Does an onion in the sock work for a cold?

Putting a raw onion inside a socket and sleeping overnight with it is a cure that some people believe will treat a cold or flu. Yet are there scientific data to show that it works?

The argument that raw onion can cure flu is a myth, dating back to the 1500s, according to the National Onion Association. Lots of articles online in recent years have claimed this folk remedy is successful.

There we discuss the roots of the home remedy for onion socking and whether there is any evidence to support its efficacy. The report also looks at the health benefits of onions and other cold and flu remedies.

Important facts about onion in the sock for cold and flu:

  • The remedy dates back to the time of the plague when people believed disease spread through “noxious air.”
  • It is also linked to the Chinese medicinal practice of reflexology.
  • There is no scientific evidence to support the claim.

What are the origins of the remedy?

A lady suffering from flu
The belief that raw onion can treat flu is believed to date from the 1500s.

The notion of ‘noxious air’ developed before scientists understood the disease germ theory. Today, germs’ role in disease is no longer a theory, and is supported by scientific evidence.

Until scientists recognized germs as responsible for disease , people assumed that the air in the room could be filtered by the raw onions. Placed against the skin of the foot and held in a boot, people believed the blood could be cleansed from the onion. People claimed that this cleansing process could cure the common cold or flu.

Modern articles that support this folklore claim that their healing properties are the odorous sulfuric compounds in onions.

This ancient method, similar to reflexology, focuses on particular points in the foot based on a assumption that each point influences the wellbeing of a certain internal organ.

What the science says

Onions health benefits
Although onions do have some health benefits when eaten, there have not been any scientific studies to back the onion in sock remedy.

A 2002 review of onions’ health benefits notes that they are indeed rich in sulphuric compounds. It is however as far as the facts in sock home remedy to help the onion goes.

That said, there have been no scientific studies that have directly looked at this. Most online articles that recommend onion as a cure for colds and flu in a sock don’t cite any scientific evidence.

Any claim to efficacy is based more on anecdotes than research.

It is worth noting also that there is little evidence to support reflexology as an effective disease treatment. This 2011 study states that there is no scientific evidence to prove reflexology is an effective treatment for any medical condition.

Aromatherapy is also a growing evidence-based practice, where odor receptor stimulation improves healing.

Health benefits of onions

Although it is not proven that raw onions cure a cold when placed against the feet’s soles, onions do have certain health benefits when eaten. They are low-calorie, high-fibre, high-nutrient foods with vitamin C in them. Eating onions can include:

  • Reduce the risk of cancer: This 2015 review discusses the link between eating Allium vegetables (which include onions) and reduced risk of cancer.
  • Support skin and hair health: Onions are high in vitamin C, which supports the production of collagen needed for healthy skin and hair.
  • Reduce depression: Onions contain vitamin B9 (folate), which may help support mental health and reduce the risk of depression.

Treating cold and flu

Those who consider using the onion in a sock-home remedy to treat a cold or flu can find one of the following home remedies more helpful:

Including honey and lemon or fresh ginger in drinks may ease cold and flu symptoms.
Including honey and lemon or fresh ginger in drinks may ease cold and flu symptoms.
  • Drinking tea with honey and lemon: This can ease a sore throat and researchers have found honey to be an effective cough suppressant.
  • Drinking hot water with fresh ginger: This can reduce feelings of nausea associated with the flu.
  • Gargling with salt water: This study found that gargling might help prevent upper respiratory tract infections.
  • Over-the-counter paracetamol: This can reduce a fever and aches and pains associated with cold and flu.

Takeaway

The sock-home remedy onion has origins in Western folklore and is centuries old. It also has associations with the Chinese reflexology practice.

Many people believe that an important cure for a cold or flu is the onion in sock remedy. There is no scientific evidence to support this given these arguments. This remedy does not have any proven health benefits but it is not known to be harmful.

Onions provide a variety of health benefits when consumed as part of an equilibrated diet.

The sock-home remedy onion has origins in Western folklore and is centuries old. It also has associations with the Chinese reflexology practice.

Many people believe that an important cure for a cold or flu is the onion in sock remedy. There is no scientific evidence to support this given these arguments. This remedy does not have any proven health benefits but it is not known to be harmful.

Onions provide a variety of health benefits when consumed as part of an evenly balanced diet.

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