Description: Natural Order, Zingiberaceae. Root a perennial rhizoma, creeping, thick, flattish, branched, covered by a dry and shriveled coat. Stem annual, erect, three or four feet high. Leaves alternate, lance-linear, taper-pointed, smooth, sheathing far down upon the stem. Flower-stalk springing from the root to the height of three to six inches, bearing the flowers closely spicate toward the top, each flower subtended by a broad-ovate bract, and imbricated so as to give the spike a coniferous appearance. Calyx wanting; corolla deep-purple, tubular, extending beyond the bracts, with a three-parted limb. Stamen and pistil single. Fruit a roundish and one-celled capsule. Cultivated extensively in tropical Asia and Africa, the West Indies, and America.
The root or rhizoma is the part used, and comes to market in jointed branches called races or hands. After being washed and dried in the sun, the thin epidermis is usually scraped off, but sometimes it is brought to market with the coat on. Softish roots are preferred to those that are hard or flinty, and the light-colored to those that are dark. The finest and most highly prized qualities come from Jamaica; and are quite light-colored and very pungent. The African ginger, though often classed among the poor sorts, is really one of the best; its races are plump and short, yellow with a reddish-brown tint, ,cut soft and bright, and of a more agreeable though less pungent flavor than the Jamaica. This is the kind now most abundant on the American market, and to a good quality of which I give my personal preference. Barbadoes ginger is in flat and moderately light races, with the corrugated epidermis on; Malabar and Bengal varieties are generally hard and dark. All contain a moderate quantity of a pale-yellow and volatile oil, lighter than water; and a soft and yellowish-brown resin.
Properties and Uses: Ginger root is one of the most pleasant of all the stimulating aromatics, and deserves to be valued as one of the most reliable diffusives of the Materia Medica. The Jamaica variety is strongest and most biting, the African more relaxant and antispasmodic. When chewed or taken in powder, it increases the flow of saliva and warms the stomach, and may be used in dryness of the mouth and as a good stomachic. The warm infusion promotes gentle and warm perspiration, favors an outward arterial flow, increases the mucous flow of the lungs and bowels, and relieves flatulence, internal congestions, and light spasmodic tendencies. Speaking especially of the African species, it is one of the mild yet most effective of the warm infusions of its class in recent colds, pneumonia, acute and sub-acute dysentery, and all other febrile and inflammatory cases requiring a sustaining diaphoretic. For all such purposes, it is most commonly associated with asclepias or a similar relaxant; and is one of the prominent Physio-Medical remedies in all cases requiring aid to equalize the circulation and sustain the nervous system. Its influence in sudden nervous fatigue and prostration is excellent; and it may be used in small quantities with cathartics to obviate nausea and griping. Sometimes it is added to alterative and tonic preparations, when it is desirable to have a milder stimulant than even xanthoxylum is. Combined with cypripedium, lobelia, cimicifuga, and other nervine relaxants, it secures good antispasmodic results. It may be used in enemas, with demulcents, for a prompt diffusive. For infusion, two drachms of African ginger is sufficient for a pint of boiling water, though it is customary for most works to direct twice that strength. From one to four ounces of this may be given at necessary intervals. Externally, it is a good associate with nymphea or prunus in ulcers of a moderately indolent grade.
Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Tincture. Crush two and a half ounces of ginger, and tincture for fourteen days with a pint of seventy-five percent alcohol. Express, filter, and add enough alcohol to make a pint. Or the root may be macerated in alcohol for two days, then treated by percolation, using a pint of the menstruum, expressing the dregs, filtering, and adding enough alcohol to make a pint. If diluted alcohol is used, the tincture is liable to become muddy after a few weeks. Dose from ten drops to a fluid drachm. Used as a carminative, and as a valuable adjunct to bitter and cathartic mixtures. The officinal United States method employs four ounces of the crushed root to obtain one pint of tincture by percolation, and is usually called Essence of Ginger.
II. Sirup: Evaporate two fluid ounces of ginger tincture to one fluid ounce; rub it with two drachms of carbonate magnesia and one ounce of sugar, gradually add one pint of water by trituration, filter, melt into this one and a half pounds of sugar at a gentle heat, and strain while hot. This is the elegant method of the U. S. P. The common practice mixes one fluid ounce of the above tincture with seven fluid ounces of simple sirup, but the preparation is neither so clear nor so palatable. It is used as a flavoring vehicle, especially for fluid extracts. Dose, one to four fluid drachms.
III. Fluid Extract."Take ginger in fine powder, sixteen troy ounces; alcohol, a sufficient quantity. Moisten the ginger with four fluid ounces of alcohol, introduce it into a cylindrical percolator, press it firmly, and gradually pour alcohol upon it until twelve fluid ounces of tincture have passed. Set this aside, and continue the percolation until twenty fluid ounces more of tincture have been obtained, evaporate this to four fluid ounces, mix it with the reserved tincture, and filter through paper." (U. S. P.) Dose, ten to thirty drops in water. An oleo-resin is obtained by treating the root with ether and then with alcohol, and evaporating. It is a thick, dark fluid, very intense in action, of which a single drop may be triturated with a drachm of sugar and given as a dose.
IV. Cholera Tincture. Zingiber, myrica, caulophyllum, liriodendron, each, four ounces; myrrh, four drachms; capsicum, one drachm. Treat by percolation with diluted alcohol till two quarts pass; and add, by trituration, twenty drops each of oils of peppermint and anise. I used this with good advantage in the cholera epidemic of 1867; and also value it in colic from sudden exposure. Dose, one to three fluid drachms, in any suitable infusion.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com