Can Chicken Broth Treat Painful Joints?

By Michael A. Smith, MD

Smooth, easy and friction-free — that’s how your joints are designed to work. Or, at least, that’s how they’re supposed to work. To move without friction, joints require a smooth surface which can act as both a lubricant and a shock absorber.

This is where cartilage comes into play. It’s the perfect substance for smooth, near friction-free motion. Cartilage is mainly comprised of type-2 collagen, the primary protein found in your in your joints, along with water and other small molecules.

With age, wear-and-tear on your joints erodes the cartilage, exposes collagen and narrows the joint space. The exposed collagen is attacked by your immune system leading to high levels of inflammation. The process just described is what doctors call osteoarthritis — the age-related degradation of joint cartilage and bone. A similar process occurs in rheumatoid arthritis as well.

Chicken Broth is NOT an Old Wives Tale

Despite the fact that half of all prescriptions for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen are written for osteoarthritis, those drugs do nothing more than transiently blunt the pain. They have no long-term impact on the disease itself.1

In the year 2000, scientists discovered that chicken soup actually inhibited the attraction of immune system cells called neutrophils to the site of inflammation.2 Overall, this eases inflammation and inhibits cartilage destruction. With additional studies, the researchers were surprised to find out that it wasn’t the vegetables in chicken soup that provided benefit, but it was actually the broth.

So what’s providing the benefit in the broth? Collagen. Let us explain.

Collagen Creates Immune Tolerance

Ingesting chicken collagen diminishes the immune attack against exposed collagen in your joints. Immunologists call this “immune tolerance.” We think that’s pretty cool.

Researchers at Harvard's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston have studied oral type-2 collagen in patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. In one study of 60 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis, a decrease in the number of swollen and tender joints was found in subjects who supplemented with type-2 collagen.3

Still more remarkably, 14% of those patients taking collagen achieved complete remission of the disease, an unusual finding for any form of treatment. Similar results were obtained in a much larger trial of 274 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis.4

The Harvard group also studied patients with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Ten patients supplemented with type-2 collagen for 12 weeks.5 Eight patients responded to treatment, experiencing average significant reduction in swollen and tender joints. Importantly, no serious adverse events were reported.

Collagen Eases Pain Better than Traditional Supplements

Other studies have shown that oral type-2 collagen is superior to the combination of chondroitin and glucosamine sulfate.6,7 Also interesting, however, are findings that show combining oral collagen with glucosamine and chondroitin is the best approach for reducing pain and increasing joint function.6,7

Chicken, Bacon, and White Bean Soup Recipe

This recipe comes from the home cooking section at It makes a hearty meal in a bowl. Make sure you plan ahead to soak the beans overnight, or save yourself some time and used drained canned beans. If you use canned beans, reduce the simmering time to 15 minutes and add the beans along with the chicken and bacon at the end.


  • 1 pound dried white beans, such as white kidney (cannellini) or great northern, rinsed and picked over
  • 1/2 pound bacon, cut into 1/2-inch wide pieces
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 Tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 quarts chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 pound diced cooked chicken
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese

  1. Put the beans into a large pot or bowl. Add water to cover by 2 inches and soak for at least 8 hours or overnight. Then drain. (For a quick soak, bring the beans and water to a boil over high heat and cook for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to stand for 1 hour. Drain.)
  2. Fry the bacon in a heavy medium stockpot over medium-high heat until crisp, about 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to lift onto paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pot.
  3. Add the onions and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the shallots, garlic, bay leaves, salt, and cayenne. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots soften, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the beans to the pot along with the stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, about 1-1/2 hours.
  5. Stir in the chicken and the reserved bacon and heat through. Remove and discard bay leaves.
  6. Ladle into warm bowl and sprinkle with the grated cheese.
Go ahead and give it a try - you know it sounds good. It may even help your joints feel better too!


  1. Int J Med Sci. 2009;6(6):312-21.
  2. Chest. 2000 Oct;118(4):1150-7.
  3. Science. 1993 Sep 24;261(5129):1727-30.
  4. Arthritis Rheum. 1998 Feb;41(2):290-7.
  5. Arthritis Rheum. 1996 Apr;39(4):623-8.
  6. J Vet Pharmacol Ther. 2009 Dec;32(6):577-84.
  7. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res. 2002;22(3-4):101-10.


Anonymous said...

If its the stock that is important, then here is a recipe for the chicken stock. Use the carcass of a free range organic pastured chicken for this if you can, one with nice strong bones. I get mine from Laverstoke Park Farm. Put the bones in the slow cooker, crock pot, and add a couple of onions, celery, carrots. Add water and a desert spoon of cider vinegar, and keep it going for 48 hours. The minerals will leach out of the bones. I add spices and herbs like turmeric root, parsley, garlic, etc whatever is to hand. Use the strained liquid as a base for soups and stews and gravy. I set the stock with gelatine to make it easy to store in the fridge, and the body can make collagen from this also. You can sometimes add more water to the pot and carry on for another batch out of the same bones. The remaining bones and veg can be buried in the garden to feed a grape vine or big plant.

Stefania said...

I've heard this before many times. It take eating chicken soup to a different level. Great soup recipes for the cold season.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the Gaps Diet to me

Nerissa said...

In this abstract it is hypothesized that auto antibodies formed against athlete's feet leads to knee osteoarthritis. If true, the cartilage in broth may be working as a decoy to these antibodies.

LifeExtension said...

Nerissa - Interesting! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I have been taking a chicken cartilage supplement for a little over a week and notice a marked decrease in my joint pain

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - Glad to hear it! We hope you continue to get better. :-)

Rika Susan said...

This is fascinating information! I knew about chicken broth and colds, but not about its effect on joints and inflammation. I am going to try this for my mother who struggles with pain and can't tolerate anti-inflammatory meds. Great alternative!

Life Extension said...

Rika Susan - Let us know if it helps!

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