Botanical and Common Names
- Family Lilaceae
- Allium ascalonicum (Shallots)
- Allium cepa, Allium fistulosum (Onion, Green onions, Spring onions, Scallions)
- Allium schoenoprasum (Chive(s), Cive garlic, Civet)
- Onions can cause digestive upsets in some people if too many are eaten raw at one time.
Onions are native to the Northern Hemisphere, but have been cultivated worldwide for thousands of years. They are bulbous perennials that are closely related to garlic, having hollow stems and leaves, white or purple flowers, and bulbs of varying sizes, shapes, and pungenciesthat are used for culinary and medicinal purposes.
Onions have been used since ancient times for various health problems.
Bunches were hung on doors to ward off the plague, typhoid, and cholera in medieval Europe.
Wild onions were widely used as food and medicine by the Native Americans, who used all varieties interchangably. Onions were often used to treat stings and to help relieve colds.
Blackfeet mothers drank a wild onion tea to pass the medicinal properties on to their babies. They also treated colds, headaches, and sinus trouble by inhaling smoke from a smudge made from the bulb. They used snuff made from the dry bulb to open sinuses.
The Cheyenne made poultices to treat carbuncles. After one came to a head and opened, a tea of boiled plant parts was poured into the cavity to loosen and clear out the pus.
Both the Stephen Long expedition to the Rocky Mountains (1819-1820) and the expedition of Prince Maximilian of Germany to the Missouri River region (1832-1834) used wild onions as a food to cure illnesses thought to be scurvy.
Onion poultices have long been used to treat croup, pneumonia, and chest colds.
The wild onion listed in the US Pharmacopoeia (1820-1905) and in the National Formulary (1916-1936) was the European species (A. sativum). However, according to Dr. A. Clapp, a prominent 19th century medical doctor, the bulbs from the Canadian species, A. canadense, were equal to the “official onion” medically.
- inhibits thrombocyte aggregation (prevents blood clotting)
- lowers blood pressure
- volatile oil with sulfurous constituents
- sulfur-containing compounds
- penolic acids
An old folk remedy for keeping germs out of the sickroom was to place half an onion on the bedside table. Some years ago, a large American university decided to carry out tests to see whether this had any scientific basis. The researchers found that onions actually “drew” airborne bacteria from the atmosphere, thereby sanitizing the sickroom.
The sulfur-containing compounds have antibiotic properties, and have proven to be effective against Bacillus subtilis, Salmonella typhi, pseudomonas aeroginosa, and E. Coli.
Poultices on the chest help relieve congestion, abscesses, and boils. Grated raw onions can be used in a poultice to alleviate chilblains.
Raw slices are used for external application to help treat bee stings, insect bites, hives, or nettle rash for instant relief.
Steam inhalation containing hot water and raw onions help relieve sinus congestion caused by colds.
Juice made from crushed raw onions and honey helps soothe coughs, sore throats (2 onions and 2 tbsp honey steeped overnight at room temperature).
Infusions made by steeping onions in hot water for two or three hoursare used to treat colds, congestion, coughs and bronchitis (4 medium-sized hot onions in 1 liter or pint of hot, filtered water).
A decoction for congestion is made by simmering onions in water for five to ten minutes, then straining and adding honey before drinking (3 onions to 3/4 cup of water).
Tea made from boiled onion skins are used to improve poor circulation, especially in cases of gout.
Its pungency has a heating effect that increases circulation and causes sweating, which is helpful in lowering fevers and sweating out colds and flu.
Eating raw onions aids digestion and rids harmful bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites.
For warts, chop onions and cover with salt and leave overnight. Store the collected juice the next day and keep in a bottle. Dab the juice on the wart twice daily.
Onion juice can be applied to burns or as an antiseptic to cuts and abrasions, and can be used for a toothache.
Any of the onion family can be used puréed with water and sprayed on plants to keep away bugs and harmful plant fungi.
If onions are planted near roses, the scent of the rose is enhanced.