ginger, see W. Fawcett [loc. cit.], and F. B. Kilmer, "In the Land of Ginger—Jamaica," Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1898, p. 65.)
Chemical Composition.—The aroma of ginger resides in a volatile oil (oil of ginger); the rhizome yields from 2 to 3 per cent. It is thickish, greenish-yellow, bland to the taste, and has the specific gravity of 0.875 to 0.885. Its lower fractions contain the hydrocarbons dextro-camphene and phellandrene; the bulk of the oil boils between 256° and 266° C. (492.8° and 510.8° F.) (Gildemeister and Hoffmann, Die Aetherischen Oele, 1899, p. 406). The pungency of ginger is due to an oleoresin, which may be extracted, together with the volatile oil, by ether, alcohol, acetone (see T. H. W. Idries, Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1898, p. 466), and other solvents. Ginger was carefully investigated by J. C. Thresh (Pharm. Jour. Trans., Vol. X, 1879-80, pp. 171 and 191; and Vol. XII, 1881-82, pp. 243 and 721). The oleoresin, abstracted by ether, contained volatile oil, inert neutral resin, inert acid resins, fat, and the pungent, active principle, gingerol (0.6 to 1.4 per cent), a viscid, odorless liquid of neutral reaction, non-glucosidal, soluble in diluted and strong alcohol, benzol, volatile oils, carbon disulphide, caustic potassa and ammonia, and glacial acetic acid; very slightly soluble in petroleum ether. The ether-insoluble part of ginger contained mucilage, starch (13 to 18 per cent), a trace of alkaloid, etc., and left, upon incineration, 3.5 to 5 per cent of ash. R. G. Davis (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1895, p. 520) finds the ash to vary from 3.6 to 6.5 per cent. According to Jones (Archiv der Pharm., 1886, p. 769, from The Analyst, 1886), the quantity of starch in ginger is much greater than had hitherto been believed; he found 52.92 per cent. The amount of oleoresin obtainable from different grades of ginger, is not necessarily a criterion of the quality of the article. Dr. S. J. Riegel (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1891, p. 533) found Jamaica ginger to yield 5 per cent of oleoresin, obtainable by alcohol, ether, or chloroform, while the inferior East Indian ginger yielded to the same solvents 8 percent of the oleoresin. A similar conclusion was previously reached by F. M. Siggins (ibid., 1888, p. 278), as well as by Thresh, and later by W. S. Glass (ibid., 1897, p. 320). The latter author remarks that the extract from the inferior (African) variety, though larger in quantity, presents an unsightly, brown appearance. (On the examination of a ginger from Fiji, being remarkably rich in active constituents, see E. H. Gane, Pharm. Jour. Trans., Vol. XXII, 1892, p. 802.) The oleoresin of ginger represents the medicinal virtues of the drug (compare Oleoresina Zingiberis). (On chemical methods for the detection of exhausted ginger, see B. Dyer and J. F. H. Gilbard, Proc. Amer. Pharm. Assoc., 1894, p. 936; and A. H. Allen and C. G. Moore, Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1894, p. 342.)
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Ginger is stimulant, rubefacient, errhine, and sialagogue. When chewed it occasions an increased flow of saliva, and when swallowed it acts as a stimulating tonic, stomachic, and carminative, increasing the secretion of gastric juice, exalting the excitability of the alimentary muscular system, and dispelling gases accumulated in the stomach and bowels. It is much used to disguise other drugs, concealing their nausea, or preventing their tendency to cause tormina. When taken into the nostrils it causes severe sneezing. It has been used in combination with astringents or other agents, in diarrhoea and dysentery; prepared with rhubarb, in the form of cordial or syrup, few articles are more valuable in cholera morbus and cholera infantum, when there is coldness of the surface and extremities, and nausea and vomiting accompany. It is eminently useful in habitual flatulency, atonic dyspepsia, hysteria, and enfeebled and relaxed habits, especially of old and gouty individuals; and is excellent to relieve nausea, pains and cramps of the stomach and bowels, and to obviate tenesmus, and especially when those conditions are due to colds, or to the ingestion of unripe or otherwise unwholesome fruit. Ginger is occasionally of value in fevers, particularly where the salivary secretions are scanty and there is pain and movement of gases within the intestines. Here, though a stimulant, it will assist in producing sedation by re-establishing secretion and relieving the distressing gastro-intestinal annoyances. Ginger, in the form of "ginger tea," is popular and efficient as a remedy for breaking up colds, and in relieving the pangs of disordered menstruation. Combined with black-willow bark, it forms an excellent poultice to indolent ulcers; and has been used as a sialagogue to relieve paralytic affections of the tongue, toothache, and relaxed uvula. Ginger in powder, formed into a plaster with warm water, and applied on paper or cloth to the forehead, has relieved violent headache. Cakes made of ginger and molasses, with flour, etc., are very beneficial to the stomach, when eaten in moderation. Dose of ginger, in powder, from 10 to 30 grains; of the infusion, prepared by adding 1 ounce of the powdered or bruised root to a pint of boiling water, 1 or 2 fluid ounces. A large quantity of ginger, taken internally, might produce serious effects.
Specific Indications and Uses.—Loss of appetite; flatulence; borborygmus; spasmodic gastric and intestinal contractions; painful menstruation; acute colds; cool extremities; and cold surface in children's diseases.
Preparations of Ginger.—GINGER WINE. A good ginger wine may be made by boiling ½ pound of the best ginger, bruised, in 6 gallons of water, for ½ hour, and then filtering the decoction. Place the decoction in a demijohn, and add to it 6 pounds of raisins, cut in two, and the thin rinds of 5 lemons. Let this stand until vinous fermentation has ensued, then filter, add 1 pint of French brandy, and 1 ½ ounces of good isinglass previously dissolved in some of the wine. Place this in a strong vessel, cork it well and securely, and keep it for 6 months in a cool cellar (the longer the better); then carefully remove the wine from any sediment which may have formed, and bottle it for use. It improves by age.
GINGER BEER.—A good ginger beer may be prepared as follows: Take of white sugar, 2 pounds; lemon juice or cream of tartar, 14 drachms; honey, 12 ½ drachms; bruised ginger, 13 drachms; water, 2 gallons. Boil the ginger in 2 pints of the water for 3 hour; add the sugar, lemon juice, and honey, with the remainder of the water, and strain; when cold, add the white of an egg, and 24 minims of essence of lemon; let it stand for 4 days, and then bottle.
ETHEREAL EXTRACT OF GINGER.—Ethereal extract of ginger is made by placing 4 ounces of ginger in 6 ounces of ether, in a percolator; evaporate the percolate by means of a water-bath; 1 part of this is equivalent to 16 parts of ginger.
Related Drugs.—ZERUMBET ROOT. This drug is the tuberous rhizome of Zingiber Zerumbet, Roscoe (Amomum Zerumbet, Linné). The root is flattish and spongy, of a yellowish hue internally, with light-brown bundles of fibro-vascular structure, and brownish externally. The odor is pleasant, and the taste, besides being bitter, resembles somewhat that of ginger. It is indigenous to Java.
CASSUMUNAR ROOT.—The product of Zingiber Cassumunar, Roxburgh, a native of India. This and the preceding root have been confounded with each other. Cassumunar root is about 2 inches broad, compressed, jointed, and beset with white tubers, and many fleshy, white radicles. Externally, it is pale-brown and scaly, and ligneous and yellow within. Its taste is hot, pungent, and spicy, and its odor camphoraceous. Neither root is now in commerce.
Ɣ ZEDOARIA, Zedoary.—The rhizomes of Curcuma Zedoaria, Roscoe (Amomum Zedoaria, Willdenow), and Curcuma Zerumbet, Roxburgh (Amomum Zerumbet, Koenig), both of the natural order Scitamineae, furnish respectively the Radix zedoariae longae, and Radix zedoariae rotundae, as formerly named. Both plants are indigenous to India and the East Indies. The ovate, or pyriform tuberous rhizome, is from 14 to 2 inches long, and is generally cut, for the purpose of drying, into transverse, and occasionally into longitudinal sections. Zedoary is found in commerce, usually in the form of discs, almost circular, from ⅙ to ⅖ inch in thickness, and from ½ to 1 ½ inches in diameter. Externally, grayish-brown; internally, grayish. The endoderm near the edge is darker in color. Throughout the interior with the woody bundles are seen many orange-colored small resin cells. The discs are hard and compact, break with a short, mealy, or wax-like fracture, have a distinctive aromatic odor, and a pungent, bitterish, camphoraceous, aromatic taste. They contain starch granules (13 per cent) not unlike those of ginger; a soft, pungent resin (3 per cent); mucilage (9 per cent); bitter extractive; and a camphoraceous, volatile oil which may be obtained by distilling with water. The round zedoary, recognized by the French Codex, is ascribed to Curcuma aromatica of Roscoe, and is said to furnish the yellow discs sometimes found in the commercial zedoaria. Zedoary, though milder and less acrid, has properties very similar to those of ginger. It is emploved chiefly as a carminative and stomachic. The dose of the powder is 5 to 30 grains; of the infusion (℥ss to wine or water Oss), 2 to 4 fluid drachms.