Wintertime can be a hard time to learn about herbs up in the Northern Hemisphere. Most plants are still sleeping and will be for a few more months, while we are still eager to learn all about the medicinal side of them.
We still try to get outside every day and see what’s going on with the plants. Though most are sleeping, trees are often starting to bud, hardier herbs such as Nettles, Catnip and Chickweed can often be found, lurking beneath a layer of leaves, ice or snow, ready to grow a foot, seemingly overnight, when the warmth of Spring returns.
It’s good to get out and see those subtle changes, become familiar with the cycles of the plants but sometimes, the weather is just too cold and the ground is too frozen to be able to attempt much more with the plants.
It’s this time of year that I like to turn to the plants that are sitting in my cabinets, on my counters and all around my kitchen, to discover what wonderful medicine they may offer us. Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Vanilla and of course, this month’s herb, Onion are all worthy of herbal attention.
Many have expressed shock and delight in seeing that this month’s herb is Onion. Though not often used today, Onion has long past been used by the herbwyfe of yesteryear. The home herbalist knew they could rely on Onion for treating coughs, earaches, wounds and much more. Native Americans used them as well.
Onion is quite nutritious and contains vitamins A, B6, C, Folate and the minerals Calcium, Chromium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, Sodium and Zinc.
Like his relative Garlic, Onion contains allicin which is an antibiotic. Onion is also analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant and vulnerary.
Some actions, such as the antibacterial actions are killed when Onion is heated. When we are using him for his antispasmodic and expectorant actions though, heat will make no effect on the outcome.
Warmed raw Onion juice has long been a folk remedy for treating earaches. Onion’s analgesic and antibiotic actions make this a useful treatment for earaches. We often use Garlic infused olive oil for this as well. Both are effective for easing the pain of earaches as well as killing off any infection. It is important to remember never to put any herbal medications in your ear though if you suspect your eardrum has been ruptured. Taking Onion tincture or Onion syrup, made with raw Onion can also be effective for treating other infections in the body as well.
Onions can be applied directly to wounds and sores that are not healing and may have filled with pus from infection. The Onion slice will help to draw out the pus and infection, cleanse the wound with his antiseptic actions and help to heal the wound. Often Onions are baked to apply onto wounds for this application. Onion will also soothe the inflammation caused by the wound.
For those with painful, damp coughs, Onion works well as a plaster which is applied on the chest to help to calm spasms of the lungs while helping the lungs to expel the mucus.
Onion is great to have on hand for treating coughs, colds, the flu and other bronchial ailments. Add Onion to your meals, soups, try an Onion syrup or tincture for helping your body to fight off bacteria and viruses when they attack.
As a stimulant, Onion works specifically on the circulatory system. Again, like Garlic, Onion can be used for treating angina, arteriosclerosis and preventing heart attacks. Though Onion can be strong raw, added to food he is a delicious enhancer that has many health benefits. We add Onion to nearly every meal in our house for both the taste and the medicinal value.
Native Americans used wild Onion to treat stings, wounds and other ailments as well.
Onion remedies can be as easy as slicing an Onion and placing a slice on a weepy wound to help draw out the infection or as elaborate as Onion Plasters (see this month’s issue on how to make and use them). One very easy remedy that makes use of Onions antibiotic qualities as well as his expectorant and antispasmodic qualities is Onion Syrup. This easy remedy can be made overnight and stored for several months in the fridge until needed.
You will need:
A red or yellow Onion
Honey (we prefer raw, locally produced)
Chopstick or butter knife
Label (you can download and print our pre-made ones here)
Chop enough Onions to fill your jar with them.
Cover with honey, using a chopstick or butter knife to stir out bubbles. Top off with honey again and seal.
Let sit for 8 – 12 hours. You can strain off the Onions or leave them in.
To use, take 1 teaspoon as needed.
You can find this and many more recipes, activities, crafts, games and puzzles, all centered on Onion’s healing powers in our Onion ebook.