GINGER A WONDERFUL RHIZOME

DR. S. M. ALAM
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Jan 23 - 29, 20
12

Ginger cultivation began in South Asia and has since spread to East Africa and the Caribbean. It is sometimes called root ginger to distinguish it from other things that share the name ginger.

The characteristic odor and flavor of ginger is caused by a mixture of zingerone, shogaols and gingerols, volatile oils that compose one to three percent of the weight of fresh ginger.

In laboratory animals, the gingerols increase the motility of the gastrointestinal tract and have analgesic, sedative, antipyretic and antibacterial properties.

Ginger oil has been shown to prevent skin cancer in mice and a study at the University of Michigan demonstrated that gingerols could kill ovarian cancer cells.

The pungent taste of ginger is due to nonvolatile phenylpropanoid-derived compounds, particularly gingerols and shogaols, which form from gingerols when ginger is dried or cooked. Zingerone is also produced from gingerols during this process; this compound is less pungent and has a spicy-sweet aroma. Ginger has a sialagogue action, stimulating the production of saliva, which makes swallowing easier.

Young ginger rhizomes are juicy and fleshy with a very mild taste. They are often pickled in vinegar or sherry as a snack or just cooked as an ingredient in many dishes.

They can also be steeped in boiling water to make ginger tea, to which honey is often added; sliced orange or lemon fruit may also be added.

Ginger can also be made into candy. Mature ginger roots are fibrous and nearly dry. The juice from old ginger roots is extremely potent, and is often used as a spice in Pakistani recipes, and is a quintessential ingredient of Chinese, Japanese and many South Asian cuisines for flavoring dishes such as seafood or goat meat and vegetarian cuisine. Ginger acts as a useful food preservative.

Fresh ginger can be substituted for ground ginger at a ratio of 6 to 1, although the flavors of fresh and dried ginger are somewhat different.

Powdered dry ginger root is typically used as a flavoring for recipes such as gingerbread, cookies, crackers and cakes, ginger ale, and ginger beer.

Fresh ginger may be peeled before eating. For longer-term storage, the ginger can be placed in a plastic bag and refrigerated or frozen.

The medical form of ginger historically was called Jamaica ginger; it was classified as a stimulant and carminative and used frequently for dyspepsia, slow motility symptoms, constipation, and colic.

It was also frequently employed to disguise the taste of medicines. Ginger is on the FDA's "generally recognized as safe" list, though it does interact with some medications, including warfarin. Ginger is contraindicated in people suffering from gallstones as it promotes the production of bile.

Ginger may also decrease pain from arthritis, though studies have been inconsistent, and may have blood thinning and cholesterol lowering properties that may make it useful for treating heart disease.

An acute overdose of ginger is usually in excess of about 2,000 milligrams per kilogram dependent on level of ginger tolerance, and can result in a state of central nervous system over-stimulation called ginger intoxication or colloquially the "ginger gitters".

Animal studies suggest that ginger reduces anxiety. Advanced glycation end products are associated in the development of several pathophysiologies including diabetic cataract.

Ginger was effective against the development of diabetic cataract in rats mainly through its antiglycating potential and ginger may be explored for the prevention or delay of diabetic complication.

Ginger compounds are active against a form of diarrhea, which is the leading cause of infant death in developing countries. Zingerone is likely to be the active constituent against enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli heat-labile enterotoxin-induced diarrhea.

Ginger has been found effective in multiple studies for treating nausea caused by seasickness, morning sickness and chemotherapy though ginger was not found superior over a placebo for preemptively treating post-operative nausea.

Ginger is a safe remedy for nausea relief during pregnancy. Ginger as a remedy for motion sickness is still a debated issue.

Several studies over the last 20 years were inconclusive with some studies in favor of the herb. A common thread in these studies is the lack of sufficient participants to yield statistical significance. Another issue is the lack of a known chemical pathway for the supposed relief.

Tea brewed from ginger is a folk remedy for colds. Three to four leaves of tulsi taken with a piece of ginger on an empty stomach is considered an effective cure for congestion, cough, and cold.

Ginger ale and ginger beer have been recommended as stomach settlers for generations in countries where the beverages are made, and ginger water was commonly used to avoid heat cramps in the United States.

In China, "ginger eggs" (scrambled eggs with finely diced ginger root) is a common home remedy for coughing. The Chinese also make a kind of dried ginger candy that is fermented in plum juice and sugared, which is also commonly consumed to suppress coughing.

Ginger has also been historically used to treat inflammation, which several scientific studies support, though one arthritis trial showed ginger to be no better than a placebo or ibuprofen for treatment of osteoarthriti. Research on rats suggests that ginger may be useful for treating diabetes.

India, with over 30 per cent of the global share, now leads in global production of ginger, replacing China, which has slipped to the second position (20.5 per cent), followed by Indonesia (12.7 per cent), Nepal (11.5 per cent) and Nigeria (10 per cent).

TOP 10 GINGER PRODUCERS

COUNTRY PRODUCTION (TONS)
India 420,000
China 285,000
Indonesia 177,000
Nepal 158,905
Nigeria 138,000
Bangladesh 57,000
Japan 42,000
Thailand 34,000
Philippines 28,000
Sri Lanka 8,270
World 1,387,445 per annum

Ginger is native to India and China. It takes its name from the Sanskrit word stringa-vera, which means "with a body like a horn", as in antlers.

Ginger has been important in Chinese medicine for many centuries, and is mentioned in the writings of Confucius. It is also named in the Koran, indicating it was known in Arab countries as far back as 650 A.D.

It was one of the earliest spices known in Western Europe, used since the ninth century.

In English pubs and taverns in the nineteenth century, barkeepers put out small containers of ground ginger, for people to sprinkle into their beer - the origin of ginger ale.

Although often called "ginger root", it is actually a rhizome. It is available in various forms, the most common of which are as follows.

Whole raw roots are generally referred to as fresh ginger. A piece of the rhizome, called a 'hand'. It has a pale yellow interior and a skin varying in color from brown to off-white.

Jamaican ginger, which is pale buff, is regarded as the best variety. African and Indian ginger is darker skinned and generally inferior, with the exception of Kenya ginger.

Whole fresh roots provide the freshest taste. These can sometimes be found in Oriental markets. Dried roots are sold either 'black' with the root skin left on, or 'white' with the skin peeled off. The dried root is available whole or sliced.

Powdered ginger is the buff-colored ground spice made from dried root. Preserved or 'stem' ginger is made from fresh young roots, peeled and sliced, then cooked in a heavy sugar syrup.

The ginger pieces and syrup are canned together. They are soft and pulpy, but extremely hot and spicy. Crystallized ginger is also cooked in sugar syrup then air dried and rolled in sugar.

Pickled ginger has the root sliced paper-thin and pickled in a vinegar solution. This pickle is known in Japan as gari, which often accompanies sushi, and is served to refresh the palate between courses.