Zingiber officinale Roscoe

First published in Trans. Linn. Soc. London 8: 348 (1807)
This species is accepted
The native range of this species is India to S. Central China. It is a perennial or rhizomatous geophyte and grows primarily in the seasonally dry tropical biome. It is used as animal food, a poison, a medicine and invertebrate food, has environmental uses and social uses and for fuel and food.


Kew Species Profiles

General Description

Zingiber officinale is best known as the source of the pungent, aromatic spice called ginger. This spice is produced from the rhizome (underground stem) of the plant.

Obtained by the Greeks and Romans from Arab traders, it was one of the first oriental spices to arrive in Europe. Other spices in the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) include cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) and turmeric (Curcuma longa).

Ginger has many medicinal uses. The fresh or dried rhizome is used in oral or topical preparations to treat a variety of ailments, while the essential oil is applied topically as an analgesic. Evidence suggests ginger is most effective against nausea and vomiting associated with surgery, vertigo, travel sickness and morning sickness. However, safe use of ginger during pregnancy is questionable and pregnant women should exercise caution before taking it. The topical use of ginger may cause allergic reactions.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Zingiber officinale is possibly native to India. It is widely grown as a commercial crop in south and southeast Asia, tropical Africa (especially Sierra Leone and Nigeria), Latin America, the Caribbean (especially Jamaica) and Australia.


Underground parts: Ginger has a distinctive thickened, branched rhizome (underground stem) which sometimes looks somewhat like a swollen hand. The rhizome has a brown corky outer layer (usually removed before use) and a pale yellow centre with a spicy lemon-like scent.

Leaves: Shoots (pseudostems), up to 1.2 m tall, arise annually from buds on the rhizome. These pseudostems are formed from a series of leaf bases (sheaths) wrapped tightly around one another with the long (up to 7 cm), narrow (up to 1.9 cm wide), mid-green leaf blades arranged alternately.

Flowers: The flowering heads, borne on separate shorter stems, are cone-shaped spikes and composed of a series of greenish to yellowish leaf-like bracts. Protruding just beyond the outer edge of the bracts, the flowers are pale yellow in colour with a purplish lip that has yellowish dots and striations. Flowering stems are rarely, if ever, produced in cultivated plants.


The aromatic rhizome of Zingiber officinale is the source of ginger, a spice used for centuries to add flavour in cooking. In Asia the fresh stem is an essential ingredient of many dishes, whereas the dried, powdered spice is more popular in European cooking. Gingerbread, one of the most popular uses for ginger in Britain, dates to Anglo-Saxon times when preserved ginger (produced by boiling the rhizome in sugar syrup) was used, often medicinally.

Crystallised ginger, a sweetmeat traditionally eaten as a delicacy at Christmas, is prepared by coating dried, preserved ginger with sugar. Ginger oil, the oleoresin, is used to flavour ginger beer and ginger ale, and is commonly used as an ingredient in perfumery, cosmetics and medicines.

The pungent principles in ginger are the non-volatile phenolic compounds gingerol, gingeridione and shogaol.


Ginger probably originated as part of the ground flora of tropical lowland forests, where many of its wild relatives can still be found. In cultivation it requires hot, humid, shady conditions and grows best in a fertile loam as it needs large quantities of nutrients.

Zingiber officinale has been successfully propagated at Kew using internodal cuttings. The cuttings are placed in a shallow pot in a mixture of coir and perlite. The pot is placed in a misting unit (or, if not available, in a closed glass case), which is heated at the base to 20 ˚C. It takes time for any activity to become visible, but eventually new roots and shoots are produced. It has been noted that this method produces vigorous plants. The traditional technique for propagation of ginger is by division.

Mature plants are grown in the behind-the-scenes Tropical Nursery at Kew, in a zone that is kept at a temperature of 18-25 ˚C and at high humidity (70-90 % RH). The plants are watered daily throughout most of the year. In the winter they can be watered less often, as long as they are kept moist. They are fed fortnightly with a nitrogen, phosphorus & potassium mix and calcium nitrate.

In winter the older pseudostems are removed from the plants, and the new ones allowed to grow up. At this stage the new pseudostems may need staking, but usually they are strong enough to support themselves. Occasionally mealy bug and red spider mite cause problems. Where possible these pests are removed by hand.

This species at Kew

Zingiber officinale can be seen in Kew's Palm House, alongside other plants from Southeast Asia.

Various members of the ginger family are grown in the hot moist section of the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

Pressed and dried specimens of Zingiber officinale are held in Kew's Herbarium where they are available to researchers by appointment. The details of one of these specimens can be seen online in Kew's Herbarium Catalogue.

Specimens of ginger are held in Kew's Economic Botany Collection in the Sir Joseph Banks Building, where they are available to researchers by appointment.

Humid, partly-shaded habitats in the tropics and subtropics.
Least Concern according to IUCN Red List criteria.

Ginger may cause allergic reactions when applied to the skin. Pregnant women should use ginger with caution, as its safety is not confirmed.


Biogeografic region: Amazonia, Andean, Caribbean, Pacific. Elevation range: 0–1500 m a.s.l. Cultivated in Colombia. Colombian departments: Amazonas, Bolívar, Chocó, Quindío.
IUCN Red List Assessment (2021): DD.
Habitat according IUCN Habitats Classification: forest and woodland, shrubland, artificial - terrestrial.

Extinction risk predictions for the world's flowering plants to support their conservation (2024). Bachman, S.P., Brown, M.J.M., Leão, T.C.C., Lughadha, E.N., Walker, B.E. https://nph.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/nph.19592

Predicted extinction risk: not threatened. Confidence: confident

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

Cultivada en Colombia; Alt. 0 - 1500 m.; Amazonia, Andes, Llanura del Caribe, Pacífico.
Morphology General Habit

Bernal, R., G. Galeano, A. Rodríguez, H. Sarmiento y M. Gutiérrez. 2017. Nombres Comunes de las Plantas de Colombia. http://www.biovirtual.unal.edu.co/nombrescomunes/

ajengible, ajengibre, ajingible, anjengibre, anjigible, jengibre

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/88308170/88308174

DD - data deficient


Food and drink, medicines, cosmetics.

Use Animal Food
Used as animal food.
Use Environmental
Environmental uses.
Use Fuel
Used for fuels.
Use Gene Sources
Used as gene sources.
Use Food
Used for food.
Use Invertebrate Food
Used as invertebrate food.
Use Materials
Used as material.
Use Medicines
Medical uses.
Use Poisons
Use Social
Social uses.

Common Names

Common Ginger, Ginger


  • Angiosperm Extinction Risk Predictions v1

    • Angiosperm Threat Predictions
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0
  • Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia

    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Herbarium Catalogue Specimens

    • Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
  • IUCN Categories

    • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Kew Backbone Distributions

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2024. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2023 World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Living Collection Database

    • Common Names from Plants and People Africa http://www.plantsandpeopleafrica.com/
  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2024. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2023 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Science Photographs

    • Copyright applied to individual images
  • Kew Species Profiles

    • Kew Species Profiles
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Universidad Nacional de Colombia

    • ColPlantA database
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia

    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0