Crepe Ginger (Cheilocostus speciosus) has recently been recommended as a possible remedy for diabetes, the leaves, seeds and creeping rhizomes being used to lower blood sugar levels, because they contain diosgenin; this also affects the production of oestrogen and has been used to manufacture contraceptive pills. In China the young shoots and rhizomes are eaten as vegetables. In traditional Indian medicine crepe ginger has a large number of uses, mainly associated with its diuretic, anti-fungal and anti-septic effects; it is also used against intestinal worms.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the East India Company controlled much of the Indian subcontinent. Keen to exploit and export valuable natural commodities, the Company set out to record the flora of India and commissioned Indian artists to create detailed botanical illustrations. Many of the plants were known through their use in Ayurvedic medicine. One of the world’s oldest medicinal systems, it has been practised in India for 3,000 years.
Company School style paintings became popular with wealthy Europeans. It was not uncommon for East India Company officials (who were not employed as medics or botanists) to build their own personal collections of paintings depicting Indian flora and fauna. We cannot be sure how local amateur botanist Richard Cresswell came by this collection of 86 Company School works. It is possible Henry Creighton commissioned them during his time as a judge in Calcutta and that on his death the works came back to the UK with his granddaughter Frances who later married Richard Cresswell.