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Adding ginger to asthma drugs may improve efficacy, say researchers

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Spicing up asthma medications with ginger may make them more effective, a study has shown.

Scientists found that components of the peppery root interacted with medicines called beta-agonists which relax the airways.

Adding the ginger compounds to the drugs increased the relaxation of airway smooth muscle (ASM) tissue samples in laboratory tests.

“These compounds may provide additional relief of asthma symptoms when used in combination with beta-agonists,” said lead researcher Dr Elizabeth Townsend, from Columbia University in the US.

“By understanding the mechanisms by which these ginger compounds affect the airway, we can explore the use of these therapeutics in alleviating asthma symptoms.”

Ashma attacks occur when the bronchial tubes that carry air into and out of the lungs tighten up and constrict.

By relaxing the airway muscles, beta-agonists help to open up the airways allowing the sufferer to breathe.

The scientists first took human ASM tissue samples and caused them to contract by exposing them to the nerve signalling chemical acetylcholine.

They then treated the samples with the beta-agonist isoproterenol mixed with three separate components of ginger - 6-gingerol, 8-gingerol or 6-shogaol.

Of the three, 6-shogaol seemed the most effective in increasing the relaxing effect of the beta-agonist.

Further tests showed that all three ginger compounds suppressed an enzyme linked to asthma symptoms. In addition, 6-shogaol dissolved protein filaments known to play a role in constricting bronchial tubes.

The findings were presented at the American Thoracic Society 2013 conference in Philadelphia.

“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 Dr Townsend. “In our study, we demonstrated that purified components of ginger can work synergistically with beta-agonists to relax ASM.”

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