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Does Eating Chicken Worsen Your Cough?

Back when we were children, it was normal to hear that eating chicken is bad for a cough. Find out if this is just an old wives’ tale and what other foods can relieve a cough holistically.

Chinese herbal chicken soup prepared with various herbal ingredients in a black-coloured clay pot.

Ask yourself this – can you resist a warm and delicious bowl of hot chicken soup when you’re down with a cough or cold? Chicken soup is a popular recommendation by healthcare providers because it reduces inflammation and helps you get rid of mucus easily. But the benefits of this soothing dish don’t stop there.

Sipping chicken soup also strengthens your immune system against the invasion of bacteria and viruses. So, naturally, preparing the dish for yourself or an under-the-weather loved one is a no-brainer.

Traditional Asian families might beg to differ. In Malaysian Chinese households, a common belief is that you should abstain from eating chicken if you’re coughing. And your mother would likely reply to your question why with a vague reply like, “Don’t question, just do.”  

Is it an old wives’ tale or is there some truth to the practice? And what food alternatives can help ease your cough? Read on to find out.

Eating Chicken While Having a Cough: Yay or Nay? 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) makes a compelling argument on whether you should eat chicken if you have a cough.

Chicken is associated with the Metal element and correlates to the Lungs. Highly nutritious, it can boost Lung health and help treat a cough that occurs as a result of Spleen and/or Lung Deficiencies. However, avoid chicken if you have a cough caused by pathogenic factors.

Real Health Medical Senior Physician Brandon Yew

Food Alternatives That Can Help Ease Cough Severity

Woman scrunching her face while turning away a plate of unhealthy foods and a cup of cola with her left palm.
Say no to cold, raw, oily, fried, fatty, spicy, sugary, or processed foods when coughing.

Eating cold, raw, oily, fried, fatty, spicy, sugary, and processed foods when experiencing a cough goes against TCM principles. The system of medicine also advises skipping certain fruits – avocadoes, grapes, persimmons, bananas and mandarin oranges – and alcoholic and iced beverages while nursing yourself back to health.

So, what can you eat to ease a cough? Let’s take a look at a few suitable alternatives.


Coughing typically happens when you have a sore throat or bronchitis – an infection of the main lung airways. These conditions result from your body’s immune response to an infection or irritant.

If it’s caused by the Cold pathogen, ginger (sheng jiang, 生姜) can help relieve the symptom by blocking inflammatory proteins from triggering pain, itching, or a burning sensation in your throat.


The citrus fruit is rich in vitamin C. It can help boost the immune system, increase the production of white blood cells to fight off infections, and reduce a cough’s duration. 

A squeezed slice of lemon (ning ming, 柠檬) yields approximately 3.7 milligrams of vitamin C, while half a lemon can produce a whopping 9.3 milligrams! It’s also the preferred option for treating a common cold or Lung Deficiency-induced cough. 

Tangerine peel  

Boasting a sharp and bitter taste, dried tangerine peel (chen pi, 陈皮) is often used to address a phlegmy cough and strengthen the Spleen and Lungs. The best way to use it is to soak the peel in hot water or drink it in a tea made with tangerine peel, lemon and brown sugar.

Snow fungus

Close-up display of snow fungus next to a rattan basket. 
Snow fungus is an underrated remedy for various cough types.

A species of mushroom that looks like a white or pale-yellow coloured coral in the water, snow fungus (xue er, 雪耳) is a common prescription for Lung Qi (vital life force) and Yin (passive energy) Deficiency symptoms, such as: 

  • A chronic cough or dry cough with no phlegm 
  • A dry throat and cough due to smoking cigarettes 
  • A cough with bloody sputum 

Chinese pear 

Cooling in nature, Chinese pears (zhong guo li, 中国梨) can help ease a pathogenic cough or Lung-Deficiency-induced dry coughs, resolve phlegm and remove Excess Heat from the Lungs. To make a herbal tonic, boil four cups of water before adding the fruit, tangerine peel, and some almonds.

Allow the mixture to boil and reduce to two full cups before adding two to three tablespoons of honey (feng mi, 蜂蜜). Drink warm once or twice daily for one week.

Monk fruit 

Commonly known as luo han guo (罗汉果), monk fruit is highly prized for its abilities to maintain Lung health, treat Lung Yin Deficiency and alleviate chronic coughing. Simmer one piece of the fruit in water, strain, and enjoy the tea twice daily.

Eating chicken can help you recover from a cough, but only if Spleen and Lung Deficiencies cause the symptom. Take comfort in knowing that alternative food options can help relieve all types of coughs.

However, before making any significant changes to your diet, consult a licensed TCM practitioner to ensure the best possible outcome for you.

Have you used other remedies to relieve a cough? Tell us in the comment section below.


  1. PharmEasy. 2022. 18 Best Foods to Ease Your Cough and Cold. [online] [Accessed 2 February 2023] 
  2. AsiaOne. 2014. Can chicken really make your cough worse? 8 food beliefs investigated. [online] [Accessed 2 February 2023] 
  3. Vinmec International Hospital. Is ginger water effective for cough? [online] [Accessed 2 February 2023] 
  4. Livestrong. 2021. Got a Cold? Try a Lemon, Honey and Hot Water Concoction to Help Your Cough. [online] [Accessed 2 February 2023] 
  5. MICHELIN GUIDE. 2019. Ingredient: Dried Tangerine Peel. [online] [Accessed 2 February 2023] 
  6. Ping Ming Health. SNOW FUNGUS AND LUNG IMMUNE FUNCTION. [online] [Accessed 2 February 2023] 
  7. Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation. PEAR POWER FOR COUGHS. [online] [Accessed 2 February 2023] 
  8. National Library of Medicine. 2019. Effects of Luo Han Guo on throat complications associated with tracheal intubation: a randomized controlled trial. [online] [Accessed 2 February 2023] 
  9. CHINESE MEDICINE LIVING. 2015. Lo-han Fruit for Soothing Throat and Cough. [online] [Accessed 2 February 2023] 

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Clickbait category?Oct 02 2023

Many info but no conclusion and no answer to the question thrown out.

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