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.
It has been important in Chinese medicine for many centuries and is mentioned in the writings of Confucius. It is also named in the Koran, the sacred book of the Moslems, indicating it was known in Arab countries as far back as 650 A.D. It was one of the earliest spice known in Western Europe, used since the ninth century.
Although often called “ginger root” it is actually a rhizome.
Ginger is actually fairly unique as spices go. It is a root that has a bite to it, so for sliced/chopped/minced, the closest may actually be garlic. It’s not the same, but it has a similar “feel” to it. For ground ginger, the closest is probably cinnamon.
In Asian cooking, ginger is almost always used fresh, either minced, crushed or sliced. Fresh ginger can be kept for several weeks in the salad drawer of the refrigerator. Dried ginger should be ‘bruised’ by beating it to open the fibres, then infused in the cooking or making ginger beer and removed when the flavour is sufficient. Store dried and powdered ginger in airtight containers.
Ginger has long been ascribed aphrodisiac powers, taken either internally or externally. It is mentioned in the Karma Sutra, and in the Melanesian Islands of the South Pacific it is employed ‘to gain the affection of a woman’. Conversely, in the Philippines, it is chewed to expel evil spirits.
The primary known constituents include gingerols, zingibain, bisabolene, oleoresins, starch, essential oil (zingiberene, zingiberole, camphene, cineol, borneol), mucilage, and protein. It is also used to treat nausea related to both motion sickness and morning sickness. It has been found to be even more effective than Dramamine in curbing motion sickness, without causing drowsiness.