May 2000

Mother's Day, Breastfeeding, and Chicken Soup

Audiey Kao, MD, PhD
Virtual Mentor. 2000;2(5):43-45. doi: 10.1001/virtualmentor.2000.2.5.dykn1-0005.


  • According to some historians, the predecessor of Mother’s Day was the ancient Greek festival dedicated to Rhea, wife of Cronus and mother of gods and goddesses. In England, Mother’s Day, or "Mothering Sunday," is observed on the fourth Sunday of Lent. Anna M. Jarvis (1864-1948) is credited with originating the Mother’s Day holiday in the United States, but she never married or had children. On May 8, 1914, Congress passed a Joint Resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
  • Recommendations on breastfeeding from the American Academy of Pediatrics state that infants should be breastfed for at least the first 12 months to support optimal growth and development. Research supports the claim that mother’s breast milk decreases the incidence of respiratory [1] and middle ear infections [2,3], as well as having potential protective effects against sudden infant death syndrome [4-6] and inflammatory bowel diseases [7, 8].
  • Your mother’s chicken soup has been recently demonstrated to have therapeutic value in the treatment of rheumatioid arthritis [9-12] and other health problems. Even before this evidence was found, chicken soup was used as a remedy for a variety of ailments for thousands of years, as reflected in the writings from the Babylonian Talmud and in the writings of Avicenna and Moses Maimonides:


    A special food was "the chicken of Rabbi Abba". Concerning its preparation, there is a divergence of opinion in the commentaries. It was assumed that it was prepared in such a way that after it was cooked, it was soaked in warm water for a long time until it completely dissolved. Rabbi Abba is said to have consumed this fowl as a remedy [13].


    As far as possible, the meat should be that of hens or roosters and their broth should also be taken, because this sort of fowl has virtue in rectifying corrupted humours, whatever the corruption may be, and especially the black humours, so much so that the physicians have mentioned that chicken broth is beneficial in leprosy [14].

    Chicken soup that is boiled neutralizes [body] constitution. This is [both] an excellent food, as well as a medication for the beginning of leprosy, and fattens the [body] substance of the emaciated and those convalescing from illness. Pigeon sucklings and all soups made therefrom have the special property of producing migraine headaches. ... The partridge, if boiled, causes constipation. If it is boiled in its skin, it loosens the stool. The hen and the rooster have [even] more powerful stool-loosening action [15].

    Flesh of fat chickens and broth made therefrom are the most valuable [foods] with which sufferers from this illness [hemorrhoids] should be nourished [16].

  • Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day set aside for remembering those who have died in our nation’s military service. Originated to commemorate soldiers killed in the Civil War, the observance was later extended to honor all US war casualties. On Memorial Day, the American flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon and then raised to the top of the staff. The American flag was first flown over a foreign outpost in Libya, at Fort Derne on the shores of Tripoli, on April 27, 1805.
  • Approximately 60 000 amputations were performed during the Civil War. Because physicians lacked antiseptic surgical techniques, attempts at saving soldiers’ limbs invariably led to infection, gangrene, and death [17]. During the Vietnam War, more than 58 000 Americans were killed in action, and the number of amputations performed was approximately 300% higher than in World War II.
  • Bioterrorism Readiness Plan for Healthcare Facilities and has received government funding to begin creating stockpiles of antibiotics and to develop a modern smallpox vaccine.


  1. Cushing AH, Samet JM, Lambert WE, et al. Breastfeeding reduces risk of respiratory illness in infants. Am J Epidemiol. 1998;147(9):863-870.
  2. Newburg DS. Human milk glycoconjugates that inhibit pathogens. Curr Med Chem. 1999;6(2):117-127.
  3. Hanson LA. Breastfeeding provides passive and likely long-lasting active immunity. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 1998;81(6):523-533.
  4. Saadi AT, Gordon AE, MacKenzie DA, et al. The protective effect of breast feeding in relation to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS): I. The effect of human milk and infant formula preparations on binding of toxigenic Staphylococcus aureus to epithelial cells. FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 1999;25(1-2):155-165.
  5. Gordon AE, Saadi AT, MacKenzie DA, et al. The protective effect of breast feeding in relation to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS): II. The effect of human milk and infant formula preparations on binding of Clostridium perfringens to epithelial cells. FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 1999;25(1-2):167-173.
  6. Gordon AE, Saadi AT, MacKenzie DA, et al. The protective effect of breast feeding in relation to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS): III. Detection of IgA antibodies in human milk that bind to bacterial toxins implicated in SIDS. FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 1999;25(1-2):175-182.
  7. Thompson NP, Montgomery SM, Wadsworth ME, Pounder RE, Wakefield AJ. Early determinants of inflammatory bowel disease: use of two national longitudinal birth cohorts. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2000;12(1):25-30.
  8. 2018;

    Villalpando S, Hamosh M. Early and late effects of breast-feeding: does breast-feeding really matter? Biol Neonate. 1998;74(2):177-191.

  9. Toda Y, Takemura S, Morimoto T, Ogawa R. Relationship between HLA-DRB1 genotypes and efficacy of oral type II collagen treatment using chicken cartilage soup in rheumatoid arthritis [in Japanese]. Nihon Rinsho Meneki Gakkai Kaishi. 1997;20(1):44-51.
  10. Ray ML, Bryan MW, Ruden TM, Baier SM, Sharp RL, King DS. Effect of sodium in a rehydration beverage when consumed as a fluid or meal. J Appl Physiol. 1998;85(4):1329-1336.
  11. Rosen HN, Salemme H, Zeind AJ, Moses AC, Shapiro A, Greenspan SL. Chicken soup revisited: calcium content of soup increases with duration of cooking. Calcif Tissue Int. 1994;54(6):486-488.
  12. 2018;

    Ohry A, Tsafrir J. Is chicken soup an essential drug? CMAJ. 1999;161(12):1532-1533.

  13. Seder Moed, Shabbath. The Babylonian Talmud. 2nd century BC-3rd century AD:145b.

  14. A Treatise on the Canon of Medicine of Avicenna Gruner OC, trans. London, England: Luzac; 1930:407.

  15. The twentieth treatise. In: Rosner F, Muntner S, trans-eds. The Medical Aphorisms of Moses Maimonides. Vol 2. New York, NY: Yeshiva University Press; 1971:77.

  16. Maimonides M. Treatise on Hemorrhoids: Medical Answers(Responsa). Rosner F, Muntner S, trans-eds. Philadelphia, Pa: JB Lippincott; 1969:9.

  17. Ira M. Rutkow, MD, MPH, DrPH. Amputation vs nonamputation: a Civil War surgical dilemma. Arch Surg. 1999;134(11):1284. Available at: Archives of Surgery.

  18. Gunby P. Physicians face bioterrorism. JAMA. 1999;281(13);1162. 

  19. Gordon SM. The threat of bioterrorism: a reason to learn more about anthrax and smallpox. Cleve Clin J Med. 1999;66(10):592-595, 599-600.
  20. Franz Dr, Zajtchuk R. Biological terrorism: understanding the threat, preparation, and medical response. Dis Mon. 2000;46(2):125-190.
  21. Leggiadro RJ. The threat of biological terrorism: a public health and infection control reality. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2000;21(1):53-56.
  22. Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology Inc and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bioterrorism readiness plan: a template for healthcare facilities. ED Manag. 1999;11:suppl 1-16.


Virtual Mentor. 2000;2(5):43-45.



The viewpoints expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.