Chicken noodle soup has long been a crowd pleaser when it comes to comfort food. Humanity has been enjoying the benefits of a good chicken soup for about 7 – 10 000 years when birds were domesticated in Southeast Asia which led to the creation of broth, particularly chicken. In the ancient Greek culture there is evidence of them using chicken soup for its healing properties, something that has been carried on through history. Chicken noodle soup was first mass-produced and sold by Campbells soup.

An ad for Campbell’s soup from 1948.
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The first evidence of humans using chicken soup is from the 2nd century BC. A medical document from China, Huangdi Neijing, where chicken soup was referred to as “yang food” which translates to a “warming dish”. Herbs were added to enhance the healing properties of the soup. In China it is customary to give chicken soup to pregnant women and elderly people because the soup is thought of to give them energy. “Lamian” was an ancient Chinese noodle dish from the 2nd century AD. Noodles hold a great significance in Chinese cultures as they symbolize longevity. To highlight the prosperity and good health of the family, chicken soup was traditionally paired with noodles.

A photo of Lamian that has noodles, bok choy, and shiitake mushrooms.
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From 960-1279, a time period known as the Song Dynasty, noodle shops were very common and most sold chicken noodle soup. Chicken soup is also strongly tied to the Jewish culture for medical uses. During the 2nd century AD, the renowned Greek physician Galen prescribed chicken soup as a remedy for various ailments, like migraines, leprosy, constipation, and fevers. In the late Middle Ages, a Jewish physician and philosopher, Moses Maimonides, (1135-1204) advocated for the consumption of chicken soup by the weak and sick. However, chicken soup was not a popular dish until the 15th century, when the raising of chickens experienced a resurgence due to the scarcity of other meats. It was during this time that chicken soup became a more regular part of people’s diets.

A photo of “Jewish penicillin” with chicken, vegetables, and Kreplach.
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Much like the Chinese culture, Sephardic Jews would give “caldo de gayine vieja” (old hen chicken broth) to new mothers and people who have fallen ill. They started cooking chicken soup with rice and they called it “soupa de kippur”. Chicken soup has been called “jewish penicillin” because after the second world war Jewish emigrants brought it to America. It has been difficult to pinpoint just why chicken soup holds healing properties, but some studies have been done. In 1978, Marvin Sackner, conducted a study that proved that nasal congestion improved when the participants ate chicken soup. As well, Irwin Ziment conducted a study in 1980 that revealed the beneficial effects of chicken broth in thinning mucus in the lungs, particularly when combined with spices. This study was furthered by Stephen Rennard in 2000, who argued that chicken soup can aid white blood cells at combating colds by reducing mucus in the lungs.

Growing up my Nana had one meal that our whole family was obsessed with. We called it “noodles”, but it was really just her take on a quick and cheap chicken noodle soup. As a young girl I loved to be there while she was making it and helping her where I could. I usually was given the job of peeling the shells off the hard boiled eggs. She would mix a carton of chicken broth, a bovril chicken broth cube, and a few squirts of chicken bovril concentrate to make the broth. For the noodles she always used Farkay chow mein noodles, we heated up a can of Kirkland brand canned chicken and mixed it all together. To top it off we always added some green onions, paprika, hard boiled eggs, and soy sauce. It may not sound like much, but to me, it is the ultimate comfort food. Every time I am sick, it’s the first thing I want, and anytime I have made it, it brings me right back to my Nana’s kitchen table. She has passed now, but I am so grateful to have had the experience of learning from her. Here are a few photos of my favourite comfort food.


Images taken by Hannah Williams.


Chuah, Benjamin. “The History of Chicken Soup.” The Oxford Student. The Oxford Student, April 28, 2019.

Schlag, Juliane. “Can Chicken Soup Really Cure Body and Soul?” The Conversation, September 13, 2022.,added%20to%20cure%20various%20diseases.