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75. Zingiber officinale, Roscoe.—The Narrow-leaved Ginger.

Botanical name:

Amomum Zingiber, Linn. D.
Sex. Syst. Monandria, Monogynia.
(Rhizoma, L. E.—Radix, D.)

History.—Dioscorides [Lib. ii. cap. 190.] and Pliny [Hist. Nat. lib. xii. cap. 14, ed. Valp.] speak of ginger: the former calls it ζιγγιβερις; the latter zingiberi and zimgiberi.

Botany. Gen. Char.—Corolla with the outer limb 3-partcd, inner 1-lippcd. Filament lengthened beyond the anther into a simple incurved beak. Capsule 3-celled, 3-valved. Seeds numerous, arillate.—Rhizocarpial plants. Rhizomes tuberous, articulated, creeping. Stems annual, enclosed in the sheaths of distichous leaves. Leaves membranous. Spikes cone-shaped, radical or rarely terminal, solitary, consisting of 1-flowered imbricated bracts (Blume [Enumeratio Plantarem Java.]).

Sp. Char.Leaves sub-sessile, linear-lanceolate, smooth. Spikes elevated, oblong. Bracts acute. Lip 3-lobed. (Roxburgh.)

Rhizome biennial. Stems erect and oblique, and invested by the smooth sheaths of the leaves; generally three or four feet high, and annual. Leaf-sheaths smooth, crowned with a bifid ligula. Scapes solitary, six to twelve inches high. Spikes the size of a man's thumb. Lip dark purple. Ovary oval, with numerous ovules; style filiform; stigma funnel-shaped, ciliate. Capsule roundish, unilocular. Seeds numerous; mostly abortive. [Roxburgh, op. cit.; and Dr. P. Browne, History of Jamaica.]

Hab.—Cultivated in the tropical regions of Asia and America, and at Sierra Leone. Native soil doubtful, probably Asia.

Preparation.—Green ginger is sometimes imported from Jamaica. It consists of soft and juicy rhizomes with buds; and appears to have undergone but little preparation beyond picking and washing.

The young shoots put forth every spring by the perennial rhizome are used in the manufacture of the delicious preserved ginger (conditum zingiberis). These shoots are carefully picked, washed, scalded, scraped, peeled, and then preserved in jars with syrup. (Dr. P. Browne.)

The finest preserved ginger is imported from Jamaica usually in jars. Barbados preserved ginger is seldom brought over. The China preserved ginger is stringy. It is sometimes imported in the dried state.

The dried rhizomes, called in the shops ginger (radix zingiberis), are prepared when the stalks are wholly withered, and the rhizomes are about a year old. In Jamaica, this happens in January or February. The rhizomes are dug up and separately picked, washed, and scraped; and afterwards dried in the sun and open air. (Dr. P. Browne.) The product is the uncoated ginger of the shops, formerly called white ginger (zingiber album).

The coated ginger of the shops has obviously not undergone this careful preparation. In Barbados, the rhizomes are dug up, scraped clean, and sun-dried. [Hughes, Nat. Hist, of Barbados, p. 233, 1750.] The black ginger (zingiber nigrum), formerly prepared in Jamaica, is obtained by pickling and cleaning the rhizomes, scalding them gradually in boiling water, and afterwards sun-drying them. [Dr. P. Browne, op. cit.—According to Dr. Wright (Lond. Med. Journ. vol. viii.; also, Memoir of the late Dr. Wright, p. 185, 1828), two sorts of ginger are cultivated in Jamaica, viz., the white and the black; the latter has the more numerous and the larger roots.]

Description.—The rhizome, called in commerce ginger root or simply ginger (radix zingiberis), occurs in flattish, jointed, branched, or lobed, palmate pieces, called races or hands, which rarely exceed four inches in length.

Barbados ginger, the old sorts brought from Malabar and Bengal, and African ginger, are covered by a dry, shrivelled epidermis commonly called the "coat;" hence these sorts are usually said to be coated or unscraped; whereas the ginger of Jamaica, and the new sorts which of late years have been brought from Malabar and Bengal, have been deprived of their epidermis, and are, therefore, said to be uncoated or scraped. The external colour varies in the different sorts from pale or bright yellow to dark or brown: the palest sort is the fine Jamaica ginger; the darkest being the Bengal old sort; and the other sorts being intermediate. Ginger breaks moderately short, but the fractured surface presents numerous projecting pointed fibres, imbedded in a mealy or farinaceous tissue. A transverse section of the larger and more perfect pieces shows an outer, horny, resinous-looking zone, surrounding a farinaceous centre, which has a speckled appearance from the cut extremities of the fibres and ducts. The internal varies like the external colour; the best ginger is that which cuts pale but bright. The consistence of ginger, as ascertained by cutting, varies from soft to hard, or, as it is termed in trade, "flinty;" the soft being preferred. The taste of ginger is aromatic, hot, and biting; the odour of a fresh broken piece is peculiar and pungent, though aromatic.

Varieties.—Seven kinds of ginger, distinguished partly by their place of growth, and partly by their quality, are known in English commerce. Of these, two are from the West Indies, four from the East Indies, and one from Africa.

A. West Indian Gingers.—This division includes Jamaica and Barbados gingers.

1. Jamaica ginger.—Imported in barrels holding 1 cwt. each. It is an uncoated, pale sort, and when of fine quality occurs in large, bold, fleshy races, which cut soft, bright, and pale coloured. Inferior samples are small in the race, darker coloured, more or less flinty, and shrivelled.

2. Barbados ginger.—Imported in bags of about 60 or 70 lbs. It is a coated sort, in short, flat races, which are darker coloured than Jamaica ginger, and are covered with corrugated epidermis.

B. East Indian Gingers.—This division includes two sorts from Malabar and two from Bengal, all of which are more liable to be wormy than either the West Indian or African sorts.

α. Malabar Gingers.

3. Coated Malabar Ginger; Unscraped Malabar Ginger; Old sort of Malabar Ginger; Common Malabar Ginger; Bombay Ginger.—Imported from Bombay in bags or packets. It is a coated, dark, small sort.

4. Uncoated Malabar Ginger; New sort of Malabar Ginger; Tellicherry Ginger; Calicut Ginger; Cochin Ginger.—A pale, uncoated sort, imported in chests, casks, or bags, sometimes from Tellicherry, but usually from Calicut or Cochin. It resembles Jamaica ginger both in external appearance and flavour; but has externally more of a brownish or reddish tint. It first appeared in English commerce about 1841.

β. Bengal Gingers.

5. Coated Bengal Ginger; Common Bengal Ginger; Old sort of Bengal Ginger.—Imported in bags. It is a coated or unscraped dark sort, which cuts flinty and brownish, but is plumper and less wormy than common Malabar ginger.

6. Uncoated Bengal Ginger; Scraped Bengal Ginger; New sort of Bengal Ginger; Calicut sort of Bengal Ginger.—Imported in chests of about 1 ½ cwts. It is an uncoated sort, darker than Jamaica ginger. It is not so large as the uncoated Malabar sort, and is harder and darker.

C. African Ginger.—Only one kind of African ginger is known, viz., that from Sierra Leone.

7. Sierra Leone Ginger; African Ginger.—Imported in casks or bags. It is a coated sort; the races being generally larger, less flat, and less plump than those of the Barbados sort, which in other respects they resemble.

Chinese Ginger.—The Chinese ginger described by Bassermann [Pharmaceutisches Central-Blatt für 1835.] is unknown in English commerce; the only ginger imported into England from China being preserved ginger.

Assortment.—The uncoated gingers, namely, the Jamaica, uncoated Malabar, and uncoated Bengal, are assorted for commercial purposes, according to their qualities, somewhat thus—

1. Bold, soft, and bright ginger.
2. Smaller, but soft and bright.
3. Flinty and dark.
4. Shrivelled, and only fit for grinding.

The Barbados, African, and coated Malabar and Bengal gingers are usually sold unassorted.

The following are the quantities of ginger on which duty was paid for six years:—

British West Indies.East Indies.Total.
cwts.cwts.cwts.
In 18356,496867= 7,363
18364,4261,912= 6,338
18379,1573,520= 12,677
18389,3051,911= 11,216
18396,537818= 7,175
18407,5281,535= 9,063

Washed Ginger; Bleached Ginger.—Ginger is sometimes washed in water, and then dried, by wholesale dealers, prior to its being offered for sale to the retailers.

Some of the darker sorts are bleached by washing them in a solution of chloride of lime, and sometimes by exposing them to the fumes of burning sulphur. By this treatment the ginger acquires a chalky-white character, and is then often termed white-washed ginger.

Ginger is said [Brande, Dict. of Mat. Med.] to be sometimes washed in whiting and water (or white-washed) under the pretence of preserving it from insects.

Adulteration.—Powdered ginger is said to be sometimes admixed with flour and other amylaceous substances. The microscope would readily detect the adulteration, except in the case of East Indian arrow-root (Curcuma angustifolia), the particles of which are similar in appearance to those of ginger.

Composition.—Ginger was analyzed in 1817 by Bucholz, [Gmelin's Handb. d. Chem.] and in 1823 by Morin. [Journ. de Pharm. ix. 253.]

Bucholz's Analysis.Morin's Analysis.
Pale yellow volatile oil1.56Volatile oil.
Aromatic, acrid, soft resin3.60Acrid soft resin.
Extractive, soluble in alcohol0.65Resin insoluble in ether and oils.
Acidulous and acrid extractive, insolube in alcohol10.50Gum.
Gum12.05Starch.
Starch19.75Woody fibre.
Apotheme, extracted by potash (ulmin?)26.00Vegeto-animal matter.
Bassorin8.30Osmazome.
Woody fibre8.00Acetic acid, acetate of potash, and sulphur.
Water11.90The ashes contained carbonate and sulphate of potash, chloride of potassium, phosphate of lime, alumina, silica, and oxides of iron and manganese.
White Ginger102.31Ginger.

1. Volatile oil of Ginger.—Is pale yellow, very fluid, lighter than water, odour that of ginger, taste at first mild, afterwards acrid and hot.

2. Soft Resin.—Obtained by digesting the alcoholic extract of ginger first in water, then in ether, and evaporating the ethereal tincture. The residual resin is yellowish-brown, soft, combustible, has an aromatic odour, and a burning aromatic taste. Is readily soluble in alcohol, ether, oil of turpentine, and hot almond oil.

3. Starch.—Ginger starch consists of thin flat disks, which resemble those of East Indian arrow-root (see Curcuma angustifolia) and plantain starch (see ante, p. 223).

Physiological Effects.—Ginger is one of the aromatic stimulants (see vol. i. p. 253) which possess considerable pungency or acridity. Its dust applied to the mucous membrane of the nostrils acts as an irritant, and provokes sneezing. The rhizome chewed is a powerful sialagogue. The powder mixed with hot water, and applied to the skin, causes a sensation of intense heat and tingling, and slight redness. When taken into the stomach, ginger operates as a stimulant; first, to the alimentary canal; secondly, to the body generally; but especially to the organs of respiration. Like some other spices (the peppers, for instance), it acts as an excitant to the genital organs. Furthermore, it has been said to increase the energy of the cerebral functions. It is less acrid than pepper.

Uses.—Its principal consumption is as a condiment. Its powers in this way are considerable, while its flavour is by no means disagreeable, and its acridity scarcely sufficient to enable it, when taken with food, to irritate or inflame.

As a stomachic and internal stimulant, it serves several important purposes. In enfeebled and relaxed habits, especially of old and gouty individuals, it promotes digestion, and relieves flatulency and spasm of the stomach and bowels. It checks or prevents nausea and griping, which are apt to be produced by some drastic purgatives. It covers the nauseous flavour of many medicines, and communicates cordial and carminative qualities to tonic and other agents. As a sialagogue, it is sometimes chewed to relieve toothache, relaxed uvula, and paralytic affections of the tongue. As a counter-irritant, I have frequently known a ginger plaster (prepared by mixing together powdered ginger and warm water, and spreading the paste on paper or cloth) relieve violent headache when applied to the forehead.

Administration.—Powdered ginger may be administered, in doses of from ten grains to a scruple or more, in the form of a pill. Made into a paste with hot water, it may be applied as a plaster, as already mentioned.

Preserved ginger (conditum zingiberis), though commonly used as a sweetmeat, may be taken with advantage as a medicine to stimulate the stomach. Ginger lozenges, ginger pearls (commonly termed ginger seeds), and ginger pipe are useful articles of confectionery, which are frequently of benefit in dyspepsia accompanied with flatulence.

1. TINCTURA ZINGIBERIS, L. E. D. [U. S.]; Tincture of Ginger.—(Ginger, sliced [in coarse powder, E. D.], ℥ijss [℥viij, D. (U. S.)]; Rectified Spirit Oij. Macerate for seven [fourteen, D.] days, and strain, L. D. "Proceed by percolation or digestion, as directed for tincture of cinchona," E.)—A very valuable carminative. It is commonly employed as an adjunct to tonic, stimulant, and purgative mixtures. Its dose is fℨj to fℨij. The tincture, made with proof spirit, becomes turbid by keeping, in consequence of the mucilage it contains.

Essence of ginger is prepared as a tincture, except that the quantity of rhizome should be increased. Some preparers of it concentrate the tincture by distilling off part of the alcohol.

2. SYRUPUS ZINGIBERIS, L. E. D. [U. S.]; Syrup of Ginger.—(Ginger, sliced, ℥ijss; Boiling Distilled Water Oj; Sugar lb ijss, or as much as may be sufficient [Rectified Spirit as much as may be sufficient, L.]. Macerate the ginger in the water for four hours, and strain; then add the sugar, and dissolve it.—The Dublin College directs it to be prepared with Tincture of Ginger f℥j, and Simple Syrup f℥vij. Mix with agitation.)—Used for flavouring. It is scarcely strong enough to be of much value. An extemporaneous syrup may be prepared by adding the tincture of ginger to common syrup. The Syrupus Zingiberis of the United States Pharmacopoeia is made by adding f℥ij of tincture of ginger (prepared with ℥viij of ginger, and Oij, wine measure, of alcohol) to a gallon of syrup, and evaporating the alcohol by a water-bath.

3. INFUSUM ZINGIBERIS; Infusion of Ginger; Ginger Tea.—This is a very useful domestic remedy, and is prepared by digesting from ℨij to ℨiv of Ginger in f℥vj of Boiling Water, for two hours. When flavoured, it is employed as a carminative in flatulence, &c, in doses of one or two tablespoonfuls.

4. CEREVISIA ZINGIBERIS; Ginger Beer; Ginger Pop.—For the following excellent formula for the preparation of this popular and agreeable beverage, I am indebted to Mr. Pollock, of Fenchurch Street: "Take of White Sugar lb xx; Lemon (or Lime) juice f℥xviij; Honey lb j; Ginger, bruised, ℥xxij; Water cong. xviij. Boil the ginger in three gallons of water for half an hour; then add the sugar, the juice, and the honey, with the remainder of the water, and strain through a cloth. When cold, add the white of one egg and f℥ss of essence of lemon; after standing four days, bottle. The bottles are to be laid on their sides in a cellar, and the beer is ready for use in about three weeks. If a little yeast be used, the beer is ready in a day or two; but in this case it does not keep well." This yields a very superior beverage, and one which will keep for many months. Lemon-juice may be purchased for sixpence a pint in Botolph Lane, Thames Street. A formula for the preparation of Ginger Beer Powders has already been given (see vol. i. p. 523).


The Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, Vol. II, 3th American ed., was written by Jonathan Pereira in 1854.



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