Will Onions Help Fight the Flu?

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM Published on , Last Updated on September 10, 2013

Onion Flu Remedy

Recently, there has been some e-mails circulating online regarding the use of onions for flu symptoms. I have been asked to comment on this and give my opinion on the validity of this remedy. So here is what I have found.

What centuries of grandmothers have instinctively known is now being confirmed by everyone from modern scientists to naturopathic doctors. Onions may have the ability to ward off and relieve symptoms of the common flu. And in a world where, according to the CDC, many Americans get the seasonal flu every year, the simple method of boiling onions into a drinkable broth may be a good practice to return to.

Moreover, the outbreak of H1N1, commonly known as swine flu, has caused many people to consider getting flu vaccinations that, in my opinion, will do more harm than good. Prevention is the best method, and this post will offer some insight into this ancient technique of using onions for indications of the flu.

How Onions Help with the Flu

The idea that onions may ward off disease through their potent therapeutic properties extends back thousands of years. Ancient Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine revered onions for their congestion-relieving properties. The Ancient Greeks rubbed onions on sore muscles and the Native Americans used them to ward off the common cold and flu. In fact, the World Health Organization has even recognized the onion for its ability to help relieve flu symptoms including coughs, congestion, respiratory infections and bronchitis [1].

Some traditions have even recommended placing sliced onions beside the bed at night, or even just around the house, to help prevent yours from getting the flu. The theory was that the raw onion would absorb germs in the air, preventing them from entering the body. Even though, it must be noted, that one of the most common ways to get the flu is by contact with contaminated surfaces or people. So remember to wash your hands, especially before eating or scratching your eyes.

In an early 1900’s Los Angeles Times article, the following suggestion was offered to the public:

    “In a sickroom you cannot have a better disinfectant than the onion. It has a wonderful capacity for absorbing germs. A dish of sliced onions placed in a sickroom will draw away the disease; they must be removed as soon as they lose their odor and become discolored, and be replaced by fresh ones.”

Why are Onions so Effective?

chopping an onion

Onions have many benefits. They are high in sulfuric compounds such as thiosulfinates, sulfoxides, and other odorous cysteine sulfoxides. These compounds give onions their pungent flavor and are what make you cry when cutting them. Research shows that the thiosulfinates in onions are responsible for their potent properties. Thiosulfinates have even been shown to kill off salmonella and E. coli. Sulfuric compounds also play a role in cancer and heart disease prevention, and therefore act as a great immune-boosting food for general disease prevention.

Onions are also extremely high in the antioxidant quercetin. Quercetin helps the body fight free-radicals, and boosts the immune response. A recent study from the British Journal of Nutrition showed that individuals who ate foods high in quercetin (onion soup was used in the study), had better immune responses and less likelihood for cardiovascular disease [2].

The Delmar’s Integrative Herb Guide [3] states that, “Onions help break up or clear mucous and other substances that block the immune system from doing its work.”

Onion Soup: Easy, Health Restoring Recipe

This season, if you feel a cold or flu coming on, make yourself a big pot of soup using this simple recipe.

Onion Soup Recipe:

  • 3 large organic yellow onions
  • 3 organic cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup of fresh, finely-chopped organic oregano
  • 4 cups of purified or distilled water
  • Add Himalayan salt, to your taste.

Preparation: Chop the onions and garlic into cubes. Bring water to a boil and add onions, garlic, and oregano. Let simmer for 15 minutes, or until you notice that the onions are translucent and soft. Drink the hot soup and allow the body temperature to rise enough to induce mild sweating.

Another Onion Remedy

Onion Flu Remedy

For an effect similar to detox foot pads, try cutting a piece of onion large enough to place directly on the bottom of each foot. Cover with a sock before bed and remove in the morning. Do this every night if you are experiencing flu like symptoms.

Disclaimer: Please remember that this post is not intended to be medical advice. If you think you have the flu, please talk to your doctor about how onions may help, as well as what else you may be able to do to fight it. Additionally, here’s a list of flu remedies that may also help you get relief.


  1. World Health Organization. Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants: Bulbus Allii Cepaei.
  2. S Paliwal, J Sundaram and S Mitragotri. British Journal of Cancer. Induction of cancer-specific cytotoxicity towards human prostate and skin cells using quercetin and ultrasound. British Journal of Cancer. 2005 February 1. 92, 499–502. doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6602364.
  3. Martha Libster. Delmar’s Integrative Herb Guide for Nurses. 2001 October 23.

  • Anenon

    They don’t absorb odors… They are much more pungent than the odors. If you put a skunk in the room and let it spray, you won’t smell paint either. Guaranteed

  • Lauren

    Mark Miller you’re a know it all, who knows s**t all!! Ill tell you that for free!

  • googlybear

    I believe you need a balance of the world the healing world of doctors and the healing power of nature and what it has to offer and the healing though self responsibility. I think I will give the onion tea and onion in a bowl a try :)

  • violetz


  • Mic

    I see people are getting way too emotional about this subject but no one asked the obvious. In this article, the written suggest one should placed an onion when going to bed. So I asked, are those feets gonna stink like shit the next day?

  • ghc_health

    As we can tell, Onions have been tested for a number of issues. “Two sets of compounds make up the majority of onions known active constituentssulfur compounds, such as allyl propyl disulphide (APDS), and flavonoids , such as quercetin . Each of these groups of compounds has multiple medicinal actions.
    The sulfur compounds form a strongly scented oil, particularly the compound known as thioproanal-s-oxide or lacrimatory factor. It is responsible for the tearing many people suffer while cutting onions.18 Onion and onion oil constituents have been repeatedly shown to kill various microbes in the test tube.19 , 20 Studies have not been conducted in humans to determine whether onion is a useful antimicrobial agent.
    APDS has been shown to block the breakdown of insulin by the liver and possibly to stimulate insulin production by the pancreas, thus increasing the amount of insulin and reducing sugar levels in the blood.21 Several uncontrolled human studies22 , 23 and at least one double-blind clinical trial24 have shown that large amounts of onion can lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes . Onion does not reduce blood sugar levels in healthy nondiabetic people.25”


    Inhibitory Effect of Green Onion on the Growth of Aspergillus parasiticus

    Because it has never been tested in regards to its benefit in fighting off the flu it would be difficult to discredit it as a natural remedy. As you can see it has tested positively in dealing with many other negative health concerns, this would allow me to feel as if there is some validity to its over all benefit in this regard.

    Vaccines are big buisness, they bring allot of money to the companies that manufacture them. So there is room for specific agendas where human health is concerned. There have also been a number of studies that also point out the concerns with what is in a vaccine and its effects on the body.

    Flu vaccines have long been considered a pillar of public health in the United States. Each fall, government-sponsored awareness campaigns urge Americans to get an influenza vaccination for themselves and their family members. As recently as last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded its flu vaccine recommendations to include everyone six months and older.

    Millions of people follow the advice. This flu season, U.S. manufacturers estimate they will distribute as many as 173 million doses of flu vaccine.

    The heavy promotion and easy access to the vaccine gives the impression that anyone who is immunized will be protected from flu. But the new analysis of flu studies by researchers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Maryland suggests that’s not the case for many people.

    “We found that the vaccine was about 59 percent effective overall in individuals 18 to 65 years of age,” said Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “Some studies had higher, some had lower.”

    In other words, on average, more than 40 percent of people who receive a flu vaccine get no protection from it against the flu.

    I hope that this helps you, take care and be well!

  • MadMan

    Of course the vaccines are altered, every year!! The one I took in October may not help in Feb.

  • MadMan

    A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing
    microorganism, and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the
    microbe, its toxins or one of its surface proteins. It does not “shed & infect” others.
    Hmmmm….vaccines should be outlawed? So, we can bring back Polio, measles, etc. that used to kill millions of Americans?

  • fuelcell

    While i certainly believe that prevention and healthy living is the best course, this anti-vaccintion trend is totally irresponsible.

  • kevinod77

    This is sooooooo wrong in so many ways! Sliced onions scattered around the house has ZERO effect in warding of viruses. NO plant attracts the “cold virus” or any other viris, into the vegetable! Ingesting the onion in food and soups will help, but scattering raw onions around will do nothing but give you a stinky house! FYI – There is NO supporting information from the WHO about spreading sliced raw onions around the house! This is nothing more the ancient witchcraft! Shame on you to portray this sham is medically accepted. WRONG!

  • docmusic

    VEGANS are the MOST MISERABLE PEOPLE on this lovely planet.

    My personal findings indicate
    that people who get into this vegan c/trap are just miserable and full of envy
    and generally hungry all the time. Food and Mood go together….and hence vegans
    are always in a foul jealous mood as we gorge on delicious food in front of
    them. Vegans are the dietary-muslims of our times. Rabid ,stupid and useless
    for anything except telling other people their stupid humbug and socially damaging ideas as facts.

    VEGANS are the MOST MISERABLE PEOPLE on this lovely planet.

  • Eric The MadMan

    LMAO…..this is funny…this Doc is a quack!!

  • just sayin

    ok for those of you who haven’t tried home remedies but yet your on here saying they don’t work your stupid. doctors are not going to say just get an onion and slice it because they cant make any money like that. If you haven’t noticed this whole country has gone political. of course i don’t have proof but i guarantee there is a cure for HIV/AIDS but the government and doctors cant make money curing people they make their money treating people for something that cant be cured. the government put out polio,there is a cure for cancer but doctors pharmaceuticals insurance companies ect. cant make money if there’s a simple cure .im not an educated man but im not a dunbass either. money makes the world go around. don’t put down the onion if you haven’t tried it.

  • tootles

    No the medical world does not know what they are doing. I know from first hand. 5 years of going to doctors, having my top rib removed, discs in my neck fused together, and then told I had fibromiagia, when it was really Lyme disease. The damage that was done because doctors were “practicing” medicine on me and did not know what they were doing will last with me for the rest of my life. The way I found out what I had and have been able to get some of my life back was without main stream medicine. Natural medicine is so much better for us, and less side effects.

  • bruce

    If you can’t see the value in this statement, you deserve all that you get, and to live without all that you can’t acquire. Dumb, stupid and ignorant are all self replicating, however Darwin will reward you.

  • Jon Anthony Hamilton

    people have died from shots and others have acquired irreversible conditions

  • Jon Anthony Hamilton

    I like that- “Don’t put down the onion if you haven’t tried it!”

  • Jon Anthony Hamilton

    Raw is always better, but onion soup will have a lot of its properties in the broth. mmmmmmmmm 😛

  • Amandeda Stephane

    please help me to thank DR.SAMBOLA for removing HIV sickness in my life,am from Senegal and i have been sick HIV for 9years and i have been visiting hospital for medical check up all to know are vain .it got to a point it got to a point where by i started visiting herbalist for herbs yet the sickness was still distorying my body system there was no changes.i all way share tears from morning till night cos there was no trace of what cause the sickness,medical doctors was unable to detect any thing that was wrong with me and herbalist still try on their own but nothing to write home about.the sickness grow to a stage that i was unable to stand-up on my own except the support of any member of my family and dearth refused to take me away from this painful sickness.one day my either sister who live in united state of America (USA)came with an email and phone number of DR.SAMBOLA that the man have spiritual power that he different problems like this and the one that is even worst than this and i never believed my sister email DR.SAMBOLA about the problem.and DR.SAMBOLA said there is no problem that all we need to do is to perform some sacrifice and cast negative spell off him in his shrine yet i never believed DR.clifford so after performing all the sacrifice DR.SAMBOLA told my sister in 7days time i am going to be heal from this sickness that he has cast out negative spell off me and he has pay 7 sacrifice in seven junction.did you believed that on the 4th day i stand-up on my own to walk without the support of anybody ,before the 7th days i regain all my power in fact i was physically fit.please help me to thank DR.SAMBOLA for removing sickness in my life please if you want to contact him if you have any kinds of problem he can help you to solve it okay or you have a problem in your marriage here is the email sambolatemple@gmail.com once again thank you DR.SAMBOLA .EMAIL sambolatemple@gmail.com

  • Matt

    You referenced the World Health Organization when informing us about the flu fighting properties of Onions. The report you reference actually says there is no scientific support for the use of onions in fighting flu, that it is simply an old tradition.
    It does say that onions have antibacterial properties, but flu is a virus so wouldn’t be affect by this.
    Similarly you reference the BMC when talking about quercetins healthyproperties. The BMC actually says
    Bioflavonoids, such as quercetin, have recently emerged as a new class of chemotherapeutic drugs for the treatment of various cancer types, but are marred by their low potency and poor selectivity

    Basically, they’re very ineffective.

    Hope this clears up any confusion.


  • Donald Wright

    Hmmmm. It always seems impossible until it’s done.

  • a christian

    your clearly are not a christian.

  • Candace Lee

    fur shure madman – go get MORE!

  • Bob613

    And still many thousands of more have had their lives saved by flu shots. Hey I have an idea. Let’s go back in time and see if people dying of smallpox or polio would have taken a vaccine if they thought it would save their life.

  • Bob613

    They do much more harm? Let’s see some actual evidence to back that one up, captain caps lock.

  • Bob613

    Perhaps the onion foot pads worked for you, or perhaps your cold began to subside on its’ own…but the previous poster wasn’t talking about foot pads. He was talking about placing onions around the house. The thought that onions placed around the house magically draw toxins out of the air is silly.

  • Emily27

    Bob13: I still remember reading how young, healthy children were afflicted with serious, debilitating diseases AFTER being injected with these vile poisons called Vaccines. There will always be sheeple around. My advice: Educate yourself!

  • Bob613

    Uh-oh, you broke out the “sheeple” insult. Everyone should take you seriously now, what with the lack of evidence you presented to back up your claim and your inability to refute anything I said.

  • SLTahaei

    I have MCAS, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. Dr. Afrin @ medical University of South Carolina specializes in this illness. he advised me to either buy quercetin tabs or eat more onions to help me control the mast cells and it works.

  • ekwealor.kizito

    Onions here I come for some major eating.

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  • Tracey Hine

    not true, onions never cured anything for me, I have eaten onion I left cut up and left out for 2 nights and nothing happened, been doing so for over 20yrs

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  • Hellen Pedro

    Hello everybody i am so happy to share this testimony on how Dr Molemen was able to heal me from HIV Disease, well i was detected positive on 23th may 2013, and ever since i have been looking for a way to treat and cure this disease from me, but all ways i try there was no solution, few weeks ago i saw a testimony of some people on how Dr Molemen was able to cure them from HIV disease, still on i heard about it on media when a young lady also gave her testimony about this same Dr, well left with no hope i message Dr Molemen telling him all my problem, he told me what we where going to do, that he was going to send me a portion which i am going to take, and after which i took this herb portion he sent to me, he told me to go back to the hospital for check up and after i have done that i should come and tell him the good news result, at first when i saw the message i was so shock and still did not believed i will be cured, well friend to make my story short i am HIV negative now after many time of sorrow, i am Negative, and my sickness are gone, i thank God for leading me to this man….
    you can email him on (drmolemenspiritualtemple@gmail.com) or call him on +2347036013351, he can be of help to you on any problem..
    Sir may God Bless You.

  • Liz

    Bob613 is a troll

  • Jenny A Peter

    *I want to share this wonderful testimony to the people who are in the same
    problem that i was before i meant dr odumodu. i was living with HIV for the
    past 2 years, just last month as i was browsing on the internet about this
    deadly disease cure and i saw a testimony of a lady who was describing how
    she was been cured and she was testifying of how she was cured from HIV by
    dr odumodu and i decided to also email this man and tell him about my
    problem and as i did that he told me to send him some of my personal
    details which i did and then he told me to wait for one week. After one
    week he told me to go for another HIV test, which i did and to my greatest
    suppress i was confirmed negative. all thanks be to dr odumodu and if you
    know that you are in this same problem email him now on
    (drodumoduspiritualpower@gmail.com ). and
    i strongly believe that he will help you just as he did mine. wish you good

  • robert

    Do you just drink the broth

  • Lydia

    Back in my country, when someone got a “cold” or Flu, they will chopped an onion ( mostly shallot) and mixed it with coconut oil and massage our body with it, they believe to make your body warm and make you will better, so far it works for me.

  • Lydia

    Oh btw I am for Indonesia

  • Lydia

    Btw I am from Indonesia

  • jessica oscar

    la miel no está soñando día es una realidad

  • Terri

    I am not one to get the flu often, but when I do…..it is terrible. Once in my late twenties, with two young children I got very sick with it. No time off for mother’s, I got desperate and remembering my father saying how onions helped I ate half, or a bit more, of a large brown onion. Hey, I was desperate remember? While I’m suggesting that no one do this -ever- as I had inherited my father’s “cast iron” stomach and it gave me a bad case of indigestion, after the stomach cramps went away I miraculously was flu free! This was plenty to convince me that it was better than medicine for me. I’ve fixed myself sandwiches with raw onion slices (this I endorse) when ever even a head cold hits since.

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