Chicken soup is a broth made from chicken and water along with various spices and additional ingredients such as vegetables, pasta, and noodles. Chicken soup is used as a comfort food when someone is suffering from the common cold. Common cold is an infection of the upper respiratory tract. The symptoms are characterised by increased mucous secretion, runny nose, cough and throat pain. It is the most frequently occurring viral infection in humans and the symptoms may last for seven to ten days. There is no cure for common cold, though the consumption of chicken soup has long been used as a traditional remedy for common cold. Chicken soup can help soothe the respiratory tract, is said to have an anti-inflammatory effect, and also helps in relieving congestion.
In a research published in Chest that studied the effects of drinking hot water, cold water, and chicken soup on nasal mucous velocity and nasal airflow resistance. It was found that hot chicken soup was most effective in improving the mucous movement and can help in the management of upper respiratory tract infection. Another article in Chest in 2000, suggested that chicken soup contains substances that have beneficial medicinal properties and mild anti-inflammatory effect, which might help in the management of upper respiratory tract infections. Several varieties of soup were tested, but chicken noodle soup seemed to be quite effective in comparison to other soup varieties.
Chicken soup also helps to reduce the amount of virus that is in contact with the nasal lining along with relieving congestion. It also helps to prevent dehydration. Chicken being a protein-rich source contains the amino acid cysteine that is similar to the drugs used for the cure of bronchitis, which is required to fight infections. This helps in clearing the mucous and also in managing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A research study in the British Journal of Nutrition studied the effects of essential amino acids (such as cysteine) on the immune system of experimental broiler chickens and confirmed that dietary cysteine has a positive impact on the immune responses along with having an anti-inflammatory effect.
In addition to chicken, the soup may also contain vegetables which have their own antioxidant and disease-fighting properties and the combination of these ingredients make chicken soup a healthy food. The noodles help in adding carbohydrates and some amount of calories to the soup, which is beneficial as normally one’s appetite gets suppressed during infection and leads to lesser energy and nutrients intake.
Chicken soup does not cure the common cold, but can considerably reduce symptoms and provide a measure of comfort. The use of chicken soup as folk medicine can be justified due to its potential medicinal properties. Steaming also a commonly used method which soothes common cold symptoms and
A bowl of hot chicken noodle soup provides natural steam (that can soothe symptoms) along with a pungent aroma that provides some relief to people with common cold. More research needs to be done on the curative effects of chicken noodle soup; however, there are no risks or side effects as it is nearly a natural food. J. Owen Hendley, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville and infectious disease specialist says "If chicken soup makes you feel better, use it".