Food as Medicine? Remedy Foods Put to the Test

When you are feeling under the weather, few things are considered more comforting than homemade chicken soup. Food-based health remedies have been used for thousands of years. With modern research and technology, have these foods been proven beneficial to the immune system?


More than just a potent flavor in cooking, garlic has long been valued as a medicinal powerhouse. Garlic was used as a remedy for a wide range of illnesses in ancient India, Egypt, Rome, China, and Japan. The ancient Roman text Naturalis Historia lists 23 uses for garlic, including protection against toxins and infections.

Garlic’s impressive reputation remains strong in modern times. Garlic contains minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, and zinc), vitamins (B1, B2, B5, B6, C), and enzymes that contribute to the overall nutrition that is vital to our health.

Shiitake Mushroom

Traditional Chinese herbalists have known about the medicinal properties of shiitake mushrooms for more than 6,000 years. Emperors of China are said to have eaten this mushroom in great quantities to slow the onset of age.

Modern research shows a connection between the shiitake mushroom and immune system support. A 2014 study found that those who ate shiitake mushrooms every day for four weeks demonstrated increased immunity through an “increase in cell numbers and activation and increased secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA) production.”1

How can a tiny fungus be so powerful? These small mushrooms are packed with folate; niacin; pantothenic acid; and vitamins B2, B6, and C. They are also a source of minerals, including magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, and zinc.

Grandma’s Chicken Soup

When you have a cold, a steamy bowl of Grandma’s chicken soup is the best medicine, at least according to Grandma. Is it the warmth, extra hydration, and a dash of TLC that make us feel better? Or do the soup’s ingredients help give the immune system the support it needs?

A study by the American College of Chest Physicians points to the soup itself. “Chicken soup may contain a number of substances with beneficial medicinal activity,” the study found.2

While broth and stock have both been purported to have medicinal properties, interest in old-fashioned bone broth has increased recently. For a traditional bone broth, the bones are simmered at least 24 hours to release minerals from the bones into the broth.

According to Sue Howell, DVM, of the Standard Process veterinary technical support team, bone broth is an excellent source of minerals, such as calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium. Bone broth also keeps joints healthy, improves poor appetite, increases white and red blood cell production, and supports the immune system.

It looks like Grandma was right … again. Sometimes old wives’ tales and family remedies are handed down for a reason. And when it comes to seasonal immune system challenges, nutrition can be your best defense

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