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Good to know – facts about ginger

Ginger is well known in the form of ginger ale or crystallised ginger. If these are consumed on a journey, a herbal remedy is being unknowingly used. The effectiveness of ginger root in preventing the nausea, dizziness and vomiting which are symptoms of travel sickness (kinetosis), post-operative vomiting and morning sickness in pregnancy is clearly documented in numerous clinical studies.

A medicinal herb with a long history

Zingiber officinale Roscoe – or ginger as the monocotyledonous plant is more commonly known in English – is a member of the Ziniberaceae family. The term "root" is a misnomer: strictly speaking, the rhizome is the part used.

In India and China, the cultivation and use of ginger in medicine goes back to ancient times. Ginger is recommended in Chinese medical texts, pharmacopoeia in Sanskrit literature, Indian Sushruta (Sesruta) texts and ayurveda. By the first century A.D. Dioscorides was praising it as a digestive tonic «It encourages the digestion, gently stimulates the stomach and is good for the stomach». His five volume «De materia medica libri quinque» was a standard until the 16th century.

In the 13th century, ginger as a spice was first described in cook books and its use spread quickly throughout Europe. Marco Polo (1254-1323) was one of the first to describe the living plant. Ginger had a secure place in the apothecaries of the Middle Ages. It was used for travel sickness, nausea, hangover symptoms and flatulence.

In East Africa ginger is used today for headache, rheumatism, as a cough remedy and galactagogue.