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Chicken Soup: Homespun Remedy or Old Wives' Tale?

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Drink chicken soup when you're sick. That's the general concensus, the wisdom passed down by mothers and grandmothers for generations. Some claim it's just an old wives' tale. But is it really or does chicken soup actually have some special healing properties afterall?

I roasted a couple of chicken this past Sunday and had my oldest daughter, her boyfriend and my father join us for supper. It wasn't anything fancy...just roast chicken, carrot, turnip, potato, green peas, dressing and gravy. I decided to make a pot of homemade soup from the leftovers and I began to wonder, is there any validity to the claim that chicken soup is good for the cold, not just the soul?

Chicken soup's reputation goes back thousands of years and is present in one form or another in just about every part of the world, from the'Jewish Penicillin', goldene yoich, to Chinese QiguoJi. The earliest reference to chicken soup's healing powers dates back to the 12th century in a book by author Maimonides entitled, 'On the Cause of Symptoms', in which chicken soup is cited as being a treatment for malnutrition, asthma and even leprosy.

In 1993, Dr. Stephen Rennard, MD, of the University of Nebraska Medical Center did a study on the effects of chicken soup. He found that soup is a veritable smorgasbord of beneficial ingredients that can alleviate common cold and flu symptoms, and even help the body fight off the infection itself. Another study by Mount Sinai researchers in Miami suggests that chicken soup has more than just a placebo effect. They looked at how chicken soup affected the air flow and mucus in the noses of volunteers who drank cold water, hot water and chicken soup. In general, the hot fluids helped the movement of nasal mucous, but chicken soup did a better job than hot water. The chicken soup also improved the function of the protective cilia in the lungs that prevent bacteria and viruses from entering the lungs.

Dr. Irwin Zement, MD, a pulmonary specialist and professor at UCLA has also proven that an amino acid resembling the drug acetylcysteine, which is often prescribed to treat bronchits and other respiratory problems and is found in some over the counter cold medications, is released from chicken during the cooking process of chicken soup.

Further to that, spices such as garlic and pepper work by thinning mucus and making breathing easier and both are ancient treatments for respiratory diseases. Sipping and breathing in the steam from hot soup can also temporarily clear congestion and the soup itself rehydrates.

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With goverment experts and medical professionals now questioning the safety and effectiveness of cold medications for children, the best option for parents during cold and flu season may be home remedies like chicken soup. Personally I think chicken soup works because it's made with love. Delivering homemade chicken soup is a true sign that you care about someone, which just might perk them up more than anything you could buy over the counter at your local pharmacy.

There are many, many, MANY variations for Homemade Chicken Vegetable Soup, with Chicken Noodle Soup probably being the most familiar variation of all. My family aren't particularly fond of noodles in their soup, preferring barley or rice. Which vegetables are used varies as well. Could be carrot, turnip, potato, parsnips, sweet potato, rhutabega, onion, celery, tomatoes, or zucchini. I'm quite certain I've missed more than a few in that list, but the point is, add the vegetables you like and/or add what's in season and available.

Despite the research, many people still believe that the benefits of Chicken Soup are purely psychosomatic, meaning, 'all in your head'. Even were that to be the case, reality is 9/10 perception. Believing you're doing something to make you feel better, having faith that it's doing it's intended job, is bound to have positive effects. At the very least, chicken soup contains lots of healthy nutrients, increases hydration, alleviates nasal congestion, tastes good and feels like a big bowl of motherly hugs! Homemade Chicken Vegetable Soup...easy, healthied-up, inexpensive AND's certainly good for this foodie mama's soul!

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