1. Family: Zingiberaceae Martinov
    1. Genus: Boesenbergia Kuntze
      1. Boesenbergia rotunda (L.) Mansf.

        Boesenbergia rotunda is a herb in the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). Its rhizomes are often shaped like a bunch of fingers, hence its common English name fingerroot. It is used in Thai cuisine, by the name krachai, and is also commonly called Chinese ginger, although it is not in the same genus as true ginger (Zingiber officinale).


    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description
    Fingerroot is a medicinal and culinary herb, with bright yellow, finger-shaped rhizomes.

    Boesenbergia rotunda is a herb in the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). It is used in Thai cuisine, by the name krachai, and is also commonly called Chinese ginger, although it is not in the same genus as true ginger (Zingiber officinale).

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Boesenbergia rotunda is native from southern Yunnan Province, China, to west Malesia. It grows in dense forest and is common in its natural range. It is widely cultivated throughout south-east Asia, in small-scale subsistence farming systems, and has become naturalised in some countries. Species in the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) usually grow in damp shaded lowland areas or on hill slopes, as scattered plants or thickets.


    Overview:  Fingerroot is a small, erect herb, up to 50 cm tall. The rhizomes are bright yellow and strongly aromatic, and they resemble fingers growing from a central point. There are usually 3–4 leaves up to 12 cm wide and 50 cm long, which are undivided, ovate-oblong in shape.

    Flowers: The flowers are tubular, pink and aromatic and produced in terminal inflorescences.

    Threats and conservation

    Boesenbergia rotunda is common in its natural range, and no major threats are known.

    Conservation assessments carried out by Kew

    Boesenbergia rotunda is being monitored as part of the Sampled Red List Index Project, which aims to produce conservation assessments for a representative sample of the world’s plant species. This information will then be used to monitor trends in extinction risk and help focus conservation efforts where they are needed most.

    Uses Food and drink

    Fingerroot is used as a flavouring and eaten as a vegetable. It is cultivated for its rhizomes and roots in Indonesia, Malaysia, Indochina and India where they are used as a spicy flavouring in food and pickles. The rhizomes are also cooked as a vegetable or eaten raw when young. Young shoots are also edible, and leaves are used together with those from the teak tree ( Tectona grandis ) to wrap fermented soya bean cake (tempeh) – a traditional Indonesian food.

    Traditional medicine

    In traditional medicine, rhizomes and roots are used in post-partum tonic mixtures (such as the popular Indonesian tonic, ‘jamu’), as a stomachic (to improve appetite and digestion) and carminative (to aid digestion and reduce gas) and as a remedy for coughs and mouth ulcers. Crushed rhizomes and roots are also applied externally to treat rheumatism. Scientific research is underway to investigate their possible antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anticancer properties.


    Fingerroot is cultivated as an ornamental.


    Fingerroot is propagated from rhizome cuttings. Growth is fast when cultivated in well-drained loam, rich in organic matter, but plants will also grow in sandy soils. When grown for rhizomes and roots for use as a spice, the plants’ life cycle is usually about five months. Plants can produce young shoots for use as a vegetable, and rhizomes and roots for medicinal use for several years.

    This species at Kew

    Boesenbergia rotunda can be seen growing in the Palm House and Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew.

    Pressed and dried, and alcohol-preserved specimens of Boesenbergia species are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment. The details of some of these, including images, can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

    Kew’s Economic Botany Collection includes specimens of the rhizomes and leaves of Boesenbergia rotunda , which are available to researchers by appointment.

    Mixed deciduous and evergreen forest; and on limestone hills.
    Least Concern according to IUCN Red List criteria.

    None known.

    Edible rhizomes, roots and young shoots, medicine, ornamental.



    Found In:

    Andaman Is., Assam, Cambodia, China South-Central, Jawa, Lesser Sunda Is., Malaya, Myanmar, Sumatera, Thailand, Vietnam

    Introduced Into:

    Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka

    Common Names


    Boesenbergia rotunda (L.) Mansf. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    Jan 1, 1986 Put [4108], Thailand K000481190
    Jan 1, 1986 Kerr, A.F.G. [332], Thailand K000481192
    Jan 1, 1986 Beusekom, C.F. van [3884], Thailand K000481194
    Jan 1, 1986 Kerr, A.F.G. [214], Thailand K000481197
    Jan 1, 1986 Kurz, W.S. [s.n.], India K000481252
    Jan 1, 1986 s.coll. [3702], Sri Lanka K000481254
    Kerr, A.F.G. [6149], Thailand K000481196
    Herbert, W. [5747], Myanmar K000481249
    Scott [s.n.] K000481250
    Lynch, M. [s.n.] K000481251
    Herbert, W. [5745], Myanmar K000481253

    First published in Kulturpflanze 6: 239 (1958)

    Accepted in:

    • [1] Girmansyah, D. & al. (eds.) (2013) Flora of Bali an annotated checklist . Herbarium Bogorensis, Indonesia
    • [2] Mostaph, M.K. & Uddin, S.B. (2013) Dictionary of plant names of Bangladesh , Vasc. Pl.: 1-434. Janokalyan Prokashani, Chittagong, Bangladesh
    • [10] (1996) Thai Forest Bulletin (Botany) 24: 35-49
    • [11] Govaerts, R. (1996) World Checklist of Seed Plants 2(1, 2): 1-492. MIM, Deurne


    • [3] Delin Wu & Larsen, K. (2010). Zingiberaceae. In: Flora of China.
    • [4] Ling Jing Jing, Mohamed, M., Rahmat, A. & Abu Bakar, M. F. (2010). Phytochemicals, antioxidant properties and anticancer investigations of the different parts of several gingers [sic] species ( Boesenbergia rotunda, Boesenbergia pulchella var [sic] attenuata and Boesenbergia armeniaca). Journal of Medicinal Plants Research 4: 27-32.
    • [5] World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2010). The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [6] Contu, S. (2009). Boesenbergia rotunda. Assessment using IUCN Categories and Criteria 3.1 (IUCN 2001). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [7] Amy Yap Li Ching, Tang Sook Wah, Mohd Aspollah Sukari, Gwendoline Ee Cheng Lian, Mawardi Rahmani & Kaida Khalid (2007). Characterization of flavonoid derivatives from Boesenbergia rotunda (L.). Malaysian Journal of Analytical Sciences 1: 154-159.
    • [8] Dy Phon, P. (2000) Dictionnaire des plantes utilisées au Cambodge . Chez l'auteur, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
    • [9] Ibrahim, H. & Nugroho, A. (1999). Boesenbergia rotunda (L.) Mansf. In: Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 13. Spices, eds C. C. de Guzman & J. S. Siemonsma, pp. 83-85. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, the Netherlands.


    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2017). Published on the internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp
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