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.