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Chicken Soup

Common Name(s): Nikogori (chicken jelly soup)

Medically reviewed by Last updated on February 19, 2021.

Clinical Overview


Clinical studies are lacking. A strong placebo effect may result from the social setting in which the soup is commonly delivered; however, the healing effect of chicken soup may be related in part to its nutritive value and in part to the effect of warm vapor on the nasal mucosa.


As a food or a remedy, chicken soup is administered by the cup or bowlful.


Contraindications have not been identified.


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Generally recognized as safe (GRAS) or used as food; dosages above those in foods are unproven and should be avoided.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Anaphylaxis has been reported. Aspiration of bone material has been documented. Hypernatremia due to the sodium content has also been reported


Information is lacking.


Chicken soup is obtained from a hot water infusion of selected parts of the common chicken Gallus domesticus.1 Nikogori, or chicken jelly soup, uses the meat from chicken wings.2


Chicken soup has long been recognized as an important part of the physician's armamentarium.3, 4, 5 Therapeutic observations of chicken soup were recorded by Pedacius Dioscorides, an army surgeon under the emperor Nero, as far back as 60 AD in his pharmacopeia De Materia Medica. Aretaeus the Cappadocian (second to third century AD) is credited with describing how boiled chicken can treat respiratory tract disorders.6 In the 12th century, the theologian and physician Moses Maimonides wrote, "Chicken soup... is recommended as an excellent food as well as medication." He further specified that, when selecting a chicken, "One should not use the too large, that is of more than 2 years of age; nor the too small, that is those in whom the mucus still prevails; neither too lean, nor those who through feeding becomes obese; but those that are fat by nature without being stuffed."3, 4, 5, 7

In 1975, the editor of Chest published a spoof of uncontrolled studies entitled "Chicken Soup Rebound and Relapse of Pneumonia: Report of a Case" in which patients suffered severe pneumonia requiring a thoracotomy and treatment with penicillin after a course of self-treatment with chicken soup was discontinued.7 A flood of correspondence resulted over the next 5 years expounding the virtues of chicken soup. Claims have included antibacterial activity and use in the treatment of impotence, frustration, anxiety, and backache.8, 9, 10, 11


The composition of chicken soup can vary considerably, due to the cooking technique, and often contains large amounts of vegetables. Chicken has been shown to contain the amino acid cysteine, chemically similar to the mucolytic acetylcysteine, which acts by cleaving disulfide bonds.12 Cholesterol and salt content of chicken soup may be of concern in vulnerable persons. Cooking chicken bones in the soup for a longer duration may increase its calcium content.13 Chicken and rice soup and chicken noodle soup are the subject of some research, and as such have a different composition compared with basic chicken broth.

Uses and Pharmacology

Clinical studies are lacking and reports of efficacy from chicken soup administration may be subject to confounding or the "chicken soup paradigm,"14 whereby healing is achieved through the provision of nutrients. A strong placebo effect may result from the social setting in which the soup is commonly delivered. The taste and smell makes blinding in such studies difficult.1

Respiratory tract disorders

Animal data

Research reveals no animal data regarding the use of chicken soup for respiratory tract disorders.

Clinical data

The effects of inhaling the warm vapors of chicken soup have been investigated experimentally.1, 4, 7, 15, 16, 17 Inhalation of warm vapor increases the temperature of the nasal passages, loosening thick secretions, and increasing cilia function.4 Inhibition of neutrophil activity has also been demonstrated,1, 4, 13, 18 although some researchers question the logic of decreasing the neutrophilic response to infection.18

Other effects

Antioxidant activity has been demonstrated in vitro with chicken jelly soup, which is high in collagen protein.2

A study investigating food preference after colorectal surgery found that patients favored chicken noodle soup over clear fluids as an option for postsurgery nutrition,19 and a further study found that chicken and rice soup increased fullness and satiety over solid food eaten with fluids.20

Chicken noodle soup eaten before exercise has been shown to improve fluid balance and decrease changes in plasma volume compared with water alone.21, 22

Older reports exist for chicken soup therapy in facial pain, asthma, lymphocytic thyroiditis, and rheumatoid arthritis.23, 24, 25, 26


As a food or a remedy, chicken soup is administered by the cup or bowlful.

Pregnancy / Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. GRAS or used as food; dosages above those in foods are unproven and should be avoided.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Case reports of pneumonia and respiratory distress secondary to the aspiration of bone material from chicken soup exist.27, 28 Hypernatremia due to the sodium content has also been reported.29, 30, 31 There is at least 1 case report of anaphylaxis to chicken soup.32


Research reveals limited information regarding the toxicity of chicken soup.


1. Rennard BO, Ertl RF, Gossman GL, Robbins RA, Rennard SI. Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro. Chest. 2000;118(4):1150-1157.11035691
2. Nagatsuka N, Harada K, Ando M, Nagao K. Measurement of the radical scavenging activity of chicken jelly soup, a part of the medicated diet, 'Yakuzen', made from gelatin gel food 'Nikogori', using chemiluminescence and electron spin resonance methods. Int J Mol Med. 2006;18(1):107-111.16786161
3. Rosner F. The Medical Legacy of Moses Maimonides. Hoboken, NJ: KTAV Publishing House; 1998.
4. Hopkins AB. Chicken soup cure may not be a myth. Nurse Pract. 2003;28(6):16.12796619
5. Ohry A, Tsafrir J. Is chicken soup an essential drug? CMAJ. 1999;161(12):1532-1533.10624412
6. Cohen SG, Evans R 3rd. Asthma, allergy and immunotherapy; a historical review: Part II. Allergy Proc. 1991;13(1):47-58.
7. Caroline NL, Schwartz H. Chicken soup rebound and relapse of pneumonia: report of a case. Chest. 1975;67(2):215-216.1090422
8. Yablin B, Spodick DH, Duma RJ, et al. The chicken soup controversy. Chest. 1975;68(4):604-606.1175427
9. Rosner F. Therapeutic efficacy of chicken soup. Chest. 1980;78(4):672-674.7191367
10. Greene LF. The chicken soup controversy. Chest. 1975;68(4):605
11. Lindsey D. Chicken soup and relief of backache. Chest. 1976;70(2):317.
12. Rosen HN, Salemme H, Zeind AJ, Moses AC, Shapiro A, Greenspan SL. Chicken soup revisited: calcium content of soup increases with duration of cooking. Calcif Tissue Int. 1994;54(6):486-488. 8082052
13. Winter R. A Consumer's Guide to Medicines in Food. New York, NY: Crown Trade Paperbacks 1995;167-168.
14. Lipman TO. The chicken soup paradigm and nutrition support: rethinking terminology. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2003;27(1):93-94.12549607
15. Weiss W. "And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron." Chest. 1978;74(5):487-489.738083
16. Saketkhoo K, Januszkiewicz A, Sackner MA. Effects of drinking hot water, cold water, and chicken soup on nasal mucus velocity and nasal airflow resistance. Chest. 1978;74(4):408-410.359266
17. Jefferson T. Advances in the diagnosis and management of influenza. Curr Infect Dis Rep. 2002;4(3):206-210.12015912
18. Lavine JB. Chicken soup or Jewish medicine. Chest. 2001;119(4):1295.11296215
19. Yeung SE, Fenton TR. Colorectal surgery patients prefer simple solid foods to clear fluids as the first postoperative meal. Dis Colon Rectum. 2009;52(9):1616-1623.19690491
20. Rolls BJ, Bell EA, Thorwart ML. Water incorporated into a food but not served with a food decreases energy intake in lean women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;70(4):448-455.10500012
21. Johannsen NM, Lind E, King DS, Sharp RL. Effect of preexercise electrolyte ingestion on fluid balance in men and women. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009;41(11):2017-2025.19812516
22. Johannsen NM, Sullivan ZM, Warnke NR, Smiley-Oyen AL, King DS, Sharp RL. Effect of preexercise soup ingestion on water intake and fluid balance during exercise in the heat. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2013;23(3):287-296.23239679
23. Marbach JJ. Chicken soup therapy for facial pain. N Y State Dent J. 1979;45(5):232-233.286241
24. Rosner F. Hot chicken soup for asthma. Lancet. 1979;2(8151):1079.91818
25. Dorfman S, Sachson R, Feld S. The rationale for treatment of lymphocytic thyroiditis with spontaneously resolving hyperthyroidism. Prednisone therapy v chicken soup. Arch Intern Med. 1982;142(13):2261.7149866
26. Toda Y, Takemura S, Morimoto T, Ogawa R. Relationship between HLA-DRB1 genotypes and efficacy of oral type II collagen treatment using chicken cartilage soup in rheumatoid arthritis [in Japanese]. Nihon Rinsho Meneki Gakkai Kaishi. 1997;20(1):44-51.9105164
27. Halpern SW, Mandel WJ. The significance of exercise-induced ventricular arrhythmias. Chest. 1980;77(1):1-2.7351126
28. Avital A, Springer C, Meyer JJ, Godfrey S. Hollow bone in the bronchus or the danger of chicken soup. Respiration. 1992;59(1):62-63.1579721
29. Chu E. Dangers of chicken soup. Pediatrics. 1986;77(5):785-786.3703648
30. Fujiwara P, Berry M, Hauger P, Cogan M. Chicken-soup hypernatremia. N Engl J Med. 1985;313(18):1161-1162.4047121
31. Stavric B, Matula TI, Klassen R, Downie RH. Analysis of commercial bouillons for trace levels of mutagens. Food Chem Toxicol. 1993;31(12):981-987.8282282
32. Saff RH, Fink JN. Anaphylaxis to chicken soup: a case report and a brief history of the chicken in medicine. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1992;89(5):1061-1062.1583247


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