Ginger root or actually the rhizome, of the plant Zingiber officinale -- has been a popular spice and herbal medicine for thousands of years. It has a long history of being used as medicine in Asian, Indian, and Arabic herbal traditions. In China, for example, ginger has been used to help digestion and treat stomach upset, diarrhea, and nausea for more than 2,000 years. Ginger has also been used to help treat arthritis, colic, diarrhea, and heart conditions. It has been used to help treat the common cold, flu-like symptoms, headaches, and painful menstrual periods.