Eating chicken soup is helpful in treating the common cold … true

As I sit down to write this chapter I am looking out the window at 10 inches of fresh snow that was carried in by a fairly severe winter storm last night.  Over the past day or so I’ve been exhibiting the signs and symptoms (e.g., some mild coughing, scratchy throat, sniffles, a bit of nasal congestion) that would indicated I’m coming down with a cold.  Impeccable timing, seeing how I’ve just finished researching whether or not chicken soup is helpful in treating the common cold.   It is often reported that as early as the 12th century, a physician named Moses Maimonides prescribed chicken soup for individuals suffering from asthma and upper respiratory tract ailments.  Since that time, many grandmothers have continued to tout the healing powers of chicken soup.  It is such a common occurrence in the Jewish tradition that chicken soup is sometimes referred to as Jewish Penicillin.  Surprisingly, a fair number of research studies have been conducted on chicken soup.  In fact, these studies include examining the possible healing effects of chicken soup on pneumonia, back pain, facial pain, and even impotence (we’ll save the results of these studies for another chapter).  Research does show that chicken soup is beneficial for treating colds.  It might be the warmth and steam that makes breathing easier and helps with congestion, it might be the fluid or ingredients like pepper, garlic, or vegetables added to the soup.  There may even be a strong placebo effect.  One study (Rennard et. al., 2000) showed that chicken soup inhibited neutrophil migration.  The authors of this research concluded that chicken soup could have an anti-inflammatory effect and contain a number of substances with beneficial medicinal activity.


Rennard B, Ertl R, Gossman G, Robbins R, Rennard S: Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in Vitro. Chest (2000), Vol. 118, pps. 1150-1157.

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