011. Amomum Zingiber. Narrow-leaved Ginger.

Botanical name: 

011. Amomum zingiber. 011. Amomum zingiber. C. Synonyma. Zingiber, Pharm. Lond. & Edin.
Amomum Zingiber, Jacquin Hort. Vindob. vol. I. t. 75.
Zingiber, Browne's Jam. 119, Sloane's Jam. I. p. 163.
Inschi. Rheed. Mal.
Zingiber angustiori folio, &c. Pluk. Alm.
Zingiber majus, Rumph. Amb. 5. p. 156.
(greek), Dioscorid., (greek), Galen.

Class Monandria. Order. Monogynia. L. Gen. Plant. 2.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Cor 4-fida: lacinia prima patente.
Spec. Char. A. scapo nudo, spica ovata.

The root is perennial, firm, knotted, of a compressed roundish form, beset with transverse rugae, covered with ash coloured bark, partly of a purplish tinge, and sends forth many long fibres and off-sets; 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: the stalks are about three feet high, round, inclosed in an imbricated membraneous sheathing; the leaves are sword-shaped, smooth, pointed, entire, and stand alternately upon the sheathes of the stalk; the scapus, or flower-stem, rises about a foot high, it is erect, round, alternately sheathed like the stalks, without leaves, and terminates in an oval, obtuse, bracteal, imbricated spike; the corollae, or flowers, appear between the bracteal scales of the spike, two or three at a time; they are of a dingy yellow colour, monopetalous, tubular, and cut into three unequal, acute, segments, which have their points curled backwards; the nectary occupies the faux or mouth of the tube of the corolla, and has a bilabiated appearance; the lip is obtusely trifid, of a reddish purple colour, and marked with many yellowish dots: but what seems like the upper lip is the stamen, or filament, which is convex outwardly, concave within, and gradually tapers from its base to its apex, where it is coloured like the nectary. The anthers are two, oblong, whitish, and lodged together in the cavity of the stamen: the style is long and filiform: the stigma obtuse and villous: the capsule is three-celled, and contains many seeds.

The Ginger plant is a native of the East-Indies, [The following observation, made by Rumphius, seems however to deserve some notice: Quondam omne Zingiber petebatur ex illa Africae parte, quae mari rubro adjacet tam intra quam extra illud, tum Arabia Trogloditica dicta, cujus incolae hodie ab Arabibus vocantur Zingi seu Zangi h. e. nigri seu adufti Aethiopes, unde & nomen Zingiber seu Zingibel ortum duxit, ac si disceretur, radices ex Aethiopia, atque hinc jam innotuit antiquis etiam scriptoribus, uti Dioscorid. lib. 2. cap. 154. Galeno. lib. 6. med. simp. ubi dicit Zingiber deferri ex Barbaria, per quam vocem intelligenda est orientalis Africae plaga. vide Herb. Amboin. vol. 5, p. 157.] and is said to grow in the greatest perfection on the coast of Malabar and Bengal; [Rumph. l. c.] but it is now plentifully cultivated in the warmer parts of America, [India Orientali per Hispanos ac praesertim per Franciscum de Mendosa, filium imperatoris Anthonii de Mendosa cum aliis aromaticis herbis in novam Hispaniam deductum est, teste Monardo simp. Medic, cap. 18. Rumphius, l. c.— Upon the death of Mendofa, these plants were neglected, and all lost but the Ginger. Ginger is said by some to grow wild in America, but Jacquin says, "Sylvestrem in America non vidi."] and in the West-India islands, from whence chiefly it is imported into Europe. In 1731, it was first introduced into this country by Mr. P. Miller, [Aiton's Hort, Kewen.] and is still carefully cultivated in the dry stoves of the curious. The flowers have a sweet fragrant smell, and the leaves and stalks, especially when bruised, also emita faint spicy odour, but the hot acrid aromatic taste is entirely confined to the root.

"In Jamaica, Ginger attains its full height, and flowers about August or September, and fades about the close of the year. When the stalks are entirely withered, the roots are in a proper state for digging: this is generally performed in the months of January and February. After being dug, they are picked, cleansed, and gradually seethed, or scalded in boiling water; they are then spread out, and exposed every day to the sun, till sufficiently dried; and after being divided into parcels of about 100 lb. weight each, they are packed in bags for the market: this is called the Black Ginger." [Long's History of Jamaica, p. 700.] White Ginger is the root of the same plant, but instead of the roots being scalded, by which they acquire the dark appearance of the former, each root is picked, scraped, separately washed, and afterwards dried with great care; of course more than a double expense of labour is incurred, and the market price is proportionably greater. [Rumphius remarks also, "Rubrae speciei radices crassiores sunt, magisque nodosae, externe plerumque cinerea primum, atque sub hac purpurea rubente obductae pellicula, uti & ipsarum caro ad oras rubet, &c." l. c.]

Black Ginger loses part of its essential oil by being thus immersed in boiling water; [We mention this on the authority of Jacquin, vide Hort. Vindob. vol. 1, No. 75.] on this account it is less useful for medical and other purposes than the white, which is always good when perfectly found and free from worm-holes: but that imported from the East-Indies is stronger than any we have from Jamaica. Ginger gives out its virtues perfectly to rectified spirit, and in a great measure to water. According to Lewis, [Mat. Med. Ackin's edition, p. 687.] its active principles are of a remarkably fixed nature; for a watery infusion of this root being boiled down to a thick consistence, dissolved afresh in a large quantity of water, and strongly boiled down again, the heat and pungency of the root still remained, though with little or nothing of its smell. Ginger is generally considered as an aromatic, less pungent and heating to the system, than might be expected from its effects upon the organs of taste. Dr. Cullen thinks, however, that there is no real foundation for this remark. [Cullen's Mat. Med vol. 2, p. 206.] It is used as an antispasmodic and carminative. The cases in which it is more immediately serviceable, are flatulent colics, debility and laxity of the stomach and intestines, and in torpid and phlegmatic constitutions to excite brisker vascular action. It is seldom given but in combination with other medicines. In the Pharmacopoeias it is directed in the form of a syrup and a condiment, [For this purpose the root should not be older than four or five months. Of the very young roots the aromatic taste is peculiarly grateful. "Junior recens crudaque radix in Martinica in mensis apponitur, parvaque ejusdem portio solet cum bubula elixa comedi. Est etiam tunc insigniter acris, sed aroma longe gratius possidet, quam exsiccata."] and in many compositions it is ordered as a subsidiary ingredient.

Medical Botany, 1790-1794, was written by William Woodville, M. D., and illustrated by James Sowerby.