Help Prevent the Flu

By keeping an onion on your nightstand?

onion on nightstand

Long before Norovirus and flu shots, home remedies were passed down generation to generation. With Penicillin, vaccines, and flu shots, much of that wisdom has been lost or disregarded.

The Amazing Onion

Not long ago I was reading a fictional book that was set during the depression. In this book, when one of the women got sick she “boiled an onion.” It sparked a curiosity in me as well as questions. Why boil an onion? To eat? To help her breathe? I had to know more!


Forget the flu shot, just keep an unpeeled onion on your nightstand!

So, when I was reading my most recent issue of MaryJanesFarm Magazine I was pleased to see a short blurb on “Onions, Fact or Folklore” written by fellow blogger, Shery Jespersen. I found the story she told to be so intriguing that I’m going to repeat it here for you.

“When the 1918 flu pandemic killed 50-100 million people between 1918-1920, there was said to be a doctor who visited many farmers to see if he could help them combat the flu. The doctor came upon one household where everyone was very healthy. When the doctor asked what the family was doing that was different, the wife replied that she had placed a dish of unpeeled onions in each room of the home. The doctor asked if he could have one of the onions to observe under the microscope. When he did, he found traces of the flu virus in the onion. It had absorbed the infection, keeping the family healthy.”

The article goes on to tell the story of her hairdresser who heard this story and decided to place onions around her shop during flu season. To her surprise, “none of her staff got sick that year.” Another friend reported similar results and Mary Jane herself claims that her grandmother would have her eat a slice of onion sprinkled with salt when she got sick as a kid.

If I were still teaching school, I’d forgo the flu shot and hang onions from the ceiling of my classroom to keep the horrid Norovirus away! In the spring we could take the onions over to the high school science classroom and see if the onions contained any of the flu virus.


Onions as a Natural Remedy

My interest in the amazing onion was fully piqued by then! I went on to attend an Herbal Remedies Workshop that was based around the book 10 Essential Herbs by Lalitha Thomas. Onion is among one of Ms. Thomas’ top ten most powerful remedies. Her claims as to the powers of onion make me want to keep one in my first aid kit, a couple in my purse and quite possibly one stuck to my dashboard.

Thomas tells the story of a group of kids that she had been teaching about the healing uses of plants. One day, she was gone and this group of kids were outside playing and climbing a rocky hill. One of the younger one’s took a pretty bad tumble down the hill and was covered with bumps, bruises and cuts. Using their new found knowledge, the kids took it upon themselves to treat the child themselves. They used onion to clean the wounds and then proceeded to tape onion slices on all of the bruises. The next day when she returned, the child, who still had the onion slices taped all over his body, was feeling just fine. Where there were large bruises she peeled back the onion to reveal a ring of bruise surrounding the part that the onion had covered. And, where the bruises were completely covered by the slice of onion, there showed no signs of trauma.

Ms. Thomas goes on to explain that much research has been done surrounding the onion and that it contains “sulfur compounds” that are known to be a “superb antiseptic.” Along with active ingredients that “help to break up fluid congestion in body tissues, such as bruising and swelling.” East Texas University has conducted research which has “identified a prostaglandin compound in raw onions that is known for lowering high blood pressure in rats.” While Raukura Agricultural Research Center in New Zealand has reported evidence that “onions and garlic protect against cancer in humans.” If there ever was an all-purpose anecdote, I’m starting to think that the onion might at least be in the running!


How to Use Onion as a Home Remedy

There are many different ways to use the onion. One can make an onion (or onion/salt) poultice where the onion is chopped up, placed on, or in, a light cloth and placed on a congested chest or behind an infected/plugged ear. Another option is to finely chop or blend an onion, put in a cheesecloth and squeeze out the juice for consumption or as an antiseptic for an open cut or wound. Or, if you’re like me and you just want to keep things as simple as possible just place a slice of onion on whatever it is that ails you (like a bug bite, bruise, bee sting).

I for one keep waiting for my kids to get the nasty bug (hopefully NOT Norovirus) that’s going around so that I can try an onion poultice on a congested chest. So far so good though. After all they are sleeping with an onion on their nightstand.

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  1. What about your pet being in your room while using halved onions for healing?

  2. Adi Viccaji says:

    PREVIOUSLY very prone to catching colds from people if they came near or in the same room .
    I started keeping a few slices of onion in a bowl at my bed side when ever my wife had a cold. stayed cold free for months.

  3. Interesting. I have a sore blood vessel in the bottom of my foot. It occurred to me that a piece of onion on it might be a good experiment. I put it on and tried to go to bed and sleep. I became nauseous and wondered if it could POSSIBLY be the onion. too odd for words, but apparently in can be. I will leave it on as long as I can and try to sleep. We will see.

  4. Chevez Hawkins says:

    Thank you for this information. I will share what happen to me last night. First of all I believe God can Heal anything, in Jesus name,last night I heard in my spirit get a onion slice it and place it on my abdomen. I have been having pain, when I go to doctor(ER) they never see anything. I did apply the onion and now that I found your site I feel it confirms what I heard…I also love to grow vegetables, and have other remedies that I have come across, if your interested I will gladly share!!!

  5. My grandmother lost both her parents in the flu of 1918 a week apart. She was 2, the oldest of her 5 siblings was only 16. None of the 6 kids got sick, but both parents became ill very quickly and died just as fast.
    The kids used to visit the neighbor who would give them sweet onions and other things out of his garden to snack on, so there’d be half-eaten onions lying about in their rooms, on the windows sills. Parents room was on the other side of the small home. Polish immigrants (only my grandma was born in the U.S.) they used many herbs in their cooking but onion wasn’t a favorite of their father, so Mom didn’t add it to their garden in the U.S.
    But the doctors that were coming around making housecalls did ask them extensive questions to find out why the kids weren’t getting sick…. wasn’t until years later that they put the pieces together. It was the only variable that the kids were exposed to, that the parents weren’t.

  6. crystal ontiveros says:

    I have a ? How long does it take a onion to cure a fresh scab if placed 4 times a day for ten minutes then rinse with warm water carraddee maybe you can help me

  7. Nice post! I’ve assumed that the onion had to be peeled, but it’s good to hear that unpeeled can work, too. 🙂 Thanks!

  8. I agree with most of what is said, but I was wondering what the flu shot and Norovirus have to do with each other. Also, is the onion trick supposed to work for Norovirus, or the “flu” (short for influenza)? These are two totally different sickness’.

  9. viruses don’t have the mobility to be attracted to vegetables. Viruses are spread through direct contact. they only go airborne in a cough or sneeze. The odor of an onion may open the sinuses but it isn’t going to absorb anything when left out

    • Jeffm9770 you are mistaken. It does have the ability to draw out infection when placed on the skin and there is even a pharmaceutical grade topical product that is onion based to help to diminish scars and it does absorb air born anything!
      I’m in the medical field and researched/tested homeopathic remedies.

  10. Kelly Haines says:

    White, Yellow or Red does one work better than the other? I have chronic ear aches. Does the onion in vinegar really work?

    • I haven’t tried onion in vinegar, but I have tried just holding a piece of onion to my ear. Felt improved within about 20 minutes. I admittedly have an unusually fast metabolism.

      I’ve read that white works best, but I’ve not verified that anecdotally. I’ve tried sweet onion and red onion—sweet did seem to work better than red—and am trying white onion as I type this.

    • Garlic oil works for ear aches!!

  11. I have a chest infection which I started on antibiotics (amoxycillin) a day ago and even though they’ll be clearing me out, I still wanted to try the onion thing. So I sliced up a whole onion and two garlic cloves and tied them with a bandage to the soles of my feet and then I cut another onion in quarters and put it in a bowl next to my bed (I didn’t realise the onions had to be unpeeled/cut).
    The thing is that 15mins later I started feeling very sick and ended up rushing to get the onion off my feet and away from me just in time for me to vomit my guts up! After that I was shaky for a while but eventually fell asleep.

    Why did this happen to me? Was there too much onion? Did it have something to do with the penicillin in my antibiotics?

    • Marysa-
      Well first of all, I’m sorry to hear that you had such a terrible reaction. My first instinct is that you were reacting to the amoxycillin. Many people are allergic to amoxycillin and vomiting is often the reaction (this is the case for my father). If you take the antibiotics again and vomit, ask your doctor for another antibiotic right away.

      If you take the antibiotic again and have no reaction, then my next guess (and that’s what it is, as I am not a doctor, naturopath, etc) is that you had a pretty severe detox reaction. Maybe the onion and garlic were causing your body to rid itself of toxins too rapidly.

      There is a possibility that you had a reaction to the onion and garlic alone??
      Let me know if you figure it out.

      • Good thought but I’m definitely not allergic to amoxycillin, I’ve had it many times before and been fine.
        I’m thinking that your second guess could be right because a few months ago I found these patches you can put on your feet to draw out toxins and I had the same vomit reaction. It’s a bit strange.

        • Maybe you should try doing the patches on your feet in very small doses, for a short amount of time (like 5 minutes) every few days and see if it will help your body detox a bit. It sounds like there might be a reason why you’ve ended up with a chest infection. Maybe there’s an underlying toxicity that needs to be addressed?

    • Why are you idiots on antibiotics for viral infections anyway?

    • That sounds like a detox reaction. If you eat a lot of processed foods, for example, your body has a lot of junk to be rid of, which your body will push you to be rid of. I personally work with unpeeled onion—works faster.

      I started by cutting an onion in half and putting it by me when I felt too sick to make one of my herbal tea remedies, figuring that it might at least help me feel better enough to make one. It helped enough that I repeated it and eventually tried putting a cut-in-half onion against an infected ear. Within about 20 minutes, I was feeling improved.

      The next time I cut into an onion, I took the outer layer of flesh, broke it into pieces about as wide as my foot, and stuck them in my socks. Within a few minutes, the muscles tingled and spasmed a little, but I left it, and it passed. It now doesn’t happen when I stick the onion in my socks, though my allergies—and I have a LOT of them—feel improved afterwards.

      Note that my many allergies mean I usually can’t eat processed foods and have to cook from scratch, so I would have far fewer preservatives and such in my system than the average person has. You could try the onion again and see if it gets better after it gets worse, or you could try with a small amount to see what that does.

      Next time you cut the root off an onion, you could try sticking it in a custard cup (or cleaned applesauce cup) near you. I actually have the ends and peel of an onion in a dish by me now, and pieces of onion in my socks. My ears are pretty much always raw/sore, due to a jaw problem and allergies, but they started feeling better shortly after.)

      From what I’ve read, white onion presumably works better than the others, but I’ve not tested that yet. Red onion is supposed to have the most quercetin in it.

  12. Terry Southard says:

    How often do you replace the onion on the nightstand?

    • I only replace the onion if it gets moldy- which rarely happens. I usually just throw out the onion at the end of flu season and replace the next year.

  13. Are these raw onions by the bedside? At the beginning of the article it stated cooked so I just want to be sure which way? Thx!! GREAT article.

    • Yes, we do keep raw onions on the nightstand. However, the article does talk about various ways that the onion has been used as a home remedy. I think cooked onions were typically used when the infection involved the lungs.

  14. What a great idea, I have three children who will now benefit form your advice! Delighted you popped by Seasonal Celebration Wednesday and hope to see you again tomorrow! Rebecca @Natural Mothers Network x

  15. QUERCETIN! The BESTTTTTT natural antihistamine out there that wards off the flu and other ails! 🙂 Take it daily… It lurks in ONIONS

  16. My husband heats chopped onion in vinegar, then puts the cooled liquid in my daughter’s ear when she gets an ear ache. It relieves her pain instantly and she’s never needed antibiotics.

  17. Onion, vinegar and lemon juice are excellent home remedies to relieve
    you of age spots, melasma, pigmentation and discoloration. 

  18. Onion is used as a home remedy for the cure of many diseases including
    hair loss.It’s antibacterial,antifungal,anti-inflammatory,circulatory and anti-oxidant properties make it a highly valued food
    source that can be used both internally and externally for healing

  19. I’m so love this blog, already bookmarked it! Thanks.

  20. F. Bahar Carl says:

    I grew up by Mediterranean, while playing and jumping around in the yard, I stepped on a nail that went into my heel and arch (side ways ) about two inch. Older ladies were making tortilla old traditional way. When they saw my foot, one pulled the nail, another pulled a hot wood coal, and another wrapped an onion on a wet cloth and put it among coals. They burned the spot where nail entered, and once the onion was baked they split it open with their fist and wrapped it on the area. I thought them nuts at first, but the two ours later I was jumping around as if nothing happened but they made me not to take the onion off until the next morning. I was a kids then and kids can be resilient , but not superhero where scars disappear over night. That’s what happened to my foot. Almost healed over night. And just this evening a piece of stick went through my son’s hiking boots and an inch into his arch.. I cleaned the area and used antibacterials but just now, roasting onions in the oven and will apply over it.. Will let you know how it works out.

    Thank you for a wonderful site, now that I found it, I’ll visit it quiet often!

  21. Very good article. I’ve found your blog via Yahoo and I’m really happy about the information you provide in your posts. Btw your sites layout is really messed up on the Chrome browser. Would be cool if you could fix that. Anyhow keep up the good work!

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