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Dissecting Mom’s Homemade Soup [plant medicine]

by Ayshica Andrews

When winter colds and the flu strike, a comforting bowl of hot soup is one of the first things that come to mind. It clears stuffy noses and heads, and soothes sore throats while boosting the immune system and nourishing us.

Every culture has a healing soup to help ailing loved ones feel more comfortable and to shorten the duration of their symptoms. While the ingredients may be different, there are some ingredients that are almost always used: onion, garlic and ginger. Through dissecting soup, we come to understand the reason these and other everyday ingredients are used.

Common Ingredients Used

These are some of the common ingredients in soup that either add flavor, support immune function, or directly impact symptoms of cold and flu.

Liquid: Stock helps get much-needed liquids into the body. Fluids are essential when fighting colds and flu.

Ginger: Ginger is a warming spice and stimulates the secretion of sweat and mucus. This helps expel toxins from the body, loosen up stuffy noses, dispel fevers, and aids in soothing sore throats.

Garlic: Garlic is a powerful immune booster and the base herb used in almost every soup. It warms the body up, is a potent aid for upper respiratory infections, relieves sinus/lung congestion, and thins/expels mucus.

Onions: Sulfur-rich onions are often used in remedies to dispel coughs and support the immune system and liver.

Chicken: Chicken is considered an easy protein to digest; additionally, the collagen from the bones in a homemade stock helps build the body up. With more people opting to be vegan or vegetarian, chicken soup is not always an option. Mushrooms, however, make a wonderful alternative and have many healing properties.

Herbs: Common herbs used in soup are parsley, oregano and thyme. Herbs boost the immune system, aid digestion, and are often antimicrobial. Both cilantro and parsley are considered blood purifiers and help to remove toxins.

Pasta or rice: Both add to the comfort factor and make the dish more filling.

Carrots: Carrots are rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins.

Celery: Celery is a blood tonifier and a powerful liver supporter.

Additional Boosters

In addition to the above basic ingredients, any of the following can be added to give soup even more healing qualities.

Mushrooms: Mushrooms are a great alternative for vegan and vegetarians. They are an excellent source of protein. Shiitake mushrooms have many health benefits, including supporting the immune system. They are easily available and add a rich umami flavor to any broth or soup. Other mushrooms can also be used as well as mushroom powders.

Goji berries: It is not common practice to add berries to soup, but goji berries are not like strawberries or blackberries. They tend to have a bitter flavor and can be used in savory applications. Goji berries are rich in vitamin C and will boost the immune system.

Hot peppers: Hot peppers thin out mucus, help to unblock head colds and stuffy sinuses, and are rich in vitamin C.

Turmeric: Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and broad immune support. It is helpful for cold and flu, bronchitis and sore throats. To get the full benefits of turmeric, it should be combined with both black pepper and fat (oil) when consuming.

Kale: Kale adds minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and fiber to the soup. It has a high vitamin C content and high levels of an antioxidant called quercetin, which is anti-viral and believed to help fight common colds.

Nettle (Urtica dioica): It contains iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium and sulfur. It is considered a tonic herb and builds and restores health. Nettle and kale will help with the fatigue effect of colds and flu.

Lemon: This adds a great boost of vitamin C.

Barley: This is rich in phosphorous, which supports cell regeneration and healing. It is also packed with other minerals and vitamins. Barley adds a subtle nutty flavor and thickens the broth.

The following recipe is a powerful ally in times of cold, flu and respiratory infections.


2 Tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 sticks of celery

3 large carrots (1 finely chopped, 2 sliced)

1 bay leaf

5 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 thumb-size piece of ginger, finely minced

½ tsp turmeric

1 Tbsp fresh thyme/2 tsp dry thyme

1 Tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped

½ tsp black pepper

2 quarts of stock of choice

¼ cup goji berries

1 cup sliced fresh shitake or ½ cup dried shitake (additional mixed mushrooms for vegan options)

5 cups chopped kale or 1 cup dried nettle

½ cup pearl barley

1 cup cooked white beans

1-3 hot chili peppers, chopped—not deseeded

1 tsp salt

1-2 cups shredded chicken (optional)


·       Heat the oil. Add the onions, celery and finely chopped carrots.

·       When they start to get golden, add remaining carrots and spices. Cook for 5 minutes on low heat.

·       Add in remaining ingredients, except for beans and kale.

·       Simmer medium low for approximately 20 minutes.

·       Add beans, kale and chicken; simmer 10 more minutes.

·       The pearl barley should be tender and cooked through; cook slightly longer if needed.

·       Taste for salt. Garnish with parsley and add a squeeze of lemon.

Ayshica Andrews is a Realtor, blogger, gardening consultant, and “food is medicine enthusiast.” For more information, email her at [email protected] or visit Also follow her on social media (Facebook: Gardening in the Desert and Instagram: @SolitaryBeeGardens).


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