Smoking is  a terrible habit. One of the long term results is COPD, a chronic lung condition in which inflammation and loss of working lung tissue leads to chronic air hunger. At times, bronchi or the airways which  traverse the lungs, can become constricted leading to wheezing, more shortness of breath and at times to inability to maintain adequate breathing. Traditionally, medications such as Albuterol and similar agents have been used to help the bronchi and bronchioles (smaller versions of bronchi) dilate and thus counteract the narrowing or constriction.  Other agents such as oral or inhaled steroids and antiinflammatories work long term to prevent attacks.

Recently, a fascinating study showed that at least in rodents (which are mammals and thus share many basic body functions with humans) certain bitter substances applied to the tongue work in COPD. How? These substances trigger a relaxation of the bronchioles and even better, are up to 300% more powerful than Albuterol and similar substances. Side effects to date have been only minor.

What I find fascinating is how these scientists came upon the idea of using bitter substances to help emphysema sufferers. Let’s get real here: How many would sense a connection say between horseradish and better breathing? Most of us would come to the opposite conclusion: That is bitterness would likely trigger inflammation and thus cause worsening of the air hunger.

Now before you start coating your tongue with bitter herbs and the like, you should understand that these researchers used purified substances and not all worked. Furthermore, while some could truthfully argue that at least for politicians rodents do have an uncanny similarity, for the rest of us humans there are many differences. These differences could mean that in humans no effect or even worse bad side effects could occur.  Human studies, I am sure are in the works. Until then, hold your horses, if you smoke stop and if you have COPD take all medications as directed by your doctor.