How to Make and Use an Onion Poultice for Congestion

by Sarah Pope MGA | Affiliate linksComments: 40

onion poultice
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 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 sulphur and other beneficial compounds not found in many other plants foods are why.

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)

Filtered water

White dishtowel or flour sack cloth (I use these)

2 organic 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.

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.

How Often to Use?

It is best to make a fresh onion poultice every 24 hours or so. For best results, use an onion poultice with another excellent mucous and cough reducing remedy known as elderberry syrup.

Below is a video by Dr. Seth Yates, a Naturopathic Doctor, that shows visually how to perform the steps above.

More Information

Sinus Infection Remedy
SSKI: The Best Cough Expectorant You’ve Never Tried
Vinegar Compress for Sprains and Bruises
Best Green Juice for Congestion
Healing Croup Naturally
Prevent Sinus Problems
Castor Oil Pack

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