Chicken soup, other remedies offer comfort

ADRIENNE FREEMAN, Contributing Writer Originally Published January 31, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated January 30, 2013 at 11:59 a.m.
0 Comments A A Font Size

Fresh chicken and nutrient-packed vegetables are the building blocks for all variations of chicken soup, a meal that has healing and soothing properties for those battling a cold or the flu.

With lines long at doctor’s offices and pharmacies during this record-breaking flu season, soothing solutions for runny noses and jagged coughs are available from places other than the medicine cabinet — notably, the kitchen. Folk remedies for illness have been passed down through generations as options for relief from common maladies such as an upset stomach, pain, or cold and flu symptoms.

Ginger is one way to soothe heartburn or an upset stomach, and its soda version, ginger ale, packs a one-two punch. At room temperature, slightly flat ginger ale’s lower carbonation and powerful main ingredient, ginger, ease tummy trouble. Raw ginger root is strong but can be grated and made into a “tea” as an alternate method.

No, it’s not just another excuse to extend bedtime. Children often have problems with mild to moderate muscular pain in the legs, called growing pains, that often manifests in the evening. According to the Mayo Clinic, the old wives’ tale of adding bananas to the diet to alleviate the discomfort can’t be proven or disproven, but the mineral potassium, abundant in bananas, is important to good nutrition and can’t hurt.

Feeling low? Chocolate is full of the amino acid L-tryptophan, which can boost the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that regulates mood. People who suffer from depression often have low serotonin levels. According to Fitness Magazine, just a little chocolate, maybe a few Hershey’s Kisses, is enough to lift your mood without jeopardizing your waistline.

But the granddaddy of home remedies is grandma’s chicken soup. It doesn’t even have to be from your own grandma.

Dr. Stephen Rennard, a pulmonologist at the University of Nebraska, answered his wife’s question about whether chicken soup had any actual medicinal properties.

In his lab, Rennard tested chicken soup made by his wife from her grandmother’s recipe. In his one-time-only study, Rennard found that chicken soup acts as an anti-inflammatory, keeping a check on inflammatory white blood cells (neutrophils). Cold symptoms, such as coughs and congestion, are often caused by inflammation produced when neutrophils migrate to the bronchial tubes and accumulate there. He demonstrated that neutrophils showed less tendency to congregate — but were no less able to fight germs — after he added samples of the soup to the neutrophils.

Any additional spices that are often added to the luxurious broth, such as garlic and pepper, work the same way as modern cough medicines, thinning mucus and making breathing easier. The limited study also showed that these healthful qualities even extend to store-bought soup.

Dr. Stephen Rennard’s Recipe for Grandma’s Soup


1 5- to 6-pound stewing hen or baking


1 package of chicken wings

3 large onions

1 large sweet potato

3 parsnips

2 turnips

11 to 12 large carrots

5 to 6 celery stems

1 bunch of parsley

Salt and pepper to taste


Clean the chicken, put it in a large pot and cover it with cold water. Bring the water to a boil. Add the chicken wings, onions, sweet potato, parsnips, turnips and carrots. Boil about 1.5 hours. Remove fat from the surface as it accumulates. Add the parsley and celery. Cook the mixture about 45 minutes longer. Remove the chicken. The chicken is not used further for the soup. (The meat makes excellent chicken Parmesan.) Put the vegetables in a food processor until they are chopped fine, or pass them through a strainer. (Both were performed in the present study.) Add salt and pepper to taste.

Note: This soup freezes well.

Crockpot Chicken and Rice Soup


1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 (14-ounce) cans ready-to-serve chicken broth

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 carrots, sliced

2 stalks celery, chopped

8-ounce package fresh

mushrooms, sliced thin

1/2 cup long-grain rice

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper


Combine all ingredients in a 4- to 5-quart crockpot. Cover and cook on low heat for 6 to 8 hours until chicken is thoroughly cooked and vegetables and rice are tender.

Mexican Chicken Soup

Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa


4 split chicken breasts, boneless, skinless

3 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)

1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)

2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)

4 large cloves garlic, chopped

2 1/2 quarts chicken stock, homemade or low-sodium boxed

2 cans tomatoes with chiles, (Rotel brand preferred)

1 fresh jalapeno, finely diced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional

Salt and pepper to taste

6 (6-inch) fresh white corn tortillas

For serving:

Sliced avocado

Sour cream

Grated cheddar cheese

Tortilla chips


Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery and carrots, and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic, and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, jalapeno, cumin and approximately 1 tablespoon salt (to taste, depends on your stock), 1 teaspoon pepper and the cilantro, if using. Cut the tortillas in half, then crosswise into 1/2-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil; then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste. Serve the soup hot topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated cheddar cheese and broken tortilla chips.

To report abuse or misuse of this area please hit the "Suggest Removal" link in the comment to alert our online managers. Read our Terms of Use policy.

Subscribe Register Login

You must login to make comments.