Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Recently there has been some e-mails circulating online regarding the use of onions for reducing or preventing 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 will 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 the following post will offer some insight into this ancient technique of using onions for flu prevention.

How Onions Help with the Flu

The idea that onions could ward off disease through their potent medicinal properties hails back thousands of years. Ancient Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine revered onions for their anti-inflammatory and 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 symptoms of the flu such as coughs, congestion, respiratory infections and bronchitis. Some traditions have even recommended placing sliced onions beside the bed at night, or even just around the house, to help prevent yourself 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.”
Onions are known for both their anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. They are also 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 antimicrobial 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 anti-oxidant 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.
The Delmar’s Integrative Herb Guide states that, “Onions help break up or clear mucous and other substances that block the immune system from doing its work.” So this season, if you feel a cold or flu coming on, make yourself a big pot of soup using the simple recipe below.

Onions, leeks, garlic, shallots, and scallions - the Allium vegetables - have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular and immune systems, as well as anti-diabetic and anti-cancer effects. Their characteristic (and eye-irritating) organosulfur compounds have been shown to have several different anti-cancer effects. Plus, allium vegetables contain a number of other beneficial phytochemicals, including the cancer-fighting flavonoid, quercetin.
 Yours in good health,
 Dr. Fuhrman

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