Researchers in the USA have found that our lungs carry receptors for bitter taste, a discovery that could transform the way asthma is treated.
Experiments found that when these receptors were stimulated with bitter substances, airway obstruction decreased.
"They all opened the airway more extensively than any known drug that we have for treatment of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease," study co-author Stephen Liggett told the ABC.
The receptors are the same as those on the tongue, which are clustered as tastebuds.
The researchers had expected bitter substances to constrict airways instead of opening them, and were surprised by the findings.
However, just eating bitter foods will not help the treatment of asthma, according to researchers.
"Based on our research, we think that the best drugs would be chemical modifications of bitter compounds, which would be aerosolised and then inhaled into the lungs with an inhaler," Mr Liggett said.
Compounds such as quinine and chloroquine were used in the experiments on both human and mouse lung tissue, as well as mice with asthma.
The research was conducted at the University of Maryland and reported in the Nature Medicine journal.