They’re the dishes and drinks we self-prescribe for seasonal illnesses. But does chicken soup really have special healing powers? Does ginger actually protect our bodies from strangers’ germs before they take hold? We explore the scientific and cultural histories behind our favorite “culinary medicines.”


  • Nina Simonds Author, "A Spoonful of Ginger : Irresistible Health-Giving Recipes from Asian Kitchens" (Knopf) and "Spices of Life: Simple and Delicious Recipes for Great Health" (Knopf)
  • Katherine Tallmadge Registered Dietitian; Author, "Diet Simple: 192 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations" (LifeLine Press, 2004); National Spokesperson, American Dietetic Association
  • Chantal Tseng Mixologist, Tabard Inn (Washington, DC)


Katherine Tallmadge‘s tips on immune-system boosting nutrition

Chantal Tseng’s restaurant at the Hotel Tabard Inn (Washington, DC)

To find a registered dietitian, check out the American Dietetic Association.


Clear-Steamed Chicken Soup with Ginger
From “A Spoonful of Ginger” by Nina Simonds
Time: 2 1/2 hours
Yield: 6 servings

  • 1 3- to 3 1/2-pound chicken
  • 1 3/4 cups rice wine, preferably Shaoxing
  • 10 whole scallions, ends trimmed and smashed lightly with the flat of a knife
  • 10 slices fresh ginger, the size of a quarter, smashed with the flat of a knife
  • 1 teaspoon salt, more to taste.

Remove fat from chicken. Rinse and drain. Cut chicken through the bones into 10 to 12 pieces. In a large pot, boil 2 quarts water and blanch chicken pieces for 1 minute. Drain, discarding water. Rinse chicken in cold water; drain again.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a Dutch oven or casserole with a lid, combine chicken pieces, rice wine, scallions, ginger and 6 cups boiling water. Cover tightly with heavy duty aluminum foil; then cover with lid. Place the pot in a roasting pan and fill with 1 1/2 inches of boiling water. Bake 2 hours, replenishing the boiling water
as needed.

Skim the top of the broth to remove any impurities and fat. Add the salt. Remove the ginger and scallions, ladle the soup and chicken into serving bowls, and serve.

Swedish Phlegm-Cutter (aka, Swedish Flu-Chaser)
by Chantal Tseng

  • 1 1/2 oz. Chamomile & Herb Infused Akvavit (see note)
  • 1 oz. Fresh Grapefruit Juice (not the can)
  • 1/2 oz. Honey Syrup (equal parts honey & water mixed)

All ingredients are shaken and double strained into a cocktail glass.

(note) Akvavit is infused for 2 days with loose Egyptian chamomile buds, fresh stalks of lemon grass, fresh cut ginger, whole cardamom pods.

Traditionally, in sort of a “ghost” vernacular “Phlegm-Cutters” were the first drink of the day. For many (men), this was a shot of whiskey to cut through the morning build up. There were also drinks called “Anti-Fogmatics” named as such for similar reasons. This cocktail is a newer spin on the spirit of the first drink, incorporating fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, the throat relaxing honey & lots of blood reviving herbs to accompany the Scandinavian carraway flavored neutral grain spirit, Akvavit.

Spiced Irish Toddy
by Chantal Tseng

  • 1 1/2 oz. Irish Whiskey (lately I’ve been using Michael Collins)
  • 1/2 oz. honey syrup
  • 1/2 oz. fresh lemon
  • 4-5 oz. hot water
  • cinnamon stick
  • fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 clove of star anise

Combine all ingredients in mug or irish coffee glass. I like to lightly toast the spices before adding to enhance their aromatics. Garnish with orange slice at the end studded with cloves.

This one is served hot and warms the throat and is ideal for a colder evening. The spices also help the blood flow and the honey and whiskey soothe the throat and help you sleep.

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