Common Name(s): Nikogori (chicken jelly soup)
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
Research reveals no animal data regarding the use of chicken soup for respiratory tract disorders.
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
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
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.
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.
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