Chicken Soup

The worst of the winter season seems to be upon us. Lots of coughs, colds and pneumonia, and we still don’t seem to be able to get away from all the viral stomach infections either. Much of what works best doesn’t come from the drug store: rest, fluids, and those intangible things that parents do to make kids feel better.

One of those traditional things is soup, chicken soup to be more specific. In 2000, researchers published a study in Chest that explored the healing powers of chicken soup. The study concluded that “chicken soup may contain a number of substances with beneficial medicinal activity.” Now the word “may” in a research paper isn’t the strongest indicator of scientific fact, but grandmom might think otherwise.

You can read the research paper here and see the recipe (it’s on the third page).

Here’s my grandmother’s chicken soup recipe.

Chicken Soup

3 quarts water

½ chicken (1 wing, 1 breast, 1 leg, and 1 piece of back of stewing chicken)

2 pieces of celery cut in small pieces

2-3 carrots cut in small pieces

½ onion (do not cut in pieces)

1 ½ tablespoons salt (or less to taste)

½ tsp black pepper

pastina, orzo or alphabet pasta

Put all ingredients except the pasta in large pot and start over high heat then turn down to medium heat.  Put lid on pot and let it cook approximately 2 ½ hours.  Skim fat from broth after first hour. Remove pieces of chicken from soup, cool and return meat to the soup. Discard bones.

Boil pastina or alphabets or orzo separately.  Add to soup before serving.  Pasta can be stored separately after cooling in storage container to be used with soup as needed.

About Lisa M. Asta, MD

Lisa M. Asta, M.D. is board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, for which she is also a Media Representative (she has been interviewed for “Kids Health” on Health Radio, and quoted in Parenting Magazine, USA Today, and the New York Times, among other publications). She is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California at San Francisco and past pediatric chair at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. She graduated from Temple University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Asta is also a writer whose fiction has appeared in Inkwell, Philadelphia Stories, Schuylkill, and Zeniada. Her essays have appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Hippocrates, the San Jose Mercury News, and The New Physician Magazine. She is an occasional contributor to KQED public radio’s Perspectives series, and has written articles for Bay Area Parent, Valley Parent, Parents’ Press, and Parents Express, as well as online at,, and She wrote a chapter in The Field Guide to the Normal Newborn, ed. Gary Emmet, M.D. currently has two how-to videos for parents in production which feature Dr. Asta. For more on Dr. Asta’s writing, visit
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