Origin

Ginger is the root or rhizome of Zingiber officinale, a biennial or perennial plant, two or three feet in height, a native of Hindos-tan, and cultivated in various parts of the East Indies, in the West Indies, and at Sierra Leone in Africa, Varieties and Sensible Properties. Ginger comes in several different states. Sometimes it is imported fresh, and is then called recent ginger. As ordinarily used in medicine, it is in two states; in one with the epidermis remaining more or less completely, and prepared simply by exposure to the action of boiling water, so as to destroy the life of the root, and prevent germination; in the other, wholly deprived of the epidermis, and often whitened by a bleaching process. The former is called black ginger, or is designated by the places from which it is derived; the latter is named white ginger, and often Jamaica ginger, from the island of that name, whence this variety was first brought into commerce. Ginger is also imported in the form of a preserve; the tender young offsets from the old roots being selected for its preparation Recent ginger is flattish, about three inches long, with short obtuse branches or lobes, on the surface of a light ash colour, internally fleshy and yellowish-white. It will keep for a considerable time, but is apt to germinate in warm weather.

Black or coaled ginger is somewhat shrunk in drying, with a darkish, ash-coloured, wrinkled epidermis, which in some specimens is absent in spots, where the surface is blackish from exposure, and has thus given name to the variety. Beneath the epidermis is a brownish and somewhat horny layer; but the central portion is whitish and farinaceous. The powder is of a light yellowish-brown colour.

White or Jamaica ginger is wholly destitute of epidermis, more slender and rounder than the preceding, white externally, internally also whitish, and yielding a white or yellowish-white powder. Much of this variety is now imported from the East Indies; but, as obtained from this source, it is not so white as that from Jamaica.

The odour of ginger is aromatic and penetrating; its taste hot, pungent, biting, and aromatic. It yields its virtues to water and alcohol; but more completely and largely to the latter.

It is apt to be injured by worms, when long kept, Chief Constituents. The active principles of ginger appear to be a volatile oil, and a resino-extractive matter; the flavour probably residing in the former, and the active properties mainly in the latter. There is also a considerable proportion of starch and gum, which render certain precautions essential in preparing the syrup.

Medical Properties and Uses

Ginger was employed by the ancients. It is a very grateful stomachic stimulant, having some incitant effect-also on the circulation, and is one of the most useful of the aromatics. In pure dyspepsia it is often used with much benefit, either alone or in combination; and, when added to tonics, in this affection, it renders them at once, more acceptable and efficient In the feeble condition of the digestive organs attendant on atonic gout, it is also an excellent adjuvant to other measures. It is one of the best carminatives; and. in the form of hot infusion, is much employed in simple spasmodic or flatulent colic, especially in children. As a preventive of cholera, its cordial influence upon the digestive organs renders it peculiarly appropriate; and, in the epidemics of this complaint, it has been among the prophylactic medicines most relied on. It is very frequently used in connection with tonics and purgatives; with the former, to increase their stimulant effect; with the latter, to obviate griping; and with both. to cover their taste, and mitigate or prevent their nauseating effects. It is also much employed as a condiment in cookery.

Locally, ginger is actively irritant. When chewed, it produces a burning and painful sensation in the mouth, and increases the flow of saliva. Hence it is .sometimes employed as a masticatory in toothache, rheumatic affections of the jaws or neighbouring parts, relaxation of the uvula, and palsy of the tongue, or other part of the mouth or fauces.

Snuffed up the nostrils, it produces sneezing, and increases the secretion of mucus, and is, therefore, occasionally used as an errhine. Upon the skin it acts as a rubefacient; and the powder, formed into a cataplasm with warm water, may often be advantageously applied to the cheeks in toothache, the forehead in headache, and over the stomach in irritable states of that organ.

Administration

Ginger is given internally, in the forms of powder, infusion, tincture, and syrup.

The dose of the powder is from ten to thirty grains. In this state it is often combined with powdered columbo, and subcarbonate of iron, and is an ingredient in the Pulvis Aromaticus of the Pharmacopoeias.

The Infusion (Infusum Zingiberis, U. S.) is made in the proportion of half an ounce of the bruised or powdered root to a pint of boiling water. The dose is one or two fluidounces; but it may be given more freely in urgent cases, especially of flatulent colic. In that affection, a small bowlful, sweetened, may sometimes be drank with advantage. In this form, ginger is much used in connection with the simple bitters, as gentian, quassia, and columbo, and with cathartics, especially senna and rhubarb.

The Tincture (Tinctura Zingiberis, U. S.), according to the directions of our national code, is made very strong, to fit it for the preparation of the syrup; and this concentration has also the advantage of increasing the proportion of the aromatic, and diminishing that of alcohol. This is the more necessary, as it is officinal alcohol and not diluted alcohol or proof spirit, that is used as the menstruum; the latter causing the tincture to become turbid, in consequence of the quantity of mucilage dissolved.

Under the name of essence of ginger, a still more concentrated preparation is made, either by employing a larger proportion of ginger, or preferably by evaporating a portion of the alcohol of the tincture, and tillering.

Either of these preparations may be given as a carminative and stomachic stimulant, or added to tonic and purgative infusions, tinctures, and mixtures, in debilitated states of the alimentary canal. The dose of the tincture is from forty minims to a fluidrachm, that of the essence, according to the degree of its concentration, from twenty to forty minims.

The Syrup (Syrupus Zingiberis, U. S.) is prepared from the tincture, because, by this method, the starch and gummy matter of the root are avoided, which, if present in the syrup, would dispose it to spoil. The alcohol is driven off during the process. Syrup of ginger is an excellent addition to tonic and purgative infusions, and to other liquids used for drink, especially to carbonic acid water, when one of the alkaline carbonates or bicarbonates is exhibited with it in solution, as these are incompatible with most of the ordinary syrups, in consequence of the acid they contain. It is also a good vehicle for substances in powder, the taste of which it covers, while it gives them a suitable consistence for exhibition. Rubbed up with magnesia or its carbonate, it enables that medicine to be readily and uniformly suspended in water; at the same time covering its taste, and obviating its nauseating effect. A fluidraehm of it may be added to every fluidounce or two of the liquid with which it is administered.

Ginger Troches or Lozenges (Trochisci Zingiberis, U. S.) are prepared in our Pharmacopoeia by incorporating tincture of ginger with powdered tragacanth and syrup of ginger. They often answer a good purpose in relieving gastric uneasiness and flatulence, on being taken into the mouth and allowed slowly to dissolve. Those prepared by the confectioners may often be substituted without disadvantage. Ginger beer is one of the most wholesome of its class of beverages In its various forms, ginger is employed, as an adjuvant or corrigent, in a considerable number of officinal preparations.

The four following roots appear to me worthy of a brief notice, either for their former reputation, or present use, however limited the latter may be.