HISTORY OF GINGER
What a humble herb, to be so grand, so mighty in strength, so hard working, all for such
little recognition. This is an herb to be discovered, experienced and enjoyed in abundance! There is far too little celebration, understanding and appreciation for the wonder of ginger, but this has not always been the case.
From its origin to the present, ginger is the world’s most widely cultivated herb. Testimonials of both the medicinal and economic importance of ginger have been recorded as far back as five thousand-year-old Greek literature to 200 B.C. Ancient literature from the Middle East, Asia and Europe write of its impact. Chinese records chronicle the immense wealth associated with growing acres of ginger. Trade in spices like ginger could easily be associated with one’s wealth and power. In the Middle Ages, as little as just one pound was worth 1 shilling and 7 pence, approximately equivalent to the price of a sheep. Having such a rich history, it’s easy to see how explorers like Marco Polo and Vasco da Gama were careful to document the cultivation of ginger.
The historical reverence for and usage of ginger is simply staggering. Ginger had great historic, medicinal value as a spiritual beverage, aphrodisiac, digestive aid, etc. Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic Indian systems viewed ginger as a healing gift from God. Chinese pharmacopeias claim long term use of fresh ginger as putting a person in contact with the spiritual advantages. Its healing heritage is unmatched in the history of medicine.
Throughout history, ginger is reported for its value as an aphrodisiac. The list of references of ginger’s sexual tonic properties is impressive, including endorsements by the Greek Dioscorides; a citation in Arabia’s A Thousand and One Nights, John Gerard’s prescriptive herbal; and Italy’s famed University of Salerno medical school prescribed that a rule for happy life in old age was to “eat ginger, and you will love and be loved as in your youth.”
Ginger’s value as an aphrodisiac is undoubtedly connected to its widespread use as a systemic tonic, hormone balancer, energy enhancer, and agent for improving the appetite and circulation. It is no wonder that ginger is so widely used as a prerequisite for a healthy sexual appetite.
As a digestive aid, Confucius wrote as far back as 500 B.C. of never being without ginger when he ate. In the famous De Materia Medica 77 A.D. Dioscorides recorded that ginger “warms and softens the stomach”. Virtually every culture has recorded the virtues of ginger as a digestive aid. Ginger was part of the Revolutionary War soldier’s diet. In U.S. early twentieth century, ginger was named the herb of choice for digestive support.
Either alone or in combination with other herbs, ginger has been the herb of choice for thousands of years. As a testimony to its numerous usages, it remains a component of more than 50% of all traditional herbal remedies.
The Japanese soothed spinal and joint pain with it. The Chinese found it helpful with tooth aches, symptoms of a cold, flu and hangover. Progressive early-twentieth century U.S. physicians prescribed ginger for painful menstruation.
The cultural outlook on aphrodisiacs in the seventeenth century was another factor in the reduction of its usage as a therapeutic agent. Over time, the widespread use of ginger to retard spoilage and disguise taste was superseded by modern refrigeration. As time passed, ginger came to be thought of as a relic of the past; a reminder of a more primitive time.