Does chicken soup help a cold?

There’s truth to this old wives’ tale! Chicken soup has been shown to have numerous benefits for a cold.

Chicken soup has been shown to help clear nasal passages and reduce inflammation. While hot fluids generally help clear nasal passages, chicken soup has been shown to be better when compared to other hot liquids (1).

It is a great source of vitamins, minerals, calories, and protein, all of which are nutrients you need when you’re sick (2). It also helps you to stay hydrated and is an excellent source of electrolytes, two critical factors when dealing with a cold or flu (3).

One reason for chicken soups beneficial effect is that chicken contains an amino acid called cysteine which is anti-vital, anti-inflammatory, and helps to break apart mucus (4, 5). For a vegetarian source of cysteine, try adding lentils to your soup. 

Aside from the chicken itself, chicken soup typically contains a number of ingredients that can help to ease cold symptoms. Onions contain a compound called quercetin which is both antiviral and antibiotic (6). Garlic and ginger have also been shown to have antiviral properties (7, 8).

On top of all the actual evidence to show that chicken soup helps fight a cold, it’s also easy to eat and soothing when you’re not feeling well.


  1. “Effects of drinking hot water, cold water, and chicken soup on nasal mucus velocity and nasal airflow resistance.” CHEST. (1978).
  2. Metabolic response to injury and illness: estimation of energy and protein needs from indirect calorimetry and nitrogen balance
  3. Water, electrolytes, vitamins and trace elements – Guidelines on Parenteral Nutrition, Chapter 7
  4. Existing and potential therapeutic uses for N-acetylcysteine: the need for conversion to intracellular glutathione for antioxidant benefits
  5. Adjunctive therapies and immunomodulating agents for severe influenza
  6. “Modulatory effects of plant phenols on human multidrug-resistance proteins 1, 4 and 5 (ABCC1, 4 and 5).” FEBS J. (2005).
  7. “Garlic for the common cold.” The Cochrane Library. (2009).
  8. “Fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) has anti-viral activity against human respiratory syncytial virus in human respiratory tract cell lines.” J Ethnopharmacol. (2013).