The Medicinal Origins Of Silkie Chicken Soup

Silkie chicken soup, made with the chicken's black bones, flesh, and skin, is a medicinal dish venerated amongst practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Celebrated for its perceived effects on immunity and vitality for over 1,000 years, it's often used to treat female reproductive issues.

TCM is an ancient medical system centered on the belief that wellness is achieved by balancing yin (masculine) and yang (feminine), the two opposing forces of the universe. As such, illnesses — which TCM classifies as either hot or cold — are attributed to an imbalance of these internal energies and can reportedly be corrected by eating foods with combatant energetic properties.

Hot illnesses, the result of too much yin, are conditions that create heat in the body (think fever, skin rashes, acid reflux, and ulcers). These can be offset by cooling herbs and foods associated with yang. Conversely, cold conditions, which come in the form of aching joints, congestion, and fatigue, are associated with too much yang and can be reversed with heat-bringing herbs.

Silkie chicken's energy is considered neutral (meaning it neither supplies nor suppresses heat), and when combined with heating or cooling herbs, it can be incorporated into treatments for both hot and cold conditions. TCM chef Zoey Gong told Serious Eats this is because silkie chicken soup nourishes qi — a person's vital life force. Although the specific impact of neutral foods on hot and cold illnesses is unclear, they seemingly work to support the healthy functioning of both yin and yang.

Properties in silkie chicken may boost women's health

Qi is said to derive from the interaction between yin and yang, which work together to supply people with vitality. A 2006 study published by the American Chemical Society discovered that silkie chickens are loaded with carnosine, a dipeptide known to counteract aging that may explain the chicken's reputation as an invigorant. Additionally, in TCM, the color black aligns with the kidneys, which are said to generate yin and yang and influence the reproductive system.

TCM practitioners often include herbs known to combat specific illnesses when making silkie chicken soup. The most common variation (often used for ailments associated with women) includes jujube, donkey hide gelatin, mulberry, and longan fruit. Because each ingredient possesses specific properties, adding hot or cold ingredients to neutral broth creates a combination formula that works to both heat and cool where necessary.

For example, while warming jujube stops excessive bleeding (via International Journal of Food Properties), the addition of cooling mulberries can neutralize the symptoms of hot conditions like menopause (via Nutrients). Additionally, warming longan fruit is said to work as a powerful aphrodisiac and mood booster. A 2023 comparative analysis published in LWT also revealed that silkie chicken contains phytoestrogens that make it especially helpful in combating health issues associated with women, such as irregular periods, fertility issues, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, breast cancer, and cervical cancer.