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The Humble Onion and Respiratory Issues

Updated: Mar 15, 2020

There are a lot of respiratory things going on right now. After reading research on the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Western herbal front, Coronavirus is first and foremost a condition of dampness and phlegm. It's not the only respiratory/flu/bronchial thing out there - they all have a component of dampness (phlegm). In the case of Coronavirus, you want to treat the dampness before the fever. With other respiratory dampness, you want to treat the fever first. One of the unsung champions of the herbal world, Allium, aka, the Humble Onion, is an amazing ally for just such a damp occasion.

The lovely and talented Allium Cepa!

Onions make us cry. They're wildly potent. Those two pieces are powerful medicine: Onion knows how to make fluids run AND onion strong enough to see the job through. In TCM, the lungs embody the emotion of grief, which is often associated with tears. The homeopaths have found that Allium Cepa (homeopathic Red Onion) helps with issues of free secretion: runny nose with rawness under and around the nose from mucus irritation. What I love about homeopathy is that there is an emotion and /or spiritual component to the remedy: for people feeling socially isolated. Well, if that doesn't smack of Coronavirus quarantine, I am not sure what does.

I also want to mention sulphur, which gives Onion its distinctive smell. One of Sulphur's role in our bodies is to help protein process collagen. It's found in keratin - nails, hair, and skin. Both the lungs and the skin are a way we can release our waste products, through breath and sweat. It also works closely with the liver, which helps to clean the blood. In general, it is a cleanser; it scrubs out all the dirty, mucked up stuff. And with a scent like that, can you blame it? Sulphur is a stand-alone homeopathic remedy, but I think it bears mentioning. David Lilley writes that Sulphur is the volcano and brimstone. That image itself reminds me of Onion's cascade of scapes, shooting out in every direction. In his homeopathic Materia Medica, William Boericke points out some keynotes for Sulphur. To me, Boericke paints a picture of the Sulphur person as explosive and intolerant of confinement. "Busy all the time... Difficult respiration; wants windows open... Oppression, as if load on chest..." Sulfur is unloading, releasing, non-compliant.

Other signature that can be found stem from it being a member of the Amaryllidaceae, Allioideae Sub-Family, which means they are plants with bulbs. I'm a gal that loves a signature: The cross-section of the bulb remind me so much of what our lungs look like. And the petals of a bulb plant are colorful and clear and full of moisture. I find that when I plant plants with bulbs, they can't be too deep - if they get wet, stagnant feet, the bulbs will rot. Onion has worked with nature to know that moisture must be kept moving, not allowed to pool and rot into puddles of goo. Our bodies respond to Onion the same way - by thinning out the phlegm so that it can flow. And take a good look at that onion stalk; it's a hollow tube. Another signature that onion knows how to keep open channels of flow. Bulbs are also some of the very first plants to emerge in spring - bulbs know about how to manage all the excessive sogginess of the land. Onion comes in handy when your lungs are a bit of a swampy mess.

An experiment with Red Onion, Honey, and ground Mustard and Fenugreek

How can you invite a little more onion in your life? Cooking is always a great way to start. Nutrition is really the first step in herbal medicine. You can also create a syrup with raw honey and onion. Slice the onion, put it in a pot with onions, and keep it on low for several hours (caution: you don't want to boil out the good constituents of raw honey). You can strain and eat the honey by the tablespoonful. I also saved the onion to cook with later. I even tried making this syrup with Fenugreek seeds. If you want to know more about Fenugreek, check the links at the bottom. You can also use this topically over the chest. Yes, it's sticky. Maybe it's best before bath time. But it totally works. You can certainly poultice an onion without the honey. Onions can be quite strong, so I recommend putting a cloth between your skin and the onion. Master Herbalist Matthew Wood once passed on some info that he learned: you need to use the top of a roasted onion.

A first draft with a Yellow Onion. Back to processing!

Right now, I'm all for knighting this... Noble Onion.

For those that want to know more about other remedies for Coronavirus or damp respiratory issues, Matthew Wood has some of these best and most accessible info on herbal treatment that's out there right now. You can access his Facebook Page or join his institute.

Fenugreek Information:


Matthew Wood

John D. Kirschmann: Nutritional Almanac, 6th Edition

William Boericke: Materia Medica with Repertory

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