How Ginger Helps Improve Asthma Symptoms

ginger root and powdered ginger
Fresh and Powdered Ginger. Maximilian Stock Ltd./Photolibrary/Getty Images

Herbal remedies are among the most common complementary and alternative treatments for asthma today and the relationship between ginger and asthma is no exception.

I am sometimes faced with patients asking if they can use ginger as an asthma treatment. With as many as 40% of asthmatics using something other than what their doctor prescribes for their asthma, it is important for you to get as much information as possible.

How Does It Work?

The exact pathophysiology or mechanism is not exactly known but may lessen allergic responses by decreasing IgE levels, or through anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Further, ginger may have direct activity on smooth airway muscles as studies have demonstrated ginger, in both human and animal models, to have broncho relaxation properties. Finally, ginger has also been shown in animal models to protect against hyper-responsive airways in a methacholine challenge.

Clinical Trials With Ginger Treating Asthma

Few clinical studies have been performed for the treatment of asthma in actual asthma patients. In one study that examined muscle soreness in healthy female martial art athletes, 3 grams of ginger daily for 6 weeks decreases muscles soreness without decreasing blood markers of inflammation.

Ginger has also been used to treat or prevent motion sickness in randomized controlled trials. While the mechanism is uncertain for this condition, it is thought to either be due to its impact on gastric motility or a central effect on serotonin receptors.

Is It Safe?

Ginger is safe and without significant side effects when taken in small doses. The most common reported side effects are gas, bloating, GERD, and nausea (interesting as it is also used as a treatment of pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting).

Combining Ginger and Asthma as Part of My Treatment Plan

Right now I would say no. If you decide this is something you want to do make sure you speak with your doctor.

No clinical trials have been designed to look at whether or not ginger might be a good adjunctive treatment. Just because we see basic science studies that appear to have a benefit, it does not mean we will see a benefit in clinical studies. Additionally, there could be side effects or interactions with medications that we do not yet know about.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is currently funding studies on the safety and effectiveness of ginger as a health treatment and specifically looking at how its active components impact inflammation.

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