New Ginger species with medicinal properties found in Andamans

The fresh extract of tuberous roots is used to treat abdominal pain by tribals

January 08, 2017 10:27 pm | Updated 10:27 pm IST - Kolkata:

Tuberous Root of Zingiber pseudosquarrosum

Tuberous Root of Zingiber pseudosquarrosum

Scientists of the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) have found a new species of Zingiber (commonly referred as Ginger) from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The species Zingiber pseudosquarrosum, new to science, belonging to genus Zingiber, was already used by the local Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups ( PVTGs) of the Andamans for its medicinal values.

During an expedition to north and middle Andaman, one of local guides, who was a Nicobarese, shared his traditional knowledge about this species, which was so far hidden from science.

After collecting and systematically analysing the species, scientists found that the new species indeed possesses ethno-medicinal uses.

“The fresh extract [juice] of fleshy tuberous roots is used to treat abdominal pain and anti-helminthic troubles by Nicobarese and certain other tribal communities,” Lal Ji Singh, taxonomist and one of the scientists behind the discovery, told The Hindu .

“This pseudo stem of the new species is predominantly red in colour. Flowers have a vermilion tinge and dehisced fruit [fully mature fruits] are lotus shaped. Inflorescence buds are urceolate in shape. The species has got tuberous root,” Mr. Singh said. The morphological features of this species makes it distinct from other species belonging to the genus Zingiber.

Scientific paper

A scientific paper providing details of the new species, authored by Mr. Singh and BSI director Paramjit Singh ,was recently published in international botanical journal Nordic Journal of Botany .

Like other species of Gingers, this new species is edible and can be propagated vegetatively from the rhizome. The planted rhizomes were successfully vegetavively propagated at the BSI garden at Port Blair after transplantation.

Species belonging to genera Zingiber are monocotyledonous flowering plants whose rhizomes are widely used as a spice or a traditional medicine.

Commonly used species of Zingiber (Zingiber officinale) known for its aromatic smell is cultivated widely across India.

141 species

As per scientific information available, there are 141 species of genus Zingiber are distributed throughout tropical Asia, including China, Japan and tropical Australia. Of these, 20 are reported from India, which include seven (latest being Zingiber pseudosquarrosum) from Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Most of the species of these Gingers are endemic to India.

The tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have interesting usage of other species of Zingibers. For instance, Shompen and Nicobari tribes use various plant parts of another species of Zingiber (Hornstedia fenzlii ) as bee repellent and, tranquiliser. Rhizome extracts and leaf pest are applied on body during extracting honey from honeycomb.

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