Few things make a person more miserable than a cold. But, while there is no cure yet, there are a few items in your pantry that can help you feel a lot better while you recover. You’ve probably heard your whole life that chicken soup helps feed a cold. But did you know that there’s actually some clinical evidence to back it up? Doctors have been recommending it for centuries—dating to Maimonides in the late 1100s.
Chicken soup fell out of favor with doctors for a time, but in the 1990s, some researchers revisited it. Physician Irwin Ziment hypothesized that the amino acid cysteine, found in chicken soup, might act a bit like acetylcysteine, a drug prescribed to thin mucus in the lungs. Some researchers at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami then did tests revealing that cysteine was better at improving mucus flow than hot or cold water. And there’s also evidence that chicken soup may slow the white blood cells that cause upper respiratory inflammation.1 We got our favorite chicken soup recipe from Joe’s mother, and we use it whenever anyone in our house shows the first signs of a cold.
Almost as popular as chicken soup is ginger tea. And while you’re whipping up hot beverages, another tried and true remedy for adults suffering from cold symptoms is a hot toddy. Okay, so you’ve heard of chicken soup for colds, as well as toddies and tea. But what about probiotic yogurt? There’s some new evidence that probiotics can help to prevent the sniffles.
Of course, it’s always good to remember some useful tips for trying to stay healthy in the first place, especially in this era of pandemic flu. First, wash your hands regularly. Second, wash your hands. Third…well, you know what we’re going to say. But this next recommendation may surprise you—it’s been dismissed as an old superstition for years. Some recent data suggest that keeping your feet warm and dry in cold weather may also help fight off viruses and infections. In one study in Wales, subjects whose feet were immersed in cold water were significantly more likely to report cold symptoms in the five days after the experiment than those in the control group.2
Helen Graedon’s Chicken Soup
Large stewing hen and a few additional backs and wings
FOR EXTRA COLD-FIGHTING POWER: several cloves of garlic (up to a head)
Cover chicken with water and top with two inches more. Add vegetables and spices. Simmer for about two hours and then strain out the chicken, vegetables, and spices. Remove the meat of the chicken from the bones (careful—it will be hot!), and add it back to the soup with noodles, peas, rice, or other embellishments. Refrigerating the broth overnight makes excess fat removal easy: Just skim it from the top.
Coconut Chicken Soup
Contributed by Sally Fallon Morell
1 quart homemade chicken broth
1 can (14 ounces) whole coconut milk
Juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch red pepper flakes
TO PREPARE HOMEMADE CHICKEN BROTH: Place leftover carcass of a chicken (bones, skin, and any meat) in large pot, and cover with cold water. Add salt and pepper. Bring water to a boil, and immediately reduce heat to low simmer. Cook uncovered for several hours, skimming foam from surface of broth. Remove bones and strain the broth.
TO PREPARE THE SOUP: Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Stir and bring to a simmer. Makes four servings.
Contributed by a listener, from a recipe by his Filipina-American girlfriend
6 pieces chicken
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup white vinegar
6-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced thin
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 or 3 tablespoons brown sugar
Combine ingredients in casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour.
Joe Graedon & Terry Graedon, The People’s Pharmacy: Quick & Handy Home Remedies, published by National Geographic