Can Onions Relieve Your Cold Symptoms?

The Pungent Bulb Is Gaining Popularity as a Natural Remedy to Stop the Sniffles

Photo of Red and Yellow Onions

In this “In The Mix” blog, we look at when onions were first used to treat ailments, and some ways they are used today to treat the common cold. We find this topic of interest given the increase in pharmaceuticals using natural ingredients in new cold remedy products.

Ginger, Honey, Garlic, Echinacea. All are natural substances that have become popular choices to relieve cold symptoms. Add onions to the list.

It’s not really a surprise that onions may help fight cold symptoms. Filled with anti-oxidants and other compounds, onions have been touted to provide a wide range of health benefits from reducing inflammation to lowering blood sugar to decreasing cholesterol.

The History of Treating Ailments with Onions

Onions have been used to prevent or treat various ailments for thousands of years.

Evidence suggests ancient Egyptians were first to use onions for medicinal purposes to treat various skin conditions including hives and rashes (Onmanorama). In Rome, Pliny the Elder documented over two dozen diseases they could purportedly cure (from toothaches to dog bites). Others over time have claimed onions could prevent anything from bubonic plague to vision problems to behavioral issues.

Modern science has debunked many early claims about the health benefits of onions. However, many of those related to suppression of cold symptoms persist and have gained in popularity due to the internet and social media. Several have some support in the medical community.

A few of the onion-based cold treatments receiving the most attention follow.

Onion Water

Interest in drinking onion water to relieve cold symptoms has recently spiked due to social media posts related to the topic. This includes several TikTok videos that have gone viral.

Making onion water is simple: add chopped yellow or red onion to water and let it sit for roughly a half day (some recommend placing it in the refrigerator) before drinking.

Again, there is no scientific evidence that onion water helps reduce cold symptoms. However, the anti-inflammatory properties of onions is one possible reason some cold suffers say the pungent mixture provides relief (HealthFacts).

Raw Onion in a Sock

Many all-natural cold remedies involve eating or drinking the substance(s). An example of one that does not is putting a raw onion inside a sock and wearing it overnight while sleeping. The theory is an onion placed against the skin helps cleanse the blood, which in turn treats the cold. The blood is cleansed by sulfuric compounds in the onion.

As one might expect, there is no medical evidence that treating colds by placing an onion in your sock overnight is effective (Medical News Today).

Onion Cough Medicine

Although placing an onion in a sock may not provide much relief from your cold symptoms, drinking a concoction of onions and other ingredients could.

Science does seem to support ingesting onions in various forms to treat colds and coughs. This includes making cough medicine from a mixture of onion slices, honey, garlic and ginger. Click here for the complete recipe.

Onion Oil

Finally, some claim onion oil helps relieve cold symptoms. The oil is applied topically or inhaled through a diffuser (


Onions have many purported health benefits including cold relief. While many of these benefits are not supported by modern science, a few could help stifle your sniffles.

For More Information

In addition to natural remedies, there are many products manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry to treat the common cold. ProQuip tank agitators are used in the manufacturing process of some of these products. For more information on ProQuip mixing solutions, email or call us at 330-468-1850.

Sources: National Onion Association, Onmanorama, TODAY