Common name: setawar halia, Crepe ginger
Botanical name: Costus speciosus
Family: Costaceae / Zingiberaceae
Costus are easily distinguished from other commonly cultivated gingers because the leaves spiral around the main stem like a circular stairway. In fact they are called “spiral gingers”. Sometimes Costus are still listed with other gingers in family Zingiberaceae, but generally they are accepted classified in a separate plant family, Costaceae, along with Dimerocostus, Monocostus and Tapeinochilos. The flowers look like crepe paper – thus the common name of crepe ginger. For best results, this plant should get from 3 to 5 hours of direct sunlight daily, and be grown in fertile, organic, moist but well-drained soil. Monthly applications of a balanced fertilizer during the summer growing season will benefit this plant. Generally crepe ginger is pest free. Crepe ginger grows from thick fleshy roots called “rhizomes”. A single rhizome will produce new shoots and increase to a 3 ft wide clump in the second year under ideal growing conditions. Light: Prefers part sun but will grow in full sun if it gets plenty of moisture. Moisture: Requires regular moisture but not standing water. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 – 12. This is the most cold-hardy of the spiral gingers, and has been tested and proven root hardy down to 0ºF (-17.8ºC). Propagation: Pieces of the rhizome, division of the clumps, or stem cuttings. Costaceae are the only gingers that can be propagated by stem cuttings.
In Malaysia, whole plant boiled for a decoction to bathe patients with high fever & for smallpox. Stem scrapings for leprous skin. Juice of rhizome is purgative. Malays attribute magical properties: drives away spirits causing illness.
The plant has many historical uses in Ayurveda, where the rhizome has been used to treat fever, rash, asthma, bronchitis, and intestinal worms. It is mentioned in the Kama Sutra as an ingredient in a cosmetic to be used on the eyelashes to increase sexual attractiveness.