Ginger — the peppery root long used to give Asian dishes and sushi a little extra kick — has been found to contain compounds that appear to help asthma patients breathe more easily.
New Columbia University research presented this week at an international meeting of the American Thoracic Society in Philadelphia shows purified components of the spicy root have properties that work to ease the tightening of the lungs’ bronchial tubes — a characteristic response in asthma attacks that restricts the flow air into and out of the lungs.
Bronchodilating medications called beta-agonists are among the most common types of asthma medications and work by relaxing the airway smooth muscle (ASM) tissues. The new study found that specific components of ginger enhance the relaxing effects of bronchodilators.
"Asthma has become more prevalent in recent years, but despite an improved understanding of what causes asthma and how it develops, during the past 40 years few new treatment agents have been approved for targeting asthma symptoms," said lead researcher Elizabeth Townsend, a post-doctoral research fellow in the Columbia University Department of Anesthesiology. "In our study, we demonstrated that purified components of ginger can work synergistically with beta-agonists to relax ASM."
For the study, the researchers tested the effects of three separate components of ginger — 6-gingerol, 8-gingerol, or 6-shogaol — on lung tissues also treated with beta-antagonists.
The results showed tissues treated with the combination of purified ginger components and beta-antagonists were significantly more relaxed than those treated only with the medication.
"Taken together, these data show that ginger [compounds] act synergistically with the beta-agonist in relaxing [lung constriction], indicating that these compounds may provide additional relief of asthma symptoms when used in combination with beta-agonists," Dr. Townsend noted. "By understanding the mechanisms by which these ginger compounds affect the airway, we can explore the use of these therapeutics in alleviating asthma symptoms."
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