Saturday, October 1, 2011

For the Love of Onions

We love onions.  We love to saute them, dice them and use them in onion rings.  We like them fresh, we like them dried and we like them in powdered form.  But, the humble onion is far more than a tasty addition to your evening meal.  An onion can be the difference between a major reaction to a bee sting and a harmless little red bump.  An onion can loosen congestion and be the main ingredient in a soothing balm for a hacking cough.  Dried onions are the most powerful anti-histamine known.

Many years ago, when Master Hand Grenade was a little tyke, he was toddling around the perimeter of our garden as Sir Knight and I were pulling weeds.  Suddenly, Master Hand Grenade fell to the ground, screaming, while yellow jackets, from an underground nest, stung him repeatedly.  Sir Knight sprinted, plucked up Master Hand Grenade and kept running.  When we got our little boy into the house, he was a mess.  He had been stung 17 times on his head alone.  Angry red welts dotted his tummy and back and he had more than a few stings on his arms and legs.  Wasting no time, we slathered his head with Benedryl cream and then started cutting onions.  Over every welt, we placed an onion piece, slimy side down and taped it into place.  It took almost an entire onion to place one on every sting, and Master Hand Grenade looked like something out of a horror show.  We watched him very closely for signs of anaphylaxis, but his breathing remained clear.  Within 10 minutes, our little boy quit crying, said it didn't hurt, and returned to playing.

After the onions had been in place for about an hour, we tenderly removed each onion piece.  Where angry welts had been, there was nothing.  No swelling, no redness - nothing.  The onions had drawn all of the poison out of our sons body.  We were hooked.

The onion's drawing power is not limited to venom.  It works for infections and slivers alike.  Onion is also a particularly effective expectorant.  Back in the day, onion poultices were used to treat pneumonia and Typhoid fever, with relatively good success.

Our recent illness has caused me to further investigate the onion's medicinal attributes.  Before we were aware that we had Pertussis, a friend suggested that I make "Onion Syrup" to help alleviate the cough.  Already a great fan of onions, I didn't hesitate to give it a try.  The syrup, while effective on the cough in the beginning, wasn't enough to keep the Whooping Cough at bay (apparently, you shouldn't use an expectorant with Pertussis). The short time that we did use, I was very impressed.  The kids actually like it (mostly) and it did encourage a very productive cough.

In addition to the onion syrup, I made an onion poultice to use on Master Hand Grenade.  He was having a really hard time getting goop up with his cough, so I thought he would be a good one to experiment on.  Within 15 minutes of putting a poultice on him, was was sitting up expelling large green chunks.  He was immediately clearer and slept without coughing for almost 7 hours.  The onion poultice was unequivocally an effective expectorant.

As we see the rise in health care costs and the very real potential for limited access to modern medicine, learning to use what we have may well one of our best preparedness assets.

Onion Syrup

1 C Chopped Onion (fresh)
1/4 C Lemon Juice
1 tsp. Ginger Root (optional - fresh is best, but I used powdered)
Enough honey to cover

Place onion, lemon juice and ginger (a friend used garlic too - I think it was a wonderful addition).  Cover with honey.  Stir to remove the air bubbles and cover.  Let sit overnight or 8 hours.

The honey will suck the juices out of the onion.  After sitting overnight, strain out the onion solids (or you can munch on them if you prefer).

Dosage:  Child (7 - 11 years) 1 tsp. every 3-4 hours
                Adult  1 TBL. every 3 - 4 hours

Pouring lemon juice over the onion
Ginger added
Stirring in the honey
Sealed up to sit overnight
Straining onions out
The finished Onion Syrup

Onion Poultice

  • Cut onion up in rings.
  • Saute in cast iron skillet, with a little olive oil, until transparent (not caramelized)
  • Add enough flour or cornmeal to make a thick paste
  • Using a clean piece of cloth, cover your patients chest with two layers of cloth.
  • Spread moderately cooled (just cool enough not to burn) onions over the chest.
  • Cover with another layer of cloth.
  • Place warm (not hot, to burn) hot water bottle over the poultice.
  • Let sit until poultice cools.
  • Repeat if necessary.


  1. Enola, thank you for providing this valuable information. I will print this and put it into the binder along with your book.

    Thank goodness you are feeling better. Once again, prayers work. (Along with the wisdom to use what God provides)

    Now don't overdo, you will need some time to regain your strength.

    NoCal Gal

  2. Enola,
    thank you for posting this syrup recipe!
    Do you have one for making mustard plaster?


  3. How long does this mixture keep? Where would you store it?

  4. Notutopia;
    I've got a mustard plaster recipe rolling around her somewhere. I'll dig it up and get it posted!

    I store it in the fridge (although I'm not sure that you have to). I like to make a fresh batch every week. Fresh is best!


  5. Thank you so much for sharing this! I'm definitely going to write it down and keep it nearby. It sounds invaluable!

  6. So happy that your family is on the mend. Thank-you for helps us to be aware of symptoms and remedies. You are an amazing lady. Joyce

  7. So happy to hear that you are all on the mend!! Prayers are always answered!!! I enjoy your blog very much. Thank you for this recipe for the onion syrup. I do intend to make some when and if it is needed. I also want to let you know that for over two years I have kept an onion sliced in half at each end of my house. I have replaced it many times but will never be without this "insurance for good health policy". I have been told the onion absorbs anything that will make you sick when you breathe in the air around you. I can tell you I have not had so much as a cold since I have decorated my home with the onions. Stay well and thanks again for your great blog!!!

  8. Thank you for these home remedies. A couple of months ago I received an email from my Great Aunt about using egg whites on burns. About 1 month after receiving the email, I was cleaning the kitchen after dinner and I grabbed one of the burner grates, not realizing my son had only recently heated some hot water on that burner and the kettle had been moved to another spot. Needless to say, I picked up the still hot grate with all my fingers on one hand and immediately dropped it back on the stove. I ran to the sink and put my hand in cold water and then held pieces of ice in my hand until the burning seemed to stop. Then I remembered the egg white email, so I took out an egg and separated it and rubbed the white all over my fingers and palm. The burning stopped and the next day there was hardly any evidence that I had been burned. No white skin (there was the night before when I put on the egg white), no blisters, just a very slight redness. My parents were visiting and we were all amazed. Needless to say, I sent my Great Aunt an email telling her how it worked for me and have been telling others, too.

  9. This is just wonderful! Thank you for sharing this with your readers. I'm going to store it away so I can use it later. I wish I had known this when my husband was sick a few weeks ago!

  10. I'm afraid I'd eat the onion remedies before I could use them for treatment! lol.

    For colds, we've used some steaming water with a few drops (not much) of eucalyptus oil to ease nasal congestion. You can also use camphor or peppermint. Just stand over the pot with a small towel draped over. My kids always preferred this over having to take yucky medicine. The oils aided the steam in opening up the sinuses, at least giving some temporary relief.

  11. I wish I had had this information a year ago! Petussis is indeed nasty! I wonder once you have had it can you catch this again?

    My mother told me that she remembered her father using an onion poultice when he had chest congestion in the 1920s.

    God Bless

  12. Another really good remedy for insect stings is to place some of the membrane from a fresh egg on each sting. It too sucks the venom out quickly.

    So, so glad you are all better! :-)
    Blessings, ~Mrs. R

  13. So glad to hear you are all recovering! Thank you for posting these onion remedies they sound great and I can't wait to try them :)
    When you said the onion has powerful drawing abilities I wondered if it would be any good for snake bites. Here in Australia we have some of the deadliest snakes in the world and they are a constant worry for me with my kids and animals. I think I might put an onion into my snakebite kit so I can incorporate it as a first aid measure when bandaging.
    Does anyone have any thoughts on this?


  14. Was your family vaccinated against Pertussis? and got it anyway?

  15. Enola Gay - Putting honey on bee stings also removes the pain of the sting :)

  16. I see that you say "fresh is best". So true in pretty much every part of life. However, I was wondering if it would be useful to can the syrup for future use, or to give to others. I have canned honey-lemon-menthol kids cough syrup, as well as an adult version with cayenne for congestion. Do you think it is worthwhile to can onion syrup? Thanks!

  17. Alright I had to let you know. My husband reads your blog. He had teased me about the onion syrup when I came down with a sore throat Sunday evening. I was 'No, way!'. He was 'Watch you'll be desperate enough'. So my sickness got worst and by Thursday I was desperate enough! By this time I was almost in tears every time I swallowed. It had VERY painful for me the last couple days. So he made it this morning and we waited 8 hours. I took the dose (not bad...not good) and within 10 minutes The pain had eased. It didn't take the soreness completely away but it was bearable so that I could finally eat and talk to my family. So I thank you! I looked over some of your posts and your family is inspiring. We will be going off the grid within a year and this is vaulable information we will need. Thanks!

  18. In WROL what could we substitute the lemon juice for? We grow ginger in pots but lemon doesn't grow locally here...

    1. You could substitute apple cider vinegar for the lemon juice - it would work quite well, and you can make it yourself!

  19. Plantain is great for stings and bug bites of all sorts. In an emergency, just find a plant, pull off a couple of leaves, chew them and put the slimy mass on the sting/bite. Takes away the sting/itch and promotes quick healing. I had a bug bite from a black fly that swelled up and itched like crazy and one less bothersome bite. I put the plantain on the bad one but not the other. Both scabbed over but in two days there was no sign of the worst one (treated) but the untreated bite took 2 weeks for the spot to go away. This definitely proved plantain's worth to me.