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The Chicken Soup Remedy

Mom was right! Chicken soup really is good for you, and just in case you thought this idea is merely an old wives’ tale or the placebo effect, science is now proving it.

Just as yoga has been practiced for thousands of years but has only recently begun to be scientifically studied to discover the how, what, and why of its benefits, so it goes with chicken soup. Isn’t it great that lots of things that we know from generations of experience are good for us are finally being taken seriously by the medical community as having real, measurable benefits?

According to recent research, a compound called camosine aids the body’s immune system fight the early stages of the flu. Blood samples also demonstrate that there is something about chicken soup that affects the movement of the common white blood cell type, the neutrophil, which defends against infection–aiding the reduction of upper respiratory cold symptoms. What exact ingredients or combination of them makes this happen? Well, they haven’t quite gotten that far yet, but these are scientifically-verifiable results, and we can be sure they’re delving ever-more deeply into the issue. Just so you know, the tested soup contained chicken, onions, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery, parsley, and salt and pepper.

And now for a deep dive into the science:

What is better understood is that organosulfides  (garlic, onions) in concert with Vitamin D stimulates macrophage immune cells. Vitamin C affects the afore-mentioned neutrophils plus your naturally-occurring interferon. Vitamin A and carotenoids boost antibodies. Your lymphocytes (yet another type of white blood cell) are helped by the Vitamin E and zinc. All these nutrients are in chicken soup and they’re absorbed very easily in a soup setting, which may be more appealing to a person who is under the weather.

Home made food is always better, of course, but commercial soups do have similar effects. If you do make your own soup, don’t skim off all the fat; leave some so that your fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, & K) can be absorbed. And by all means, leave the bones in, as they are rich sources of those fat-soluble nutrients as well as minerals. The longer you cook the bones, the more you get out of them; just be sure to use care when eating, in case there are small pieces.

We all know that ample hydration is crucial for recovery from illness, and any form of liquid is helpful; hot fluids in particular do a good job of clearing airways and easing congestion, and chicken soup certainly does this, plus–and this really interesting–it has the benefit of improving the function of the protective hairlike projections in the nose, helping to prevent contagions from entering the nose. Again, it’s not yet known why chicken soup has an edge over other hot liquids in doing this job, but it does.

Every day we’re learning how much more complex our immune system is than we ever thought possible and how it interacts with the other systems of the body. One thing remains the same, though: generation after generation, century after century, chicken soup is still good for you, and makes you feel better. Don’t you want to make some right now?


My Basic, Unsophisticated Recipe

  • 10 – 12 pieces of chicken, or the equivalent. (I like legs and thighs, as they have large bones that are easy to handle and keep track of, but you use whatever you prefer)
  • About half a bunch of celery, chopped medium
  • One onion (I use yellow), chopped medium
  • Half a carrot or so, shredded
  • A small handful of parley (any variety) chopped small
  • One large blob of chicken bullion paste
  • A teaspoon or so of vegetable bullion paste
  • A clove or two (or more) of fresh garlic (optional)

Fill your favorite stock pot with about 4 quarts of water and heat it on the stove. As the water heats up, gently rinse the chicken pieces and put them in the pot. Chop the vegetables and add them.  Add the bullion at any time. Once the pot is boiling, turn it down a bit. Once the vegetables are in, use a pair of tongs to fish out the chicken pieces a few at a time an place them in a separate dish. Once they are cooled just enough to work with, place one piece on a cutting board and take the meat off the bones using a sharp knife and fork and cut the meat into the size you like, returning all of the parts to the soup as you go. (By the time you get to this step, the chicken will probably have been boiling for a bit, making it easier to work with.) For safety, I remove and throw away those sharp, long bones that are on chicken drumsticks. You may wish to discard some of the skin as well.  After the chicken has cooked thoroughly enough to safely eat, (about 20 minutes of boiling/simmering), remove some of the broth and taste it so that you can adjust the bullion to your preference. Partially cover and allow to simmer as long as you can, adding water if necessary.

DO adjust the ingredients to your taste, and add things that appeal to you. This is just a framework for you to start with, in case you don’t have a favorite family recipe. Like all home-cooked basic foods, every batch is slightly different. Enjoy!


Sources:

Non-hydrolyzed in digestive tract and blood natural L-carnosine peptide (“bioactivated Jewish penicillin”) as a panacea of tomorrow for various flu ailments: signaling activity attenuating nitric oxide (NO) production, cytostasis, and NO-dependent inhibition of influenza virus replication in macrophages in the human body infected with the virulent swine influenza A (H1N1) virus.

Management of the virulent influenza virus infection by oral formulation of nonhydrolized carnosine and isopeptide of carnosine attenuating proinflammatory cytokine-induced nitric oxide production.

Advances in the Diagnosis and Management of Influenza

Effects of drinking hot water, cold water, and chicken soup on nasal mucus velocity and nasal airflow resistance.