Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Advocates of homeopathic remedies have been touting the benefits of ginger for years and a new study presented at the“¯American Thoracic Society´s 2013 International Conference in Philadelphia this week suggests that the spicy, pungent root could help asthma sufferers breathe easier.
Bronchodilating asthma medications called beta-agonists (β-agonists) work by relaxing the smooth muscle (ASM) tissue in the airway. In the study, researchers looked at components of ginger to see if they could enhance the relaxing effects of these medications.
“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 author Elizabeth Townsend, post-doctoral researcher in the Columbia University Department of Anesthesiology. “In our study, we demonstrated that purified components of ginger can work synergistically with β-agonists to relax ASM.”
In the study, the researchers took ASM samples and caused the tissues to constrict by exposing them to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. The team then combined the β-agonist isoproterenol with three separate ginger extracts: 6-gingerol, 8-gingerol or 6-shogaol. The contracted tissue samples were then exposed to the three different ginger treatment blends as well as pure isoproterenol.
The researchers discovered that tissues exposed to the combination of purified ginger extracts and isoproterenol exhibited a significantly greater relaxation response than those treated with just isoproterenol. In particular, the 6-shogaol mixture appeared to be the most effective.
After confirming the effects of the ginger extracts, the researchers looked into the mechanism behind the additive effect by focusing on a lung enzyme called phosphodiesterase4D (PDE4D), as previous research has shown that the chemical compound can inhibit the relaxation of ASM tissues. Using a method called fluorescent polarization, the Columbia team found that all three extracts markedly inhibited PDE4D.
The researchers also looked at F-actin filaments, a protein structure that plays a role in the constriction of ASM. They found that the 6-shogaol extract was particularly effective in dissolving these filaments.
“Taken together, these data show that ginger constituents 6-gingerol, 8-gingerol and 6-shogaol act synergistically with the β-agonist in relaxing ASM, indicating that these compounds may provide additional relief of asthma symptoms when used in combination with β-agonists,” 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.”
The study´s authors said they hope future studies will allow for a better understanding of the mechanisms that enhance the progress of ASM relaxation and to see if the aerosol delivery of these purified compounds can have therapeutic benefits for those suffering from bronchoconstrictive diseases.
The development of extracts into an effective medication would be a significant step forward in treating the millions of asthma patients worldwide. In the United States alone, about 25 million people, or 8 percent of the total population, suffer from the disease, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
Another study being presented at this week´s American Thoracic Society conference has found a connection between asthma and sleep apnea.