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(Ginger family)


700 species in 45 genera native to tropical regions especially Indo-Malaysia are perennial aromatic herbaceous plants with fleshy or tuberous roots. The seeds and oil of Aframomum melegueta K.Schum. (Guinea grains; grains of paradise) are used in flavouring (Furia & Bellanca 1971) and as a condiment. The ripe fruits of Elettaria cardamomum are known as cardamums and the seeds provide a spice and perfume known to the Ancient World.

The tubers of Curcuma angustifolia Roxb. provide East Indian or Bombay arrowroot. The roots of zedoary (Curcuma zedoaria Roscoe) are the source of zedoary root oil, a fragrance raw material.

[Summary yet to be added]

Alpinia galanga Willd.
[syns Languas galanga Stuntz, Maranta galanga L.]

Contact sensitivity to Laos which is made from the root was observed in a cook who had hand dermatitis (Neering and van Ketel 1974). This material is frequently used in Indonesian cooking to prepare "sateh" (roasted meat on sticks prepared with a special sauce). Positive patch tests in this case were also found with Rhizoma Galanga, Djahe (ginger) Rhizoma Zingiberis, as well with balsam of Peru.

Alpinia officinarum Hance
[syn. Languas officinarum Farwell]
Chinese Ginger, Lesser Galangal, Small Galangal

The root of this plant provides galanga root (Budavari 1996). A druggist who accidentally splashed a preparation of galanga root into his eyes developed keratitis and iritis (Hartmann 1955).

Amomum villosum Lour. var. xanthioides T.L.Wu & S.J.Chen
[syns Amomum xanthioides Wall.]
Bastard Siamese Cardamom, Wild Siamese Cardamom

The plant was observed to have irritant effects (Tsirch 1913). According to Burkill (1935) the species described may have been Amomum krervanh Pierre ex Gagnep.

Curcuma longa L.
[syns Amomum curcuma Jacq., Curcuma domestica Valeton]

The dried ground rhizomes provide the spice known as turmeric, which gives a yellow colour to pickles and curry. The pungent taste and yellow colour of turmeric are attributed to curcumin which is chemically related to zingerone (Zingiber). Turmeric is harmless as a hair-dye (Greenberg and Lester 1954) but is said to have caused dermatitis when used as a fur dye (Schwartz et al. 1957). The aromatic oil derived from the rootstock is irritant to the mucous membranes and intact skin (Behl et al. 1966).

Elettaria cardamomum Maton
[syns Alpinia cardamomum Roxb., Amomum cardamomum L., Matonia cardamomum Stephan & Church]
Cardamom, Ceylon Cardamon, Malabar Cardamon, Cardamomier, Cardamompflanze

The plant is cultivated in the mountains of Ceylon and southern India. The ripe fruits are picked and dried; the seeds form a strongly flavoured spice, mainly used in India.

Contact sensitivity to cardamom and to certain terpenoid compounds present in the dried seeds was reported by Mobacken and Fregert (1975).

No evidence has been presented of irritation from Oil of Cardamom in perfumes (Greenberg and Lester 1954).

[Further information available but not yet included in database]

Kaempferia galanga L.
Aromatic Ginger, Lesser Galangal, Resurrection Lily, Sand Ginger

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Zingiber amaricans Blume

In the traditional medicine of south-eastern Asia, the rhizome is used externally as a rubefacient and irritant (Burkill 1935).

Zingiber mioga Roscoe
[syns Amomum mioga Thunb., Zingiber echuanense Y.K.Yang, Zingiber oligophyllum K.Schum.]
Japanese Ginger, Myoga Ginger

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Zingiber officinale Roscoe
[syns Amomum angustifolium Salisb., Amomum zingiber L.]

The rhizomes provide ginger which can cause dermatitis in workers who prepare it (Behl et al. 1966), and in pharmacists (Schwartz et al. 1957). When applied to a wound, the rhizome is irritant (Burkill 1935). The dust can cause mechanical irritation (Greenberg and Lester 1954). Oil of Ginger is irritant (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962) and allergenic (Zundel and Jentsch 1939, Greenberg and Lester 1954). Hjorth (1961) observed that 7 of 20 patients contact sensitive to balsam of Peru showed positive patch test reactions to ginger resinoid, a material stated to be similar to oleoresin of ginger.

Low level phototoxic effects reported for ginger oil are not considered significant (Opdyke 1974).

Zingiber zerumbet (L.) Roscoe ex Sm.
[syn. Amomum zerumbet L.]
Bitter Ginger, Martinique Ginger, Shampoo Ginger, Wild Ginger, Zerumbet Ginger

[Information available but not yet included in database]


  • Behl PN, Captain RM, Bedi BMS, Gupta S (1966) Skin-Irritant and Sensitizing Plants Found in India. New Delhi: PN Behl [WorldCat]
  • Budavari S (Ed.) (1996) The Merck Index. An Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs, and Biologicals. 12th edn. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck & Co., Inc.
  • Burkill IH (1935) A Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula, Vols 1 & 2. London: Crown Agents [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Furia TE and Bellanca N (Eds) (1971) Fenaroli's Handbook of Flavor Ingredients. Cleveland, Ohio: Chemical Rubber Co.
  • Greenberg, L.A. and Lester, D. (1954) Handbook of Cosmetic Materials. New York. Interscience Publishers Inc.
  • Hartmann K (1955) Über Hornhautschädigung durch Rhizoma Galangae. [Corneal injury due to Rhizoma Galangae]. Klinische Monatsblätter für Augenheilkunde und für Augenärtzliche Fortbildung 127(Jul): 97-99
  • Hjorth N (1961) Eczematous Allergy to Balsams, Allied Perfumes and Favouring Agents. With special reference to balsam of Peru. Copenhagen: Munksgaard [WorldCat] [url]
  • Mobacken, H. and Fregert, S. (1975) Allergic contact dermatitis from cardamom. Contact Dermatitis 1: 175.
  • Neering, H. and van Ketel, W.G. (1974) Allergy from some spices used in Indonesian cooking. Symposium on Contact Dermatitis. Gentofte, Denmark. Oct. 26, 27.
  • Opdyke, D. (1974) Monographs on fragrance raw materials. Fd. Cosmet. Toxicol. 12: 807.
  • Schwartz L, Tulipan L, Birmingham DJ (1957) Irritant plants and woods. In: Occupational Diseases of the Skin. 3rd edn, pp. 636-672. London: Henry Kimpton [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Tsirch (1913) Handb. d. Pharmakogn. 2: 1086. Cited by Burkill (1935).
  • Watt JM, Breyer-Brandwijk MG (1962) The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa. Being an account of their medicinal and other uses, chemical composition, pharmacological effects and toxicology in man and animal, 2nd edn. Edinburgh: E & S Livingstone [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Zundel, W. and Jentsch, M. (1939) Die allergischen Vorgange beim Backerekzem und ihre Deutung. Arch. Derm. Syph. (Berlin) 178: 469.
  • [ + 3 further references not yet included in database]

Richard J. Schmidt

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