Adding small amounts of powdered ginger to food may help take the edge off seasonal allergy symptoms, according to an animal study published online in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. Daily intake of dried ginger significantly reduced sneezing and other signs of allergy in rodents with induced allergic rhinitis, or hay fever.

A major component in ginger, 6-gingerol, suppresses the activation of T lymphocytes, or T cells, a type of white blood cell that plays an important role in sensitizing people to specific allergens, the researchers said.

Ginger is a popular spice produced from the root of the ginger plant, Zingiber officinale. Some herbal remedies for nausea and other ailments also contain ginger.

Experiments in Japan involved mice fed a normal diet containing 2 percent powdered ginger or a control diet without ginger. After two weeks on the diets, the ginger-fed mice received two injections of purified egg proteins called ovalbumin (OVA) to stimulate allergic rhinitis symptoms. Control mice received either OVA or placebo injections.

The mice underwent an immune challenge two weeks later in which a small amount of OVA was inserted into the nose. Allergic symptoms, such as sneezing and nasal rubbing, were counted for the next 10 minutes.

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Mice in the ginger-fed group sneezed 2.1 times each, on average. This compares with 15.2 sneezes per mouse in the OVA-injected controls and roughly one sneeze in the placebo-injected animals. Fewer nasal rubbing movements were recorded in the ginger-fed mice compared with OVA-injected controls, but not the placebo group.

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