Medical Mysteries

Chicken soup for the cold

Written by Fred Hilton

Feel bad? Not to worry—eat your chicken soup

So, you’re a little under the weather? Got sniffles and a scratchy throat? Feel miserable? Help is on the way. Just have a big bowl of grandma’s tasty chicken soup and you’ll be good as new.
In the world of home cures, there’s no question chicken soup ranks at the top of the list. For thousands of years, chicken soup was touted as a cure for the common cold and lots of other maladies.
Chicken soup’s healing properties are first described in a 12th-century book, “On the Cause of Symptoms,” by Maimonides, a Jewish rabbi who was born in present-day Spain. Maimonides described chicken broth as a treatment for malnutrition, asthma, and even leprosy.
Chicken soup earns its superfood label. A number of scientific studies show that chicken soup has medicinal value.
The guru of chicken soup research is Dr. Stephen Rennard, of the University of Nebraska Medical Center. According to the New York Times, Dr. Rennard “conducted laboratory tests to determine why chicken soup might help colds, beginning with his wife’s homemade recipe, handed down by her Lithuanian grandmother. Using blood samples from volunteers, he proved the soup inhibited the movement of neutrophils, the most common type of white blood cell that defends against infection. Dr. Rennard theorizes that by inhibiting the migration of these infection-fighting cells in the body, chicken soup essentially helps reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms.” He found it is a veritable “soup” of beneficial ingredients that help alleviate common cold and flu symptoms, and even help the body fight the infection itself.
The doctor’s findings were cited in more than 1,200 publications and are backed up by other studies. Dr. Keri Peterson, an internist at Lenox Hill Hospital and Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, says soup opens congested sinuses.
“All liquid broth soups will speed up the movement of mucous in your nose simply because it’s a hot fluid and that causes dilation of blood vessels, which causes increased blood flow and allows the mucous to flush everything out. And that will help alleviate congestion,” she told CBS News.
Don’t worry if you can’t make chicken soup from scratch. Another study says store-bought soups were even more effective as anti-inflammatories and decongestants than homemade versions.
Just don’t tell grandma.

“Can Chicken Soup Cure the Common Cold?” by Kristine Lockwood, Dec. 29, 2011,
“The Science of Chicken Soup,” by Tara Parker-Pope, Oct. 12, 2007, the New York Times.
“Will chicken soup really cure your cold?” by Roxanne Fisher, health editor,
“Chicken soup for colds and flu: Does it really help?” by Ashley Welch, Feb. 22, 2016, CBS News.
“Proof Chicken Soup Really Is a Home Remedy for Colds and Flu,” by Jessica W, Natural Health,

About the author

Fred Hilton

Fred Hilton spent thirty-six years as the chief public relations officer/spokesman for James Madison University in Virginia and ten years prior as a reporter and editor for The Roanoke Times in Roanoke, Virginia. He is now happily retired in The Villages with his interior designer wife, Leta, their Cadillac Escalade golf cart, and their dog, Paris. (Yes, that makes her Paris Hilton).

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