The Reason Chicken Soup Makes You Feel Better, According To Science

Have you ever heard of the expression, "Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food?" Attributed to the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, the saying makes reference to the curative powers of the things we eat, from the raw garlic that many swear heads off a cold to the local honey that allergy sufferers attest alleviates their symptoms.

For most of us, though, the No. 1 medicinal food we've utilized throughout our lives is likely chicken soup, whose cold- and flu-soothing properties many of us are introduced to from our earliest years. Who doesn't remember being home from school, stuck in bed, watching cartoons while mom or dad placed a bowl of hot soup on our TV tray? Although it could seem like chicken soup's curative powers are purely a placebo effect, for years there's been actual science backing up what many of us have known all along: chicken soup really does lessen the symptoms of cold and flu, and can even help speed along recovery time (via ScienceDaily). So what is it about chicken soup that makes us feel better? Read on to find out.

Chicken soup can soothe inflammation

If you've ever sunk a spoon into a hot bowl of chicken soup when feeling under the weather, know that this tradition is nearly as old as time. PerĀ ScienceDaily, the Egyptian doctor and philosopher Maimonides' writings contain recommendations for chicken soup for respiratory tract symptoms all the way back in the 12th century, advice which was likely based on earlier Greek findings.

According to a 2000 study published by the American College of Chest Physicians, chicken soup not only seems like it could be good medicine for cold and flu sufferers, but in many cases, it actually is. Researchers found that a chicken soup made with onions, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery, parsley, and salt had an anti-inflammatory effect, which could inhibit the reactions the body goes through when it's fighting off a cold or flu virus.

Chicken soup may have additional therapeutic effects as well, as noted by WebMD. When we're sick, it's a good idea to increase our fluid intake, and since chicken soup is mostly liquid, eating some is an excellent way to stay hydrated. Typical soup vegetables such as carrots, onions, and celery contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which also help nourish the body. Additionally, chicken soup is rich in tryptophan, the post-Thanksgiving meal amino acid that boosts our natural production of the feel-good chemical serotonin. Thus, chicken soup is quite literally a comfort food.