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How and why to make an onion poultice to relieve deep-seated congestion and coughs including necessary supplies, steps for preparing, and how to use the poultice properly.
Prior to the advent of antibiotics which came into widespread use by 1940, bacterial infections of any kind were always a serious matter. My father, who was born in 1927, remembers when he was in elementary school that numerous children had scars behind one or both ears from surgery.
The purpose of this procedure is to relieve pressure and congestion from a simple ear infection that got out of hand. Today, practitioners rarely perform mastoidectomies as antibiotics take care of the infection in the majority of cases.
In another family tale, when my Mother-in-Law, Mary, was only 5 years old, her life was seriously threatened from a severe case of double pneumonia. With no antibiotics available, her father had resigned himself to the fact that he might lose his precious daughter.
Mary tells the story of how her desperate father consulted with a band of gypsies that lived not far from their small town in Wales about what to do to save her life. The gypsy women told him to make an onion poultice and put it on her feet to draw the infection and congestion out of her lungs.
The onion poultice worked remarkably well! Mary, now a healthy Grandmum in her late seventies, is still alive and well to tell the tale.
Onions for Coughs and Congestion
Home remedies such as this are enjoying a resurgence in popularity in lockstep with the worrisome rise of antibiotic-resistant infections. In addition, parents are increasingly hesitant to use routine antibiotics due to the growing body of research that antibiotic damage to intestinal health lasts at least a year or two and possibly longer and can increase the risk of autoimmune disease.
Certainly, antibiotics should always be used for life-threatening infections such as pneumonia. In less severe cases, however, a remedy such as an onion poultice can be used to draw out congestion from the lungs and facilitate healing instead of running to the doctor for meds. Using a remedy like an onion poultice can also be used to prevent the situation from worsening to the point where antibiotics are mandatory.
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride recommends onions (as well as raw or cooked garlic) as the two most powerful vegetables for boosting the immune system.
High levels of sulfur and other beneficial compounds not found in many other plant foods are why. Sulfur passes readily through the skin, which is why Epsom salt baths (magnesium sulfate) are also an excellent way to obtain this nutrient that so many are deficient in.
How to Make an Onion Poultice
Making an onion poultice is incredibly simple. It takes just a few supplies to quickly prepare one to use for chest congestion.
Frying pan (I like these)
White dishtowel or flour sackcloth (I use these)
2 organic onions (yellow or white onions are best. Do not use sweet onions)
1/4 cup grated organic ginger, optional
Chop and lightly saute the onions and ginger in a bit of filtered water. The onions should be lightly cooked, not browned or caramelized.
Carefully drain the cooked onions and optional ginger and spread them out in the center of the dishtowel. Wrap the mixture in the towel burrito style, that is, fold the longer sides over the onions first and then fold the ends.
The onion poultice is now ready to place on the chest of the person suffering from congestion. Make sure the poultice is not too hot before doing this. For young children, read them a book while you keep it in place, ideally for about 20 minutes.
Alternatively, the onion poultice can be placed on the soles of the feet to draw the congestion out of the lungs to facilitate normalized breathing. It is normal for very productive coughing to occur shortly after using the poultice as mucus is expelled from the lungs.
Leave the onion poultice in place for 20 minutes. It can be gently reheated in the microwave and reused as necessary throughout the day.
Make a fresh poultice every 24 hours.
How Often to Use?
Continue to use a fresh poultice each day for as many days in a row as necessary to ensure the cough is clearing up. You can observe this visually as the mucus turns from dark green to light green, to yellow, and finally, to white (the color change indicates the infection is resolving).
An onion poultice may be used in conjunction with meds prescribed by a doctor.
For best results, use with another excellent mucus and cough reducing remedy known as elderberry syrup.
Supersaturated potassium iodide (SSKI) is another traditional remedy for loosening thick, infected phlegm from the lungs.
Below is a video by Dr. Sharada Hall that shows visually how to perform the steps above according to Ayurvedic practice.
Notice that my recipe varies slightly from hers. I don’t use corn starch. If you want to use something like this to hold the onion together, I recommend arrowroot instead.
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I would like to suggest that during a cold/flu, not all coughing and spitting is necessarily caused by “infection”. It is just a discharge of a buildup which is forming for a reason, not because of some socalled “virus”.
I read the official medical versions of things and I think they have it backwards. They all yap about the body “fighting” a virus. All those warlike metaphors and images, those neverending “battles”. Our bodies, though, don’t “fight” anything. They respond to unhealthful input by way of diet or unclean air. It is a discharge of excess, not some kind of combat.
Can this be done on a 6 week old baby?
Absolutely not. A baby that young needs to be seen by a trusted physician.
I am just curious why you say not to use sweet onions? My kids are all sick and that’s the only kind I have on hand… will they hurt anything or are they just less effective somehow like the green onions?
Sarah Pope MGA
Sweet onions aren’t strong enough to provide therapeutic effect. They won’t hurt anything, but they probably won’t help much either.
Will scallion onions work for this? My garden is full of them and I can harvest them pretty much year round except when the ground is frozen too hard.
Sarah Pope MGA
Wow, that’s awesome! Yes, they are ok, but white or yellow onions are stronger.