Can Chicken Soup Really Treat a Cold?

True or false: You can slurp away the sniffles.

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If your first instinct after waking up to a stuffy nose is to head out to the store to stock up on chicken noodle soup (or, um, get some delivered), you likely learned it from good ol’ mom or grandma. This classic soup has all the goods: a warm and steamy broth, slurpable noodles, and soft and flavorful veggies. So is chicken soup simply comforting, or does it actually treat your cold?

Well, mom wins this one. Chicken soup actually can help treat your cold symptoms, especially if you’re slurping a low-sodium, veggie-packed recipe. In fact, it’s been used as a remedy as early as the 12th century. Here’s how.

  1. Buh-bye, inflammation: Studies have found that chicken soup can inhibit the movement of “neutrophils,” which are a type of white blood cell that the body recruits to sites of inflammation or infection. Although that’s technically a good thing, your cold symptoms are actually the result of the immune system overreacting, so suppressing that response can reduce symptoms. A study found that higher concentrations of chicken soup (meaning less diluted by water) resulted in less inflammations, hinting that the broth itself is a big player here.

  2. Say yes to steam: An article from The Nurse Practitioner cited the hot vapors from chicken noodle soup (or tea) to be a key component in chicken soup’s cold-fighting skills. Inhaling those warm, steamy vapors can loosen up mucus and clear up stuffy noses.

  3. Rev up your immune system: The veggies in chicken soup—carrots, celery, onion, carrots, parsley, and sometimes mushrooms and parsnips—are known for helping to boost the immune system. That means you can still get cold-fighting benefits from veggie soups, like this herb-packed garlic soup, even if you don’t eat chicken. Be cautious with the canned stuff, as these can be low in veggies and sky-high in sodium. (Learn more about buying healthier soups here.)

  4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: Drinking plenty of fluids is a no-brainer when it comes to treating the common cold, but fluids don’t have to come from just water. Soups, potatoes, broccoli, and lettuce all provide hydration that count toward your recommended fluid intake and can keep your body running smoothly. (Here are textbook signs of dehydration to look for.)

Alright, mom might have gotten this one right, but soup isn’t the only way to beat your sniffles. Here are more home remedies to help you sleep through a cold.