Chicken soup has been known and loved throughout the world and has been with us for a long, long time (since the domestication of fowl around 7 000-10 000 years ago). The possible benefits of chicken soup were reported centuries ago. The Ancient Greeks believed the broth to have healing properties, Egyptian pharaohs included garlic to fight infection, the Chinese added noodles and the Egyptian Jewish physician/philosopher, Moshe ben Maimon (also known as Maimonides), recommended it for respiratory tract symptoms back in the 12th century. It may well be one of the most popular folk medicines, home and natural remedies ever discovered.
Today, grandmas all over the world continue to rely on chicken noodle soup to soothe a cold, but few know exactly why the warm broth brings relief. Modern research shows that there are scientific facts behind the folklore. Research confirms that chicken soup has important anti-inflammatory benefits and by reducing inflammation, it automatically contributes to less severe symptoms. Furthermore, it actually does offer that feeling of “comfort” as chicken is high in tryptophan, which helps the body to produce the mood-enhancer, serotonin.
In the case of the common cold (an upper respiratory infection), specific viruses infect the throat, nose, sinuses and voice box. These are the areas where the viruses multiply and while doing so, alert the immune system. The immune system sends white blood cells to fight the infection – of the first to arrive are neutrophils (a type of white blood cell). Their presence is partly responsible for the extensive inflammation that causes the common cold symptoms (such as copious amount of mucus). Amino acids found in chicken soup inhibits their migration, stop the cells from congregating and facilitates the nose cilia to function properly resulting in less inflammation and less symptoms.
Chicken meat is rich in B vitamins that support nervous system activity and digestion; has iron for muscle energy (adding fresh parsley ups the iron content); and the carrots, celery and onion vegetable stock contain vitamins C and K, as well as antioxidants, minerals, and other healthy nutritional elements to combat disease-causing bacteria. Adding spicy ingredients such as garlic and ginger provide antiviral properties as well. Clear chicken soup’s steamy and rich broth allows you to increase your intake of fluids and stay hydrated. A loss of taste is common in a cold, but the combination of salt, spice and other seasonings can help combat the feeling of dull taste buds. In addition, noodles provide carbohydrates that help you feel full, satisfied and less sluggish.
Even the steam is beneficial as it can open up airways, helps breaking up congestion, making it easier to breathe. The steam’s mild anti-inflammatory effect can help relax muscles and soothe discomfort. All and all chicken soup assists in building a healthy immune system to fight off viruses and helps the body to recover from illness more quickly (no wonder chicken soup is known as “Jewish penicillin”). Chicken soup anyone?
1801 Home Remedies. 2007. Reader’s Digest.
American College of Chest Physicians. “New Study Supports Chicken Soup As A Cold Remedy.” ScienceDaily.