Chicken Soup: Medicine or Myth?

(Editor’s note – this column originally appeared in the Tri County Record in February of 2011)

It seems the flu feels no need to knock when it visits my family. It walks right in and leaves runny noses and funny stomachs behind. This year, it’s visited us repeatedly.

As a child, chicken soup and ginger ale were on the menu whenever I had the flu. And so I faithfully serve these same foods to my little patient years later.

Then I stopped to wonder. Why? Why do I have restorative faith in these foods? So I looked up those who know, and this is what I found.


Sipping the hot broth in chicken noodle soup can clear clogged sinuses, while breathing in the steam rising from your bowl will moisten a dry noise. It also inhibits your body from producing the cells that cause congestion. Drinking hot tea or orange juice can also have the same effect.

Add some garlic or turmeric powder to your chicken soup. They both are powerful antimicrobials that can fight off bacteria and viruses.

If you need a quick fix for a stuffy nose, spice up your food with cayenne powder, horseradish, or wasabi. They can temporarily shrink the vessels in your nose, to relieve congestion.

Fresh and dried ginger is an excellent remedy for nausea. It blocks the release of hormones that cause the crazy stomach contractions associated with vomiting.

When buying ginger ale for this purpose, be sure that the ale contains real ginger, and not simply “ginger flavoring.” One good brand is Canada Dry.

Other excellent nausea blockers include sweet liquids like flat soda or fruit juice. They can give you an energy boost without activating the stomach, because they contain no fiber. Coconut water (not milk) is full of potassium and also an excellent nausea blocker.

Next time you find yourself facing the flu, try this chicken soup recipe. It might be just what the doctor (mom) ordered.

Get Better Chicken Noodle Soup

3-4 chicken breasts

1 lg onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 stalks celery, chopped

½ cup fresh celery leaves, rough chopped

1 tsp turmeric powder

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

4-6 cups chicken broth

8 ozs noodles

Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces. Sauté chicken in olive oil or butter until lightly browned. Remove from the pan. Sauté the onions 2 minutes. Add the celery, garlic, and spices and sauté 2 minutes.

Add the chicken and broth to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Add noodles and cook according to package instructions. Add more broth if you like a thinner soup. Turn off the heat and stir in the celery leaves.

A portion of the information in this column is from the Reader’s Digest book “Food Cures.” Published by The Reader’s Digest Assoc. Copyright 2007.