Old Wives Tale or Seriously Good Medicine? Bone Broth: The Wisdom – Part 1

Bone Broth is trending.  It’s hip to drink bone broth and hipsters are drinking it globally.  And they’re writing about it too – foodie articles in praise of this nectar appear weekly and uber trendy ‘hole-in-the-wall’ broth shops are springing up all over town.

But is there a basis in science for the virtues of broth or is it just hype?  Is healing broth an old wives tale – or is it seriously good medicine?  Let’s find out.

Did you know that the first restaurant in history (in 1765) was believed to have been opened by a Frenchman – A. Boulanger – who wanted to provide a nourishing broth to the industrial workers of Paris?  Boulanger believed so much in the power of soup that the sign above his establishment read: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will restore you”.   It’s thought Boulanger’s sign launched the use of the term ‘restaurants’ for food establishments.  And now we have broth shops – neat eh?!

Bone broth – the new coffee?

But even before Boulanger, broths had been used for food and in healing remedies as far back as AD 1000.  Have you ever wondered why?

And in the present day, can there be anyone who doesn’t love a good home-made broth?!  Have you ever wondered why home-made broth warms, comforts and makes us feel safe in a way that no bought soup ever could?

We’ve been making bone broth ourselves for several years and use it almost daily in all kinds of delicious ways.  Increasingly, we’re showing our clients how to make it for themselves – have you noticed how expensive it is?!

We’ve seen results for arthritis, for gut-related disorders and for skin conditions – now we want to share what we’ve learned with you.  So, in this 3-part series on the magic that is bone broth, we’ll look at how healing happens when tradition and science meet … in a bowl of broth.

Part 1: Old Wives Tale or Seriously Good Medicine?  (This article)

Part 2:  What’s So Hot About Bone Broth?

Part 3: Bone Broth 101 – A User Guide for The Timid!!

But first, let me tell you a story ….

My Mum’s Chicken Noodle Soup

It’s early on a Sunday morning when I awake to the rich, comforting aroma of chicken and creep down the stairs.

Mum’s been busy in the kitchen since dawn, skimming the ‘big pot’ simmering gently on the stove. Inside sits a plump, glistening cockerel in an aromatic broth of onions, carrots, garlic, black pepper corns and bay leaves. It will sit there for two or three hours, slowly blipping away, leaching its chicken-y goodness into the surrounding broth.

Clean white sheets cover every surface of the dining room. Over the sheets are draped huge circles of freshly rolled egg yellow pasta dough. The circles will be floured, rolled up tightly and cut into thin noodles with a long sharp knife and left to dry in floury, coiled mounds: fedelini: little faithful ones.

I settle on the bottom stair and shut my eyes in a warm glow of anticipation: I see the family arriving and gathering around the dining table, chatting and laughing. Mum brings in her best white, wide-rimmed soup plates filled with clear, golden ‘brodo’.  Brodo: a perfectly seasoned, golden, clear chicken broth ladled from the big pot.  In the centre of each bowl, sits a generous nest of fedelini, topped with a sprinkle of pungent chopped parsley.  We smile as we lift our spoons for Mum’s Chicken Noodle Soup: a universal bowl of ‘mother’s love’.

So what about the ‘folk-wisdom’ associated broth?

Healing broth – Jewish ‘penicillin’?

Chicken soup, or broth – often hailed as ‘Jewish penicillin’ – has acquired a reputation as a folk remedy for colds and ‘flu and is prized in many cultures as comfort food. Just about every country on the planet has its own version of chicken broth – here are just a few examples:

Jewish people everywhere love their ‘goldene yoich’; in Poland it’s known as ‘rosol z kury’. Italians adore their ‘fedelini in brodo’ and in Romania they ask for seconds of ‘ciorba de pui’. Mexicans spice theirs up in ‘zopa di fideros’, while Peruvians enjoy a ‘caldo de gallina’. (1)

Broth: An ancient medicinesoup

Traditional Chinese medicine has long prized their healing ‘congee’ – a well cooked rice based porridge – often made on a stock from chicken feet. It’s earned its reputation of ‘stock-on-steroids’!

Ayurveda, the ancient ‘science of life’ in India has prescribed various versions of ‘kitchari’ (a well-cooked broth of rice, mung beans, vegetables and spices) to countless generations for detoxing and restoring weak digestion.

Is there any truth in this global ‘food wisdom’ that broth heals?

Broth: The TLC placebo

Even without the science, one thing’s for sure: home-made broth is laced with the ‘TLC’ factor.  Made with love and compassion for the invalid, tlc is inherently healing. Ayurveda counsels that food must be prepared mindfully and with good intentions because the cook’s energy is transmitted to the food.  The Shamanic traditions hold that we must cook with love to heal with food.

And placebo, as it turns out, is mighty powerful.  Indeed, our modern ‘evidence-based’ practices can draw on the now established science behind the ‘placebo effect’:

Dr David Hamilton, a British, former pharmaceutical, research chemist working on developing drugs for cardiovascular disease and cancer, was so intrigued by how the placebo effect works that he changed his career to study the science behind it.  He now writes compellingly on how the mind can heal the body. (2)

Elsewhere, Dr Lissa Rankin, a former US obstetrician & gynaecologist, has researched and documented the huge body of scientific evidence on the placebo effect and now encourages her patients to write their own ‘prescriptions’ for healing. (3)

So, one way or another, it’s looking like the ‘old wives’ got it right; their wisdom was based on generations of experience; of just doing ‘what worked’.  Now, nutritional science is showing us why it worked – and it’s exciting stuff.

In essence, broth is a humble liquid: merely bones and water boiled up for between 2-48 hours, but countless health experts have rediscovered the healing benefits of broth are encouraging us get into a the habit of consuming broth daily to heal and to stay healthy.

Stay tuned for next time ….

In Part 2 we’ll unravel the amazing science behind why broth heals and how it can help various disorders.

In Part 3 we’ll explain how to make the best bone broth, ever!  And we’ll share how to use it deliciously and creatively, in your everyday cooking.


(1) Wikipedia: Chicken Soup

(2) Dr David Hamilton

(3) Dr Lissa Rankin

– Book: Mind Over Medicine – Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself

(4) What Doctor’s Don’t Tell You – Magazine – February 2016: Souper Food


Izabella Natrins

I'm here to inspire and support women at midlife and beyond to re-ignite purpose and meaning to take back control of their health and create the radical, resilient heath they want and deserve. As a whole-health expert with over 30 years experience in the field, a qualified Health and Wellness Coach and Ballymaloe-trained nutritional chef, my real food nutrition and lifestyle medicine programmes support women fighting fatigue, struggling with overwhelm, weight gain, sleep, energy and niggling or multiple diagnosed health issues. As an advocate for real food nutrition, regenerative agriculture and whole-health, my book 'The Real Food Solution' is an evidence-based treasury wisdom for energy, vitality and better health for people and planet and a call to action to change the way we grown, source and cook our food. As the CEO at The UK Health Coaches Association, I'm proud to continue the task of leading the first professional association for Health and Wellness Coaches in the world and the gold standard for the UK and Ireland.

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3 Responses

  1. March 17, 2018

    […] science of life’ Ayurveda in India.  Many cultures across the globe have their own versions of healing chicken soup (think ‘Jewish penicillin‘) and science is now showing us how bone broths heal by […]

  2. March 16, 2020

    […] In Part 1 of this series – Bone Broth: Old Wives Tale or Seriously Good Medicine? we took a stroll through history, culture and emerging placebo science to see why just about every culture on the planet used their own version of bone broth as a healing remedy. […]

  3. March 17, 2020

    […] Part 1: Old Wives Tale or Seriously Good Medicine?  […]

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