The wonder plant called onion is not matched in its many benefits to man. With the scientific name Allium cepa, it has a number of cooking varieties. Known to every cook to induce tears this plant – originally grown in Egypt and the Middle-East – is unknown in the wild. The herb is speculated by botanist to have been cultivated for at least 7,000 years.
It comes in different varieties within the species varying in color, size, and taste – and is now grown all over the world – and the characteristic flavor and smell is derived from the sulphur compound in the bulb.
Onion matures and is usually harvested at the end of the first year.
Although recent studies have shown that adequate concentrations of bio-active compounds are in the young stem, the medicinal compounds reside in the bulb of the plant. Dried bulbs can be crushed into a powder for herbal medicine and eating it raw is of great value too.
It is rich in minerals including: sulfur, iron, potassium, manganese and phosphorus, fluorine and calcium. It also contains vitamins A, B, C, and E, flavonoids which help prevent cancer and glycoquine (an anti-diabetic). As a vegetable, it can be eaten raw, grated, boiled, or pickled and is a favorite seasoning in cuisines, from Asia to Europe, the Americas and Africa.
Onion as medicine is known worldwide and the ailments it is claimed to treat are equally numerous.
Consequently, its health benefits are as follows:
Onion purifies and strengthens the liver and kidneys. It also cleanses the blood. This herb is a natural anti-biotic as it strengthens the immune system thus keeping disease at bay. It effectively controls bacteria that cause urinary infections, typhoid fever and dysentery – and also, staphylococcus and streptococcus which cause inflammation of the genital organs, damage sperm cells, skin infections and blemishes.
In addition, essential oils from onion have proven active against a variety of fungal infections such as candida (this yeast actually occurs naturally on the body – yes this is true). An overgrowth of this noxious fungus could result in problematic infections of the skin, and the urinary and digestive system.
The World Health Organization recognizes onion as a folk remedy for health issues such as bruises, colic, colds, high blood pressure and also helping men with weak erection or low libido (onion is rich in enzymes that help in the production of blood) as well as impotence. (Why don’t you grab a bulb of onion regularly for that boost to your sex life).
Blood cells are strengthened when onion is a part of diet, and micro-organism which weaken cells and cause bacterial and viral infections are destroyed. Onion is considered for therapeutic use in modern medicine as it has been investigated as possible medicine for the treatment of diabetes, cancer and HIV.
Furthermore, onion has been proven to lower noxious cholesterol levels in the blood. This is possible because it is rich in fibrinolytic substances that help to break up blood clots and to prevent coagulation (thickening of blood). When combined with other herbs, it can lower blood sugar levels thereby preventing diabetes. Eating onion regularly is a natural way to reduce sugar in blood due to its hypoglycemic or anti-diabetic properties.
As a matter of fact, onions’ ability to regulate blood sugar in the case of diabetes is supported by clinical evidence. An Indian study of early-stage diabetic patients showed that those who ate more raw onion required a significantly reduced amount of anti-diabetic medication to manage diabetes.
Moreover, anti-inflammatory agents present in onion help in inhibiting several inflammatory signal enzymes and histamines. Thereby, skin allergies as well as bronchitis caused by allergies have, in fact, been successfully treated with ethanol onion extract.
Fibroids, tumors such as in breast cancer, and infertility among women may be treated with onion which helps in dissolving tumors.
If you live a hyperactive life and are faced with stressful situations at work, then you may need to include onion regularly in your diet. In today’s world, it is obvious that we are exposed to electromagnetic waves (claimed to be dangerous in high doses) such as radio and micro waves; our bodies receive daily doses of this all too common aspect of our lives from electric shavers, television, cell phones, and computers and so on. Scary isn’t it.
What all that does is affect your brain and result in stress, tiredness, headaches, and insomnia which are only worsened by drugs which will give only temporary relief. Add a few cups of coffee and you will find that it becomes a cycle that you can’t break. Well, here comes onion to the rescue. Just blend four bulbs of onion with one liter of honey. Take three dessert spoons three times a day and it will help reduce the activities of the stress causing agents.
However, onion does have some side effects when used as a herbal remedy. Anyone on blood-thinning medication, or medication for high blood pressure, need to consult a medical practitioner before significantly increasing their intake of this herb.
That onion can treat this voluminous list of diseases and conditions to an extent is skeptical, but some sense can be made of it if they are grouped into categories corresponding to mode of actions in which onion can bring relief. What that means is onion could cause a general positive reaction in the body through its action in areas which promote recovery in certain conditions.
As a matter of fact, onion demonstrates several different modes of action largely due to the organo-sulphur compounds in it.
These actions include:
1. Anti-microbial: bacteria, viruses, fungi
2. Regulation of blood sugar
4. Anti-oxidant and/or anti-inflammatory
In summary, this vegetable is indispensable in cooking (it’s used as a sweetener in food as it contains naturally occurring sugars in its bulbs). The health benefits can likewise be tested simply by adding a few bulbs in great dishes. It is a time-tested plant that has remained as important today as back in ancient time. A quick tip: when stung by a wasp, slice an onion and rub it on the sting.