By Taryn Tacher | Photo by Sincerely Gone Photography

Your nose is stuffy, your eyes are watering, your throat is scratchy, and all you want to do is stay in bed. You have a box of tissues on your nightstand, a full bottle of aspirin in the medicine cabinet and a year’s supply of cough drops in the pantry. But nothing compares to a bowl of piping hot chicken soup. The broth soothes your throat, the heat helps loosen up the mucus in your nasal passage, and the taste — well, the taste makes you feel comforted and cared for, and sets you on the road to recovery. Chicken soup has been the cold cure for as long as we can remember, but how did this simple staple get such a glowing reputation?

Chicken soup provides the ingredients we need to fight those nasty upper respiratory ailments. The warm chicken broth helps promote hydration, while the vegetables offer a plethora of vitamins to give your immune system a boost. And the chicken provides you with protein, which helps strengthen your immune system to help you fight off illness. When you mix all these together — the broth, the vegetables and the chicken — you have an all-encompassing remedy that moms have been swearing by for years — and there is scientific proof to back them up.

A study conducted by the National Center of Biotechnology Information tested the effects of ingesting cold water, hot water and chicken soup on the nasal passage. The study concluded that hot fluids were far superior to cold fluids in speeding up the flow of nasal mucus. “Hot chicken soup, either through the aroma sensed at the posterior nares or through a mechanism related to taste, appears to possess an additional substance for increasing nasal mucus velocity,” according to the study. And we need this heightened velocity to flush the toxins out of our systems quickly, so we can breathe freely through our once-clogged nostrils. It would be remiss not to recognize the salinity of the broth has healing effects, too. The salt helps to soothe your sore throat, and the electrolytes, of which chicken broth is chockfull, aid the body in retaining more fluids to keep you hydrated.

Another study published in CHEST Journal found that chicken soup does indeed have anti-inflammatory properties that may help to alieve symptoms associated with upper respiratory tract infections. No one ingredient was identified as having a more beneficial effect than the other. Rather, the researchers believe that it is the combination of ingredients that truly helps.

So, it is not merely a placebo effect we have been conditioned to fall for. Chicken soup really does contain powerful ingredients that help to cure our colds. Next time you feel the congestion coming on and your throat begins to grow sore, do not hesitate to reach for what can only be described as a true culinary miracle. Chicken soup really is all it is cracked up to be, so fill a bowl or two, slurp it up and be on your way to a happier and healthier you!

Lemon Orzo Chicken Soup

Courtesy of Mindy Bledsoe

  • One lemon pepper rotisserie chicken
  • 20 cups of water
  • 3 leeks (white part only), chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 5 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 sprigs of fresh dill
  • 3 sprigs of fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 1 cup orzo pasta
  • Grated Romano cheese
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Pepper to taste

Place the whole rotisserie chicken in a pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a gentle simmer. Let simmer for at least 30 minutes as you cut your vegetables.

Add the chopped vegetables, salt and sugar to the pot. Tear the sprigs of dill and parsley in small pieces and add in as well. Let simmer together for about 40 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

Remove the soup from the heat and remove the chicken from the pot. Once cooled, shred the meat, discarding any bones. Return the shredded meat to the pot and bring the soup back up to a simmer.

Add in the orzo and cook according to package directions or until orzo is tender, stirring occasionally.

Top with grated cheese and pepper to taste, and enjoy!

*Single portions of the soup can be frozen without the orzo for later use. Just be sure to adjust the amount of orzo when ready to eat.