Updated: Sep 27, 2021
Ginger is a type of flowering plant whose rhizome (subterranean stem of a plant) is used as a spice, as a food, or as a medicine. This rhizome is called ginger root or ginger. Ginger belongs to family Zingiberaceae, which also includes turmeric, cardamom, and galangal.
Ginger first appeared in the southern parts of the ancient China. From there, it spread to India, Maluku Islands (so-called Spice Islands), rest of the Asia and West Africa. Europe saw ginger for the first time in the first century when the ancient Romans traded with India. When Rome fell, Europe forgot about ginger until Marco Polo brought it again from his travel to the East. In the Middle Ages, a price of half a kilogram of ginger was the same as of one sheep. In the 15th century, with the rediscovery of the New World, Ginger was brought to the Caribbean where it started to grow with ease. Today, India is the greatest producer of ginger in the world.
Vitamins and minerals
In addition to its amazing flavour, ginger is full of nutrients and contains:
Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, helps produce energy from the foods you eat and keep the nervous and digestive systems healthy.
Pyridoxine, also known as vitamin B6, allows the body to use and store energy from protein and carbohydrates in food and helps form haemoglobin (the substance that carries oxygen around the body).
Iron is an important mineral that helps maintain healthy blood.
Potassium - an essential mineral that is needed by all tissues in the body. It is sometimes referred to as an electrolyte because it carries a small electrical charge that activates various cell and nerve functions.
Vitamin C plays a vital role in the body, including the maintenance of bones and teeth. Vitamin C also boosts your sleep, reduces sleep disturbances, relieves movement disorders, and decreases the dangerous effects of sleep apnoea.
Magnesium plays an important role in assisting more than 300 enzymes to carry out various chemical reactions in the body such as building proteins and strong bones, regulating blood sugar, blood pressure, and muscle and nerve functions. Magnesium also acts as an electrical conductor that contracts muscles and makes the heartbeat steadily.
Phosphorus is a mineral found in your bones, which as calcium, is needed to build strong healthy bones, as well as, keeping other parts of the body healthy.
Zinc is a major player in the creation of DNA, growth of cells, building proteins, healing damaged tissue, and supporting a healthy immune system.
Folate is also known as vitamin B9 or folic acid. Folate is a natural form of vitamin B9 and is water soluble. It is found in many food plants. It is essential for DNA production, the development of red blood cells, and preventing anaemia.
Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, is involved in many processes in the body and is necessary for normal cell growth and function.
Other plant compounds
Ginger is rich of three main phenols (plant-based compounds known to be antioxidants), which give it its pungent taste. These are:
Health benefits of ginger
Ginger has been praised for helping with various health issues, including aiding the digestion process, settling stomach upsets, reducing nausea in pregnant women and vomiting. It has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties, and can help with cramps, menstrual pains, arthritis, cold and flu symptoms, degenerative disorders, and cardiovascular disorders.
By the 11th century, ginger was well known in Britain and was even once recommended to King Henry VIII to treat the black plague.
By the time of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (c1500) ginger plants were carried on ships to the New World colonies of the Caribbean, where it could be easily grown and cultivated for the domestic market at a cheaper price. Its use became widespread and was often imported in a preserved form for use in the cooking of meats, biscuits, cakes, and confectionary.
It is said that Queen Elizabeth I invented the gingerbread man, a small and sweet baked figurines given as gifts to Royal courtiers at Christmas. Gingerbread men were also used to decorate Christmas trees and in festive holiday scenes with accompanying gingerbread houses, gingerbread animals and trees decorated with sweet icing.
German gingerbread Christmas decorations dating back to the 16th century were traditionally elaborate and made popular by Grimm’s Fairy Tales, in particular the story of ‘Hansel and Gretel’. In the 17th century Nuremberg became the Gingerbread Capital of the World thanks to the elaborate gingerbread scenes that city bakers would create and display in their shop windows.
Grow your own
US based Happy DIY Editor Jennifer provides some useful tips on how to grow your own ginger that can apply to warmer and cooler climate. Visit the Happy DIY website at: https://happydiyhome.com/growing-ginger/ for more information.