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Evidence suggests that onions may be effective against the common cold, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and other diseases. They contain anti-inflammatory, anticholesterol, anticancer, and antioxidant components such as quercetin.
In many parts of the world, onions are used to heal blisters and boils. A traditional Maltese remedy for sea urchin wounds is to tie half a baked onion to the afflicted area overnight. In the morning, the spikes will be in the onion.
In the United States, products that contain onion extract (such as Mederma) are used in the treatment of topical scars.
Onions, like garlic, are members of the Allium family, and both are rich in powerful sulfur-containing compounds that are responsible for their pungent odors and for many of their health-promoting effects. Onions contain allyl propyl disulphide, while garlic is rich in allicin, diallyl disulphide, diallyl trisulfide and others. In addition, onions are very rich in chromium, a trace mineral that helps cells respond to insulin, plus vitamin C, and numerous flavonoids, most notably, quercetin.
In addition, onions are a very good source of chromium, the mineral component in glucose tolerance factor, a molecule that helps cells respond appropriately to insulin. Clinical studies of diabetics have shown that chromium can decrease fasting blood glucose levels, improve glucose tolerance, lower insulin levels, and decrease total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, while increasing HDL-cholesterol levels. Marginal chromium deficiency is common in the United States, not surprising since chromium levels are depleted by the consumption of refined sugars and white flour products as well as the lack of exercise. One cup of raw onion contains over 20% of the Daily Value for this important trace mineral.
Onions may be especially beneficial for women, who are at increased risk for osteoporosis as they go through menopause, by destroying osteoclasts so that they do not break down bone.
Onions' anti-inflammatory effects are due not only to their vitamin C and quercetin, but to other active components called isothiocyanates. These compounds work synergistically to provide relief from inflammation. In addition, quercetin and other flavonoids found in onions work with vitamin C to help kill harmful bacteria, making onions an especially good addition to soups and stews during cold and flu season.
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