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How ginger compounds could help treat asthma

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Researchers uncover how asthma could be treated with ginger.

Research finds how ginger could help patients with asthma breathe better. Purified compounds from the zesty plant that has been used for its medicinal properties for years are shown to help the airways relax to improve air exchange, according to the new findings.

Ginger has anti-inflammatory compounds that are widely discussed and well researched. Researchers for the new study hope the finding could mean new treatments now that they know how specific compounds could help asthma sufferers.

The new study shows ginger has specific compounds that inhibit an enzyme called phosphodiesterase4D (PDE4D).

PDE4D is responsible for airway constriction that is a hallmark of asthma that leads to wheezing, chest tightness and inability to breathe well.

For their study, researchers looked at 3 compounds in ginger, using human airway smooth muscle (ASM) tissue samples.

The scientists applied acetylcholine to the samples which causes them constrict.

Then they combined the beta agonist drug isoproterenol that dilates or relaxes ASM with three separate components of ginger: 6-gingerol, 8-gingerol or 6-shogaol, comparing the tissue response to the drug alone.

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The study showed all 3 ginger compounds helped the airway tissue relax better than the tissue exposed to just the drug. The compound that had the greatest effect for relaxing the airway was 6-shogaol. The researchers then turned attention to understanding how the compound worked by inhibiting PDE4D contributes to both inflammation and airway constriction.

The finding that a simple and natural intervention like ginger can enhance the action of asthma drugs is important given high rates of asthma and allergy that are on the rise, especially in the U.S.

Ginger has another surprise for helping asthma

Another discovery from the research was that 6-shogaol in ginger destroys protein structures known as F-actin filaments that also play a role in airway constriction that accompanies asthma.

Elizabeth Townsend, PhD, post-doctoral research fellow in the Columbia University Department of Anesthesiology said in a press release that the compounds in ginger act "synergistically" with β-agonist drug used in the study to airway smooth muscle.

Understanding how the ginger compounds work means improved approaches for alleviating asthma symptoms. It may be possible to deliver ginger in an aerosol to treat not only asthma, but other lung diseases that affect breathing by constricting the airways.

American Thoracic Society (ATS)

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