On Fridays, I would like to shine a spotlight on a food topic, I call it "Foodie Friday", or #FoodieFriday if you're a Twitterer.
Today I have decided to talk about the simple onion. Sweet or bitter, spicy or mild, the onion in its many forms adds flavor to so much of our cooking. Sometimes they are the highlight of the meal, other times they are merely a flavor mixed with other flavors to make a dish more delicious.
Did you know, however, that the onion also has medicinal properties? If you didn't, well, now you do. Many foods we cook with, in fact, started out as medicines that were gathered wild in the local terrain and used to treat maladies.
I list some interesting examples for you below, which you can try at home!
*For arthritis that is aggravated by the cold and is characterized with stiff, aching joints that gets worse with the cold, you can make a tea made of diced scallions and clove (or cinnamon, even) to drink. Then you can remove the scallions from the teapot, crush them a bit, and apply them as a poultice to aching joints. Applying damp heat on top of the poultice, like a wet kitchen towel that has been microwaved hot, will increase the effects of the scallion poultice entering through the skin layer.
*For cold or flu that has no fever, but has an achy body and/or nasal congestion, scallion tea is wonderful to warm the aches and pains and to help clear the nose. Boil the diced scallions for 5 minutes, and if you like you can add basil as well. To use onions or leeks instead of scallions, chop and onion or a leek, and dice some fresh ginger, and make a tea from it, or just eat the onion/leek on its own. The scallions/onions/leeks all have the property of pushing invading pathogens (viruses or bacteria) out of the body.
*For an upper respiratory infection, steam a sliced white or yellow onion (a bamboo steamer works great for this) and apply as a poultice to the chest; cover the patient and keep warm for 20-30 minutes (like with arthritis, a wet microwaved kitchen towel over the poultice helps the onion penetrate). With its warm, invigorating properties, the onion helps break up the chest congestion so that it can be coughed out, helping you breathe better.
*For a sore throat that is not accompanied by a fever or yellow sputum, scallions can be used to help push out the toxins causing the pain. Take a regular-sized paper towel and fold it into thirds lengthwise, crease it, and then unfold it. Dampen the paper towel, not soaking it completely. Lightly chop scallions and place them in the center strip of the paper towel. Add some garlic if you like. Fold the paper towel along the creases you make previously to enclose the scallions, and then crush them using the back of a spoon or a pestle. Wrap the paper towel around the front of the neck or the side that is sore, with the scallions closest to the skin. The wet paper towel can then be further wrapped with a towel like a scarf so that your body's warmth is retained and the poultice can penetrate. You can drink a scallion tea to coat your throat as well. Scallions have the action of pushing toxins from invading pathogens out of the body.
There are great home remedies, or "folk remedies," which started out as medicine, and then became food, as it was discovered further that the remedies also had preventative qualities.
The next time you eat onion, savor the warm, pungent aroma and taste and know that they are good, and good for you!
--Marissa Byrum, AP, DOM, Dipl. Ac., is an associate at Ideal Balance Center for Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine in Temple Terrace, FL.