Onion water is a pretty big deal lately.
Making onion water is easy. Chop a raw red or yellow onion and place in a jar or other container. Fill the onion jar with filtered water, let it soak in the fridge overnight, and congratulate yourself: you’ve just made one of the trendiest, horrible, and magical home remedies on social media. But is it really?
Aside from its purported healing powers against cold and flu, onion water has also long been a staple among bodybuilders — legend has it that onion water can boost testosterone levels. A much-lauded study suggests that rodents that consumed LOTS of onion water increased their testosterone by 300 percent; however, there appears to be no confirmation that this effect can be replicated in humans.
Onion juice, more concentrated than onion water, has been embraced by a subset of people with thinning hair or hair loss as a regenerative treatment to help restore their tresses to their former thick, glossy shine. You don’t ingest the onion juice for this remedy, you rub it into your scalp.
Putting slices of onion in your socks so that the slices press against the soles of your feet is another onion-flavored folk remedy. Instead, you sleep with onion socks and wake up cured of your cold or flu.
Still more onion remedies involve boiling a white onion in milk and then consuming the milk and onion to cure a cold; Microwave half an onion until nice and warm (not scalded) and press to your ear to cure an ear infection or earache; rub half a raw onion on a wasp sting to relieve pain and make a poultice of fried onions on a piece of flannel to relieve a cough.
A listing of traditional folk remedies on a website also claimed that onions, either ingested or applied to various parts of the body, could also relieve or cure erectile dysfunction, fainting, dysentery, warts, hiccups, moles, heat stroke, cysts, burns, gonorrhea, and heart disease.
Like onions, these assertions are best taken with a grain of (make it sprinkled generously) salt. There is no scientific basis for any of these claims. While we don’t recommend using onions for a inclement weather doctor’s visit, we do recognize that onions contain beneficial nutrients and antioxidants and are a healthy part of a vegetable-rich diet.
Why might drinking onion water make you feel better when you have a cold or the flu?
hydration. The proven benefit of drinking onion water to make you feel better when you have a cold is right in the name. onion water. Anything you can do to increase your fluid intake when you’re sick will help you feel better. Staying hydrated when you’re sick will help thin and move mucus and keep your mucous membranes moist. This will make you feel less constipated.
antioxidants. One of the powerful antioxidants in onions is quercetin, which according to Keri Gans, a nutritionist and author of the book The Small Change Diet, has shown that it “can help our bodies reduce inflammation, inhibit bacterial growth, and improve the health of the body.” to support the immune system. Eating an onion would be a better idea because you would also benefit from the fiber found in an onion.
Placebo effect. This is when your brain convinces your body that a fake (or ineffective/unproven) treatment is real and, based on that belief, stimulates your body to heal. For example, the placebo effect may not shrink a tumor or lower your cholesterol, but it can affect symptoms controlled by your brain. For example, the placebo effect could help you feel less pain, fatigue, or nausea.
Why might drinking onion water make you feel worse when you have a cold or flu?
Heartburn. Onions are a very acidic food. If you suffer from acid reflux, you already know how to limit your onion intake. Onions don’t cause heartburn in everyone, and they’re more likely to cause problems raw than cooked.
allergies. Onions can cause nasal congestion, red eyes, itchy nose and eyes, nasal congestion and asthma thanks to compounds called diallyl disulfide and lipid transfer protein found in them.
Painful gas. For those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or sensitive digestive systems (you know who you are), onions can be difficult to digest due to their soluble fiber. They can pass through the small intestine largely undigested and once they reach the large intestine, they quickly begin to ferment. For most, that means a little gas. For people with IBS, this means abdominal pain, severe cramping and bloating, gas, and painful or uncomfortable bowel movements.
Breath and sweat smelled of onions. Technically, smelling like onions won’t make you feel physically worse when you have a cold or the flu, but knowing you smell like onions certainly won’t make you feel better either. Onions and garlic contain high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that give you bad breath and can also escape from your pores and into the air around you.
What else could I try if I have a cold or flu?
paracetamol or ibuprofen. These are effective fever reducers and also relieve headaches and muscle pain. However, take ibuprofen with food as it can irritate your stomach.
Stay warm and rest. Rest is important for healing, and it’s all about resource allocation. When your body is at rest, it can expend more energy fighting a virus or healing. Also, cold viruses multiply more easily in a slightly cooler environment – studies in the US and Australia have found that infected cells die faster at body core temperature and RNAseL (an enzyme that attacks viruses) works better at a higher temperature.
Hydrate! Plain water, broth, hot tea—these are your allies when you have a cold or the flu. Staying hydrated can reduce nasal irritation when you sneeze (or just breathe). Even mild dehydration can increase the fever. If you have vomiting or diarrhea, you need to replace the liquid even more. Even blowing your nose contributes to dehydration when you’re sick. Tea and soup have the added benefit of relieving a sore throat and making you feel good.
Increase your vitamin C and zinc. Some evidence suggests that vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and zinc can help stimulate the immune system and potentially shorten the duration of your symptoms. Same with elderberry. However, be careful with zinc. Zinc nasal sprays can cause a permanent loss of smell in some people, and zinc taken by mouth can cause a lasting metallic taste in the mouth.