Ginger is native to Southeast Asia where its prized culinary and medicinal properties made it a popular trade item thousands of years ago. The Romans imported ginger from China, and its popularity had spread throughout Europe by the Middle Ages. In the 16th century, the Spanish introduced ginger to the West Indies, Mexico, and South America. It is easy to grow and can be cultivated in areas that are moist, shady, and don’t receive hard freezes.
The flavoring and medicinal properties of ginger are found in its rhizome, an underground stem. You may be able to see the knobby rhizome where the plant meets the soil. Unlike many plants in this room, ginger can safely be used without a prescription. It can be grated to make a tea to soothe gastrointestinal discomfort and nausea. Ginger ale, the tried and true cure for a stomachache, was originally sold at drugstore soda fountains as a digestive aid.
Recent research indicates that it also holds anti-inflammatory properties that may be useful in treating some forms of arthritis.