In the 12th century, the physician Moses Maimonides first prescribed chicken soup as a cold and asthma remedy. People have experienced the same tried-and-true results over the centuries, but the true therapeutic properties of chicken soup, however, have not been studied until recently. Just as your grandmother may have told you, chicken soup does help relieve the symptoms of colds and flu. Good news for vegetarians: The vegetables in the soup have some of the same qualities as the chicken.
Dr. Stephen Rennard, a chest specialist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, tested various chicken soups, from a traditional, home-made soup to a number of commercial varieties. Rennard found that chicken soup had anti-inflammatory properties that acted to stop sore throats. He found that the soup helped stop the movement of neutrophils (white blood cells that encourage the flow of mucus). As a result, chicken soup has been found to relieve patients who suffer from the flu. Irwin Ziment, M. D., a pulmonary specialist and professor at the University of California at Los Angeles’s School for Medicine, found that chicken soup contains drug-like agents similar to those in modern cold medicines. For example, an amino acid released from chicken during cooking chemically resembles the drug acetylcysteine, prescribed for bronchitis and other respiratory problems. Spices that are often added to chicken soup, such as garlic and
pepper (all ancient treatments for respiratory diseases), work the same way as modern cough medicines, thinning mucus and making breathing easier.
Other researchers believe that it is not the soup but the steam it gives off that holds the real benefit. Sipping hot soup and breathing in the steam helps clear up congestion. Others say that hot water is not as helpful as chicken soup, although it may be soothing to our throats, especially if you add honey and lemon.