ginger, common name for members of the Zingiberaceae, a family of tropical and subtropical perennial herbs, chiefly of Indomalaysia. The aromatic oils of many are used in making condiments, perfumes, and medicines, especially stimulants and preparations to ease stomach distress.
True ginger ( Zingiber officinale ), cultivated since ancient times in many countries, no longer grows wild. Commercial ginger is made from the root, a rhizome, which is either preserved by candying or dried for medicines and spice. Studies have found some benefit from the use of ginger as an herbal medicine to treat nausea and vomiting, but other medicinal uses have not been as well substantiated by studies.
Other members of the ginger family also have uses as spices and in perfumery or traditional medicine; zedoary or white ginger ( Curcuma zedoaria ) and turmeric ( C. longa ) are grown for their rhizomes, and cardamom ( Elettaria cardamomum ) and black cardamom ( Amomum species) for their seed pods and seeds. The last three are often combined with ginger and other spices to make various curries. Turmeric root yields a yellow dye, and a compound derived from it, curcumin, is used to promote bile secretion by the liver. C. angustifolia is an East Indian arrowroot.
Ginger is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, order Zingiberales, family Zingiberaceae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.