Ginger may do more than taste delicious and calm the stomach -- a new study shows it could also have benefits for people with asthma.
The research, presented at a meeting of the American Thoracic Society, shows that ginger could enhance the effects of asthma medications called beta-agonists.
"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," study researcher Elizabeth Townsend, Ph.D., a post-doctoral research fellow in the Columbia University Department of Anesthesiology, said in a statement. "In our study, we demonstrated that purified components of ginger can work synergistically with beta-agonists to relax [airway smooth muscle]."
Researchers conducted their work in a lab setting, exposing human samples of airway smooth muscle tissue to a compound that would cause bronchoconstriction (when the bronchial tubes are constricted, stopping air flow and making breathing difficult). Then, they mixed three different components with ginger with beta-agonist isoproterenol and tested their effects on the tissue, as well as the effect of just beta-agonist isoproterenol on the tissue.
They found that when the drug was mixed with the ginger component, the bronchodilating effects were even greater.
Because the research has yet to be published in a peer reviewed journal, the results should be considered preliminary. But still, researchers write in the study abstract that "these compounds may provide additional relief of asthma symptoms when used in combination with beta-agonists and highlight novel use of phytotherapeutics in the treatment of obstructive lung disease."