Chances are you’ve already got a few recipes using Allium cepa in your culinary repertoire. Better known as the common onion, this kitchen staple has been in cultivation almost as long as there was a civilization to cultivate it, and the ancient Egyptians viewed it as a symbol of the universe. It’s certainly a universal ingredient, being one of the central ingredients in the vast majority of savory soups and sauces from any number of cuisines. In addition to flavoring your food, did you know that, according to practitioners of herbal medicine, Allium cepa also has a few health and beauty benefits? Preparations of this humble bulb have been used to treat everything from bee stings to baldness, and Allium cepa remains a popular alternative to over-the-counter allergy medications.
External applications of Allium cepa are believed to help prevent hair loss and reduce seborrheic dermatitis, more commonly known as dandruff. To make a poultice to prevent hair loss, boil five peeled onions in four cups of water for 15 or 20 minutes, then apply the liquid to a clean cloth. Place on affected area and cover with a clean towel to both prevent drips and keep the poultice warm. For a homemade dandruff remedy, peel three onions, then grind them up to a paste. Massage the paste into your scalp and leave it on for 30 minutes. Rinse with water and then with lemon juice to get rid of the onion smell.
Onions have also been used to soothe various aches and pains. To alleviate a throbbing toothache, place a piece of raw onion against the sore tooth and gum. For an earache, squeeze the juice from one onion, then warm it slightly. Dip a large piece of cotton in the warm oil, wring out the excess, and place over the affected ear. Onion oil is also a good remedy for insect stings and can lessen the appearance of scars.
Homeopathic medicine often finds cures by matching “like with like;” in other words, if a substance produces a certain result, it might be useful in curing conditions that produce a similar one. According to that logic, the burning, watery eyes and runny nose you get when cutting an onion make it the perfect antidote to the burning, watery eyes and runny nose you get from hay fever and other allergies. Capsules of concentrated Allium cepa are commercially available, but you can make your own homemade allergy remedy that’s much more fun to ingest: onion soup! Start by peeling, halving, and then slicing, five yellow onions. Put two tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a large pot over medium heat, then add a pinch of salt and the sliced onions. Sauté for a one to two minutes, then turn the heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a few sprigs of fresh thyme and five minced cloves of garlic, then pour in ½ cup of red wine and stir, scraping the bits off the bottom. Cook the mixture, stirring, a few minutes more, then add four cups of beef broth and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover the soup and bring it to a boil. Enjoy it as is, or top with toast, grated gruyere cheese, and place under the broiler for a traditional French onion soup.
Always speak to your doctor before using herbal remedies. Allium cepa may lower blood sugar as well as interact with medications for diabetes, aspirin, lithium, anticoagulants, and anti-platelet medication.