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Prescription: Chicken soup

Coming down with the flu or a cold is usually a dreaded occurrence.

And, sometimes, the only bright spot in being sick is the piping hot bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup, which was made by someone who cares for you.

“Usually, someone you love has made you the soup,” said Jeanne Brinker, R.N, B.S.N., and integrative medicine consultant for Highlands Hospital, in a previous interview. “You feel connected emotionally, cared for and loved. It helps you emotionally and spiritually.”

Brinker said from the perspective of integrative medicine, being healthy is not like taking a one-time pill.

“When your body is balanced physically, emotionally and spiritually, you have a better chance of warding off any disease, not just the flu,” she said.

Although eating a bowl of chicken soup is not the cure-all for the flu or a cold, it can contain some ingredients that can help you feel better physically, as well as emotionally and spiritually.

“There’s a warm, comforting feeling that speaks to the emotional body,” Brinker said. “When you feel someone cares about you, it’s a boost to the immune system.”

According to Brinker, chicken soup can be full of culinary herbs, including thyme, basil, oregano and sage that have “very powerful antibiotic properties.”

Garlic, onion and mushrooms — ingredients that can also be found in the typical bowl of chicken soup — also have antibiotic properties.

“It depends on what you put in the broth,” Brinker said.

Garlic, Brinker added, is known as the “Russian antibiotic.”

“When it’s in a liquid like that, it’s easy to absorb those nutrients,” she said. “You want something that is warm and nourishing. The warm fluid helps with nasal congestion, warms your face and keeps you hydrated.”

She added that chicken is also usually easy to digest.

In 2000, University of Nebraska researcher Dr. Stephen Rennard published findings in Chest, the journal of the American College of Chest Physicians, showing chicken soup contains anti-inflammatory agents that can ease a cold’s symptoms.

The researchers found that chicken soup appears to inhibit neutrophil chemotaxis, or the movement of certain immune cells to mucous membrane surfaces. The migration of these cells to surface cells in the airways may be partially responsible for mucus production. The scientists concluded that chicken soup may have anti-inflammatory properties that help dampen cold symptoms.

The researchers’ soup recipe included onions, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery, parsley and chicken.

More recent research published in the American Journal of Therapeutics in 2012 supports the earlier study, noting that carnosine, a compound found in chicken soup, can boost the body’s immune system and help fight the flu in the beginning stages.

“Everything works for a reason, and having the information as to why these things work is key,” Brinker said.

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