The culinary ginger plant, known scientifically as Zingiber officinale, has a thick underground stem called the rhizome, with a pale yellow interior that has a lemon-like, spicy scent. Extending from this underground stem are shoots that reach up to 1.2 meters in height and have leaf blades hanging off of them. The plant also features shorter stems, which have pale yellow and purple flowering heads attached to them. Ginger commonly grows in Latin America, southeast Asia, Australia and Jamaica.
The ginger plant thrives best in humid, somewhat shaded environments when cultivated. Its likely origin is in the tropical lowland forests, where it was a component of the ground flora. The plant has a strong taste and smell due to the presence of the phenolic compounds gingeridione, gingerol and shogaol in its chemical composition.
One of the most known uses of the ginger plant is for culinary purposes, both in its raw form and as a spice. Many Asian dishes include raw ginger rhizomes. Crystallized ginger, which consists of preserved ginger plant coated in sugar, is a traditional food during the winter holiday season.
The plant's oil serves as flavoring in ginger ale soda and ginger beer. The oil is also an ingredient in some cosmetic products, medications and perfumes. Medicinally, there is evidence it helps alleviate nausea and vomiting.