Latin name: Allium cepa
Family: Alliaceae (Onion Family)
Medicinal use of Onion:Although rarely used specifically as a medicinal herb, the onion has a wide range of beneficial actions on the body and when eaten (especially raw) on a regular basis will promote the general health of the body. The bulb is anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, hypoglycaemic, hypotensive, lithontripic, stomachic and tonic. When used regularly in the diet it offsets tendencies towards angina, arteriosclerosis and heart attack. It is also useful in preventing oral infection and tooth decay. Baked onions can be used as a poultice to remove pus from sores. Fresh onion juice is a very useful first aid treatment for bee and wasp stings, bites, grazes or fungal skin complaints. When warmed the juice can be dropped into the ear to treat earache. It also aids the formation of scar tissue on wounds, thus speeding up the healing process, and has been used as a cosmetic to remove freckles. Bulbs of red cultivars are harvested when mature in the summer and used to make a homeopathic remedy. This is used particularly in the treatment of people whose symptoms include running eyes and nose.
Description of the plant:
Habitat of the herb:Not known in the wild.
Edible parts of Onion:Bulb - raw or cooked. A very versatile food, the bulb can be 10cm or more in diameter and is widely used in most countries of the world. Eaten raw, it can be sliced up and used in salads, sandwich fillings etc, it can be baked or boiled as a vegetable in its own right and is also commonly used as a flavouring in soups, stews and many other cooked dishes. Some cultivars have been selected for their smaller and often hotter bulbs and these are used for making pickles. Leaves - raw or cooked. There are some cultivars, the spring onions, that have been selected for their leaves and are used in salads whilst still young and actively growing - the bulb is much smaller than in other cultivars and is usually eaten with the leaves. By successional sowing, they can be available at any time of the year. Flowers - raw. Used as a garnish on salads. The flowers are somewhat dry and are less pleasant than many other species. The seeds are sprouted and eaten. They have a delicious onion flavour.
Other uses of the herb:The juice of the plant is used as a moth repellent and can also be rubbed onto the skin to repel insects. The plant juice can be used as a rust preventative on metals and as a polish for copper and glass. A yellow-brown dye is obtained from the skins of the bulbs. Onion juice rubbed into the skin is said to promote the growth of hair and to be a remedy for baldness. It is also used as a cosmetic to get rid of freckles. The growing plant is said to repel insects and moles. A spray made by pouring enough boiling water to cover 1kg of chopped unpeeled onions is said to increase the resistance of other plants to diseases and parasites.
Propagation of Onion:Seed. Early sowings can be made in February in a greenhouse to be planted out in late spring. The main sowing is made in March or April in an outdoor seedbed, this bed must be very well prepared. A sowing can also be made in an outdoor seedbed in August of winter hardy varieties (the Japanese onions are very popular for this). These overwinter and provide an early crop of onion bulbs in June of the following year. Onion sets can be planted in March or April. Sets are produced by sowing seed rather thickly in an outdoor seedbed in May or June. The soil should not be too rich and the seedlings will not grow very large in their first year. The plants will produce a small bulb about 1 - 2cm in diameter, this is harvested in late summer, stored in a cool frost-free place over winter and then planted out in April. A proportion of the bulbs will run quickly to seed but most should grow on to produce good sized bulbs.
Cultivation of the herb:Not known in the wild.
Known hazards of Allium cepa:There have been cases of poisoning caused by the consumption, in large quantities and by some mammals, of this plant. Dogs seem to be particularly susceptible.
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.