Broth Healing Properties:

The Healing Properties of Homemade Broths, Stocks, and Soups

by Josh Day

There's something primeval, almost magical, about a boiling cauldron of soup, rich with vegetables, herbs, and meats on the bone.

The discovery of soups stands as a major hallmark in the evolution of cooked food, going all the way back to prehistory. First came roasted meats and vegetables, pierced on a stick and turned over a fire. Then came fire pits and heated stones which could be placed in tough animal stomachs to cook foods and hold in the moisture. But it was the discovery of pottery that led to a fireproof cooking vessel which enabled the boiling of water, which of course is the key component and means of genesis for soups.

Soup is not complicated. The most basic form of broth requires only two things: water and something that goes in the water (onion, bouquet of herbs, piece of meat, even a bone). Nutrients and flavors are leached from the object being boiled, transmuting the water into broth, or stock. This transformed liquid makes up the foundation of all soups.

Before we get into why broth has healing properties, let me share a very simple, incredibly healthy, delicious, and surprisingly filling broth.

Hippocratic Broth: The Soup of the Father of Medicine

1 cup chopped leek
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup parsley, or half handful of parsley
1 1/2 quart water

Bring everything to a light boil and reduce to a simmer. Continue simmering for 30 minutes. Strain out solids and drink broth.

This was the victuals I practically lived on during my 21 Days to Health experience. The end result would yield you just under 1 quart of broth, which was great for two people, or one person on a detox diet. This broth can also be frozen or refrigerated and used in rice, stews, and numerous other dishes.

If you're new to soups, or to cooking in general, I suggest starting out with the basics, as outlined in the recipe above. Once you get a feeling for it, try adding some sliced button mushrooms, maybe some shredded cabbage, and a very thinly sliced yellow onion to the broth after it's been cooked. Start out with thin, skimpy slices and let the new ingredients add their own flavor to the base broth. Also, if you're daring, you may want to add some fresh ground black pepper, a tiny dash of sea salt, and maybe some fresh thyme with the cabbage and mushrooms and onion. And don't forget some chopped chives at the end.

The soup you'll make from this simple broth would be competitive with any appetizer soup offered at restaurants.

Okay, now that we have a basic broth recipe, let's talk about why broth has healing properties.

First of all, we need to distinguish between "broth" and "stock." And that itself is the kicker as depending on where in the world you are, and what expert you listen to, stock can either refer to boiled water from vegetable remnants and bones, and broth being the good stuff, so to speak, from edible animal meat and thicker veggies (opposed to parsley, vegetable peels, herbs, etc.).

For the purpose of this article, we'll make things simple: broth and stock are simply the liquid, non-solid result of a boiling endeavor, and both words are interchangeable; soup is the finalized product where solids remain to be consumed.

So here is what's behind the healing properties of broth:

  • Vegetable-only broths are rich in the following nutrients: massive amounts of water soluable vitamins A, B, and C; potassium; sodium (great if you're on a salt-free or sodium limiting diet); enzymes, alkalizing minerals; and many nutrients that you'd get if you juiced the same vegetables that go into the pot. Juicing is a pain in the butt and a lot of veggies yield only a little juice; it's the exact opposite when making a mineral-rich vegetable broth.

  • Chicken soup: there's a reason why it's been known as "Jewish Penicillin." In addition to the nutrients listed above, chicken soup has a calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and other not so well known vitamins and minerals. And science has confirmed the old belief that chicken soup is one of the best things for colds and flu...

Chet Day writes:

Although a 12th century physician named Moses Maimonides first prescribed chicken soup as a cold and asthma remedy, its therapeutic properties have been studied by a host of medical experts in recent decades. Findings vary.

Some say the steam is the real benefit. Sipping the hot soup and breathing in the steam helps clear up congestion.

Irwin Ziment, M.D., pulmonary specialist and professor at the UCLA School for Medicine, says chicken soup contains drug-like agents similar to those in modern cold medicines. For example, an amino acid released from chicken during cooking chemically resembles the drug acetylcysteine, prescribed for bronchitis and other respiratory problems.

Another theory, put forth by Stephen Rennard, MD, chief of pulmonary medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, is that chicken soup acts as an anti-inflammatory. The soup, he says, keeps a check on inflammatory white blood cells (neutrophils). Cold symptoms, such as coughs and congestion, are often caused by inflammation produced when neutrophils migrate to the bronchial tubes and accumulate there. (Nature's best cold flu remedy)

So there you have it. Modern science backs up many of the claims made about soups and broths since practically antiquity.

Now for my favorite chicken soup recipe...

Classic Chicken Broth

1 whole boiler or fryer chicken
1 leek, roughly chopped
1 large white onion, roughly chopped
3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
4 carrots, roughly chopped
1 bunch of parsley
5 fresh thyme branches
2 branches fresh rosemary, 4 inches long
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 head garlic, cut in half and smashed
2 Tbs sliced ginger
1 package chicken legs, optional *
6-8 radishes, cut in half, optional **
1 turnip, quartered, optional **

Remove giblets from chicken cavity and thoroughly clean. Wash vegetables but leave on peels and skins, and then roughly chop. Add everything to large pot and fill with cool water so everything is covered.

Bring pot to a light boil and then reduce to a simmer. Boil for at least 2 and a half hours, or until the chicken falls off the bone. While cooking, use a flat spoon to continually skim off the foam, grease, and fat that collects on the surface.

Strain out solids, reserving chicken meat. Let cool and pull meat from bones with fingers, placing in separate container to add later or use in sandwiches or salads.

Store broth in containers (can be refrigerated for five days or frozen for two months).

* Optional: Roast your vegetables and chicken legs for added, richer flavor. Drizzle legs and vegetables (except parsley bunch) with olive oil and sprinkle with ground black pepper and sea salt. Place on roasting tray and roast on each side for 15 minutes. Turn and roast again for 15 minutes.

Add everything to pot with whole chicken and parsley and prepare as outlined above.

** Radishes and turnips give a whole new dimension to chicken stock. I love the added flavor but my wife hates it and can tell when as little as a fingernail-size piece of turnip has been added to the pot, so I have to leave these two veggies out.

To transform this broth into classic chicken soup, add the following:

Shredded chicken meat reserved from broth, as much as you'd like
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
New potatoes, chopped in bite size pieces, skin kept on
2 yellow onion, sliced in strips
1-2 quarts of chicken broth

Heat everything until potatoes are done and vegetables are tender. This simple and mild soup is perfect for a cold or dose of flu.

Disclaimer: Throughout this entire website, statements are made pertaining to the properties and/or functions of food and/or nutritional products. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and these materials and products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.