The distinctive smell and taste of onions is found in every cuisine. Do you have a love/hate relationship with them? Does the aroma and flavor overcome the tears and onion breath? If you’re in this dilemma, perhaps these benefits will persuade you to add the humble onion to your diet in a greater abundance.

Native to Asia and the Middle East, they have been cultivated for over five thousand years. Egyptians used them to pay pyramid workers and placed them in the tombs of kings. Their pungency made onions popular among poor people around the world who used them during the Middle Ages to spark up their often bland meals. Christopher Columbus took them to the West Indies, from there onions spread throughout the Western Hemisphere.1 In addition to their use in culinary circles, numerous scientific studies have confirmed onions contain many beneficial ingredients. While low in calories, they are high in nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.2

Possible health benefits:
Immune System –
Onions have antibiotic, antiseptic and antimicrobial properties that fight infections. A mixture of onion juice and honey can cure most common colds, coughs and sore throats. The phytochemicals in onions improve the function of Vitamin C in the body.3
Anti-Inflammation – Onionin A – a unique sulfur molecule found in onion bulbs has been shown to inhibit the activity of macrophages, specialized white blood cells that play a role triggering large-scale inflammatory responses. Quercetin, an antioxidant present in red and yellow onions, prevents the oxidation of fatty acids, also controlling our level of inflammation.1
Insect Stings and Bites – Onions can be used to soothe stings and bug bites. In Florida where we live, fire ants are a real pest. Their formic acid stings are unbearable. Bruised onion slices smeared on those stings is the most relieving concoction I’ve ever used.
Heart Health – The bad cholesterol that causes heart problems may be reduced if raw onions are consumed daily. In animal studies, there is evidence that onion’s sulfur compounds may work in an anti-clotting capacity, preventing the unwanted clumping of blood platelets and improving cell membrane function in red blood cells.4
Cancer – Allium (onion family) vegetables have been studied extensively in stomach and colorectal cancer research. Possible hypotheses to explain the mechanisms by which these compounds inhibit cancer included the inhibition of tumor growth, mutagenesis and prevention of free radical formation because of their high antioxidant vitamin C content. Researchers recommend  consuming 1/2 onion 1-2 times per week.
Skin and Hair – Vitamins A,C, and E are needed to build and maintain collagen, which provides structure to skin and hair. Both consumption and topical application can provide numerous benefits. Onion is one of the richest sources of Quercetin, a powerful antioxidant. Massaging your skin with fresh onion juice helps increase blood circulation and improves the overall appearance.    1 TBS of onion juice and 1 TBS of olive oil applied to your face for 20 minutes, then washed off helps protect your skin from acne-causing bacteria and other skin infections.4
Now is the time to pick up onion sets to plant during the last quarter of the next moon phase. (April 10-11) You’ll be glad you did.

Billie Nicholson, Editor
March 2015

References

1. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=45
2. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/276714.php
3. http://www.care2.com/greenliving/8-great-reasons-to-eat-more-onions.html
4. http://www.stylecraze.com/articles/amazing-health-benefits-of-onions/

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