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Following the Spice Trail: Ginger

Posted: March 18, 2008

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The use of ginger for medicinal purposes has been prevalent for centuries, particularly in China where it is one of the most widely used palliative. It is prescribed to treat numerous illnesses such as arthritis, migraine and sore throats. In the West, some people also use ginger as an herbal remedy to aid digestion and alleviate the symptoms of nausea and travel sickness.

Essential Ingredients

Ginger contains an oleoresin (gingerin) which imparts its refreshing, pungent yet warm taste. The plant’s sweet, citrus aroma comes from the presence of between 1 to 3% essential oil, depending on the age of the rhizome. The mature rhizomes have a fuller aroma, flavor and pungency.

Oil Distillation

To produce essential oil from ginger, the crude ginger flake made from root dried in the sun for one week is ground into powder. The powder is then placed in one of two stills, each with a capacity of 1322 lb. The yield is typically 1.6%, so 22 lb of oil is produced from a 1,322 lb charge. Distillation time varies, but can be as long as 24 hours to ensure the key high boiling components are produced. Steam distillation is used with the steam generated by a coal-fired boiler using a serpentine cold water condenser. Processing of ginger root occurs for 10 months of the year.