Chicken Soup Does Soothe a Cold
A cure for the common cold may still be
out of reach, but temporary relief could be right in your kitchen
Chicken soup apparently does more
than work wonders on the soul. Some doctors and researchers -- not
to mention grandma -- say chicken soup actually helps reduce the
inflammation and mucus production so characteristic of a cold.
They think it may help flu sufferers,
"Does it cure you? No. But it makes
you feel a lot better, and that's the bottom line," says Dr. Jordan
S. Josephson, an otolaryngologist and sinus specialist at Lenox
Hill Hospital in New York City. "As anyone who's ever had the flu
will tell you, you sit there praying to God [for] anything that
will make you feel a little bit better."
This winter, that message may pique
the interest of more people as the "flu season" has gotten an early
start, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC). For the past two decades, CDC data show, February has been
the peak month for flu cases, but outbreaks began this year in October.
And with 36 states reporting flu
activity, CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding on Dec. 19 formally
declared this year's outbreak an "epidemic."
The flu -- which actually is a contagious,
respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses -- strikes the nose,
throat and lungs just like the common cold. However, medical experts
say it comes on more quickly and severely, usually accompanied by
more intense aches, fever and tiredness. Both ailments feature coughing,
nasal congestion and sore throat.
And that's where chicken soup can
help, Josephson says.
"Colds and the flu naturally make
you produce mucus," he says, "but research showed that chicken soup
inhibits the mucus production."
"That means my nose will be less
stuffy, my throat won't be as sore, I won't be coughing as much,
I won't be as congested and I will feel better," Josephson says.
Indeed, a doctor at the University
of Nebraska Medical Center tested his wife's grandmother's chicken
soup recipe in his laboratory, finding it did have medicinal value
because it limited the movement of neutrophils, the white cells
in the blood that fight infection. Neutrophils actually remove bacteria
from the body, but in the process they stimulate the production
of mucus -- one of the irritating symptoms of colds and the flu.
The Nebraska study, published in
the October 2000 issue of Chest, did not clarify what in
the soup produced the health benefit. But it suggested the ingredients
-- which included chicken, onions, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips,
carrots, celery, parsley, salt and pepper -- somehow worked together
to create a beneficial brew.
Josephson speculates it's a combination
of things, from the vitamins and minerals in the ingredients to
the heat of the soup -- although the study found hot water didn't
produce the same results, he says. Even the soup's fat content,
which "has a soothing effect on the throat," could play a role,
And, of course, soup is a liquid,
and medical experts always recommend fluids for cold and flu sufferers
to stave off dehydration.
"The take-home message when you have
a cold or the flu is to bundle up, stay warm and drink plenty of
fluids, and chicken soup is a real good one," Josephson says. "It
tastes good and it hydrates you."
Jay Parker, who owns Ben's Best Kosher
Deli in the Rego Park area of New York City, calls it the "Jewish
It's what you always take people
who are sick, he explains.
His deli offers a "get-well flu basket"
-- two quarts of chicken soup, with four matzo balls on the side,
a mug to drink it from and a box of tissues, all in a basket. "We've
been doing it for years," he says, "but this year the need is just
a little bit greater."
It's fun, Parker says, and of course
there's the nutritional value. But chicken soup has something more
to offer as well, he says, touting a psychological connection that
makes it a true comfort food.
"When mom gave you chicken soup,
she felt like she was helping you," Parker says. "You felt the love
that came through the soup."
For more information on holding your
own against colds and the flu, take a look at information from FDA
Consumer magazine. Or, for a chart to help you decide just what
ailment you have, visit the American
Academy of Family Physicians.
Reference Source 101