Chicken Soup Good For Both Soul And Malaria, Research Suggests

Remember those Scholastic Book Fairs you'd have as a kid, where well-meaning literary carpetbaggers would come bearing metal bookcases filled with all sorts of titillating titles designed to pry the pocket change from your youthful grasp? 

If you do, then you'll no doubt remember the omnipresent "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series, which have since sold over half a billion copies worldwide, spreading the message that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. 

Apparently, the soul isn't the only thing chicken soup is good for — based on findings from a British primary school's National Science Week project, it's also great for malaria. While malaria isn't something you'd typically find at a book fair, CNN reports that it started as a way "malaria researcher Jake Baum could teach the kids the difference between [an] herbal remedy and true medicine."

"So if my mum or my grandma says they're going to give me this tea and it'll make me better, and somebody comes along saying, 'Oh, that was just hocus pocus, I'll give you a real medicine,' what's the difference?" asked Baum, a professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College London whose child attends the school.

"We decided the difference is evidence: If you take a natural remedy and you test it and it works, it's now also a medicine," Baum said. "So we came up with the soup project. We asked kids to bring in the traditional soup their family would make when someone was not feeling well."

A new way to use your noodle

They got 60 soups with ethnic roots from around the globe — seems like a pretty sweet deal so far. Baum was able to filter 56 samples (the other four were too lumpy), which he took back to his lab to test.

The challenger? The "most deadly species of malaria parasite, called P. falciparum, responsible for 99% of malaria deaths." In 2017 alone, malaria was responsible 435,000 deaths around the globe, far more than other common conditions for youths and adolescents — pubescent malaise. 

The results? "Five of the 56 soups blocked parasite growth in the human blood stage by about 50 percent; two of those were as effective as a leading antimalarial, didydroartemisinin. Four other broths were able to block the male parasite's sexual development by around 50 percent."

The best of all? A "vegetarian soup with a fermented cabbage base," Baum said. "And you know, people do sing the praises of kimchi and other fermented cabbages, so maybe there's something in that."

There you have it, kids. Here's some chicken soup for your soul and your deadly viral disease: eat your cabbage.