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Can Chicken Soup Cure the Common Cold?

The life span of a common cold can seem like an eternity. When modern medicine can’t offer up any absolute guarantees to change a cold’s course, a bowl of chicken soup may be just the thing to stop those foul symptoms.
Can Chicken Soup Cure the Common Cold?

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When the sniffles, sneezing, and sore throat set it, it’s a sure sign a dreadful cold is on its way. Unfortunately, nothing can actually cure the common cold (at least not yet). The good news: There is hope to relieve the symptoms and feel better faster— without all the drugs. Instead of a trip to the pharmacy, hit the grocery store for the makings of a good ol’ bowl of chicken soup. Research shows the ingredients in chicken soup may help the body kick a cold by battling congestion and inflammation [1].

Caught by a Cold — Why It Matters

Photo by Danielle Karagannis

The chicken itself contains an amino acid called cysteine, similar to the drug acetyl cysteine, which helps thin mucus in the lungs, making it easier to cough out all that gunk (ew) [2]. Plus, warm chicken soup can help fight inflammation caused when neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) start taking over the bronchial tubes (#occupybroncialtubes), and the soothing heat of the soup might just be the thing to help stop the accumulation of these blood cells [1].

Don’t feel well enough to make chicken soup from scratch? One study found some store-bought soups were even more effective as anti-inflammatories and decongestants than homemade versions. But be sure to check the labels before hitting the checkout line, as store-bought soups can also be loaded with excess sodium and other preservatives [3]. And be aware that soup cans may be lined with BPA (aka bisphenol A), which some studies have linked to cancer, heart disease, and other health problems (though consuming one can isn't likely to cause such conditions) [4] [5].

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner — The Answer/Debate

Chicken soup may put the smack down on the common cold in a lab, but the effects may not be quite as powerful in the human body [1]. Still, it’s nothing to sneeze at— chicken soup is a nutritional dynamo, containing healthy doses of protein and antioxidant-packed veggies. Mounting a solid attack against the cold is quercetin, a powerful antioxidant found in onions and garlic, along with beta-carotene, vitamin A, and potassium from the celery and carrots [6]. The chicken is also a great source of lean protein, and since a cold can cause the appetite to plummet, not getting enough protein may weaken the immune functions even more. Slurping down a cup of soup can be an easy way to get extra calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals, and can even act as mood lifter [7].

At the very least, chicken soup provides hydration, nutrition, and that soul satisfying boost to make us feel better. Ernie the Giant Chicken wins this round.

87% of people treat their colds with a home remedies. What is your favorite tried and true way to treat a cold?

The Takeaway


While eating chicken soup can't necessarily cure the common cold, some elements of it can certainly help ward off a few of the not-so-fun symptoms like congestion and inflammation. 


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Works Cited +

  1. Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro. Rennard, B.O., Ertl, R.F., Gossman, G.L., et al. Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Section, Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE. Chest, 2000 Oct;118(4):1150-7.
  2. Changes in free amino acids in the brain during embryonic development in layer and broiler chickens.  Sato, M., Tomonaga, S., Denbow, D.M., et al. Laboratory of Advanced Animal and Marine Bioresources, Graduate School of Bioresource and Bioenvironmental Sciences, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan. Amino Acids, 2009 Feb;36(2):303-8. Epub 2008 Apr 4.
  3. Synergistic effect and quantification of 5'-ribonucleotides in a chicken soup. Gutiérrezy, C., Sangronis, E. Departamento de Química de Alimentos, Instituto Nacional de Higiene Rafael Rangel, Caracas, Venezuela. Archives of Latin American Nutrition, 2006 Sep;56(3):265-8.
  4. Exposure to the Endocrine Disruptor Bisphenol A Alters Susceptibility for Mammary Cancer. Lamartiniere, C.A., Jenkins, S., Betancourt, A.M., et al. Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama. Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation, 2011 Mar 1;5(2):45-52.
  5. Bisphenol A: an endocrine disruptor with widespread exposure and multiple effects. Rubin, B.S. Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA. Journal of Steroid Biochemical Molecular Biology, 2011 Oct;127(1-2):27-34. Epub 2011 May 13.
  6. Antioxidative compounds from the outer scales of onion. Ly, T.N., Hazama, C., Shimoyamada, M, et al. Department of Applied Life Science, Life Science Research Center, Gifu University Gifu City, Gifu, Japan. Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, 2005 Oct 19;53(21):8183-9.
  7. Chicken soup really is good for the soul: "comfort food" fulfills the need to belong. Troisi, J.D., Gabriel, S. Department of Psychology, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, New York. Psychological Science, 2011 Jun;22(6):747-53. Epub 2011 May 2.