You’ve probably heard it proclaimed since childhood that chicken soup is good medicine.
Whether it was your mother, grandmother, or a Campbell’s soup commercial handing out the advice, a steaming bowl of chicken soup has been touted as the cure for just about every ailment, from the common cold to a nasty scrape on the knee.
But is chicken soup, in and of itself, really a “medicine” of sorts? Does it actually possess healing capabilities, or is its magic all in our heads?
Around the 12th century trusted healers started to prescribe “the broth of fowl” for their ill patients. It was during that time that Egyptian Jewish physician and philosopher, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimonides, started to write extensively about the benefits of chicken soup.
The ancient healer wrote, “The meat taken should be that of hens or roosters and their broth should also be taken because this sort of fowl has virtue in rectifying corrupted humours.” Hence the term “jewish-penicillin.”
Maimonides used his ‘fowl brew’ to treat such things like hemorrhoids, constipation, and even leprosy. He strongly believed and especially praised the brew’s healing power for respiratory illnesses like the common cold.
Since then, many researchers and scientists have pondered the question of whether or not chicken soup has any real health benefits to patients suffering from a cold. Some have even done experiments to see if there is such proof.
Dr. Stephen Rennard, MD at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, thought his family’s chicken soup really did work, but as a scientist, he wanted proof.
“One day we were discussing chicken soup,” Rennard explains. “My wife says that grandma says this is good for colds, and I said maybe it has some anti-inflammatory action.”
Rennard tested his theory and added his wife’s home made chicken soup to white blood cells, called neutrophils. To his surprise, the soup did slow the neutrophils. In fact, he claims that chemicals in the broth could clear a stuffy nose by inhibiting inflammation of the cells in the nasal passages.
Since Dr. Rennard’s findings in the early 1990’s, several studies have since agreed with his results, and show chicken soup as a “relief” for the common cold, not a “cure.”
All research agrees that the soup helps break up congestion and eases the flow of nasal secretions. In addition, many say it also inhibits the white blood cells that trigger the inflammatory response (causing sore throats and the production of phlegm.)
When you are feeling under the weather, it seems that everything hot helps to make you feel better. However, the good thing about chicken soup is that – properly prepared such as the recipes below – it is loaded with valuable nutrients. This includes:
Chicken: Chicken contains an amino acid called cysteine, a substance released when you make the soup. This amino acid is similar to the drug acetylcysteine, which is prescribed by doctors to patients with bronchitis. It thins the mucus in the lungs, making it easier to cough out. And hot chicken vapors have been proven more effective than hot water vapors in clearing out the cold in your nose.
Carrots: Carrots, one of the routine vegetable ingredients found in chicken soup, are the best natural source of beta-carotene. The body takes that beta-carotene and converts it to vitamin A. Vitamin A helps prevent and fight off infections by enhancing the actions of white blood cells that destroy harmful bacteria and viruses.
Onions: Onions, another chicken soup regular, contains quercetin, a powerful anti-oxidant that is also a natural anti-histamine, and anti-inflammatory.