Ginger is probably one of the most common and popular herbs used in cooking and medicine. The Ginger Root, or rhizome, can be used, as can Ground Ginger. The Ginger Plant is often used in gardens of subtropical homes as it produces attractive clusters of white and pink buds that develop into yellow flowers. It is a perennial reed-like plant with a leafy stem and can grow up to 4ft.

The rhizome of the Ginger plant is harvested when the stalk withers. It is then scalded, washed and scraped to prevent it from sprouting. Young rhizomes can be pickled in vinegar or sherry and eaten as a snack or used in cooking. The more mature Ginger rhizomes are more fibrous and dry. It is these roots that are used in cooking, especially Indian and Chinese cuisine. In China, sliced or whole Ginger root is often paired with savoury dishes such as fish, and chopped Ginger root is commonly paired with meat, when it is cooked. However, candied Ginger is sometimes a component of Chinese candy boxes, and a herbal tea can also be prepared from Ginger. The Ginger roots are powdered and used in traditional cooking such as Gingerbread, Ginger Snaps, Parkin and Ginger biscuits. The Ginger root can also be dried and candied for use.

Ginger Wine has been produced in the UK for centuries and is traditionally sold in green glass bottles. It is quite spicy and can be drunk on its own or with ice, but the best known means of consumption is as a ‘Whisky Mac’, a combination of Ginger Wine and whisky. It can also be drunk with lemonade or other mixers.

Ginger Tea is a beverage drunk in many countries, made from the Ginger root. In China, the tea is made by boiling peeled and sliced Ginger to which brown sugar is often added.

Preliminary research indicates that nine compounds found in Ginger may bind to human serotonin receptors which may influence gastrointestinal function. There are various thoughts on how Ginger helps during medical conditions, the prime one being nausea, especially travel sickness, morning sickness and nausea brought on by chemotherapy. Just eating Ginger biscuits can help these conditions.

Ginger was historically called Jamaica Ginger and was classified as a stimulant and carminative, used for dyspepsia, constipation and colic. Some studies indicate Ginger may provide short-term relief from pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting. Tea brewed from Ginger is a common folk remedy for colds and Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer have also been said to settle an upset stomach.

Although Ginger is generally considered a safe food, it can interact with some medications such as Warfarin and it can promote the production of bile, so may affect those suffering with gallstones. Although rare, allergic reactions to Ginger have been observed, as have heartburn and bloating, but this popular spice or herb has many positive attributes.