Will Onions Help Fight the Flu?

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

Onion Flu Remedy

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 flu every year, the simple method of boiling onions into a drinkable broth may be a good practice.

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 and their potent therapeutic properties may ward off disease through 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 one.”

Why Are Onions Effective?

chopping an onion

Onions 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 thiosulfinates are toxic to harmful organisms. 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, “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.

  • 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.

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 your body temperature to rise enough to induce mild sweating.

Additionally, here’s a list of flu remedies that may also help you get relief.

References (3)
  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.

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