Having a cold is not fun. A stuffy nose, sniffles, sore throat, and other symptoms make having a cold a generally unpleasant experience.

According to data collected by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the average consumer shops for over-the counter medicine 26 times a year, with peak visits occurring in the wintertime when colds and flu infections are more prominent.

To make cold-related matters worse, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel concluded in September 2023 that the popular decongestant phenylephrine, which is found in many over-the-counter cold remedies, is ineffective when taken orally. Phenylephrine became the standard decongestant in formulations when pseudoephedrine, another decongestant, became more closely regulated due to its usage in the production of illegal drugs like methamphetamine. Phenylephrine products then became the go-to, as they did not need to be stored behind pharmacy counters and “signed out” like products that included pseudoephedrine.

Rather than accepting their cold symptoms this season, individuals may want to turn to something much more natural that also has great promise: Soup. It is no old wives’ tale that soup can be helpful for colds and other illnesses. In fact, Egyptian Jewish physician Moshe ben Maimonides prescribed chicken soup as a treatment for respiratory tract illnesses as early as the 12th century. Penn Medicine advises that soup can be a go-to food to combat illness because it is light, easy-to-digest, nourishing, and even restorative.

Here’s a look at some of the ways soup can help when people are feeling under the weather.

  • Hydrating broth: Staying hydrated is one of the ways the body can more effectively fight off illness. Broth-based soups are hydrating and tasty. They may be tolerated more readily than sports drinks or water for a person who needs fluids.
  • Soothing: The warmth of soup can soothe an irritated throat. Furthermore, soups usually have softened ingredients in them, making it much less likely that sharp or tough ingredients will scrape an inflamed throat.
  • Nutrient-dense: Most soups are loaded with vegetables, beans, and other healthy ingredients. They provide many of the vitamins and minerals the body needs, and may even help replenish nutrients that have been depleted due to illness.
  • Sodium content: Sodium is an essential mineral the body needs. Proactive Health Labs says soup regulates body fluids and transmits electrical impulses in the body. Sodium in moderation may be good when a person is feeling ill. In addition, sodium and other seasonings in soup can awaken taste buds that are dulled when sick with a cold. Salt also helps alleviate sore throat pain and can help clear nasal congestion.
  • Garlic infusion: Soups that contain garlic or garlic extract may reduce the severity of cold and flu symptoms, according to a University of Florida study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition.

Soup may be the best medicine when a person has a cold. Its many properties may help make soup as effective, or even more so, than some products at the pharmacy.