Echoes of the Garden

The Leech's Knowing

Tears of Relief

Alexis Soyer, in his Pantropheon, states:

Whoever wishes to preserve his health must eat every morning, before breakfast. young onions, with honey.1" Such a treat is assuredly not very tempting : besides, this rather strong vegetable leaves after it a most unpleasant perfume, which long reminds us of its presence ; wherefore this recipe has not met with favour, and, indeed, it is much to be doubted whether it will ever become fashionable.

Dioscorides gives a diverse number of uses for our Noble Interest. He does not give specific forms of treatment. I am truly hoping that pearl onions are used for the last purpose.

“They reduce the intensity of symptoms, cause thirst, cause nauseousness and purging, are good for the bowels, open the passages for excrement, and are good for haemorrhoids. First peeled and put into oil, they are given as a suppository.”

“A vomitory medicine is made from it (marjoram) with onions and rhus [1-147], all of them being sunned in the burning heat under the dog [in summer] in a brass copper jar for forty days”. (note: rhus is R. coriaria or tanning sumac)

[Public domain]

The Leechbook of Bald suggests a property only vaguely hinted at in Dioscorides' descriptions: antibacterial action, both topical and systemic. I'm not sure which is the “netherward” part of a plant, but “waybroad” is Plantago major or plantain. Sigsonte might possibly be sesame. The Anglo-Saxon dictionary lists it as simply “plant” but it came up through a search of the word “sesame”. A fellon is an infection in the fingertip.

“Again for the same,(earache) take an onion, seethe it in oil, drip the oil on the ear.”

“A drink for fellons ; sigsonte, onion, leek, the netherward part of waybroad, boil all in water and sweeten with honey.”

[CC BY 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Somewhere between then and now, someone discovered that an onion poultice applied to the chest helped ease coughs and congestion. This link gives clear directions for making one and this one has some good advice for applying one if you're trying to ease a cough for a child.

Gerrit Dou [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Modern research indicates that onions are useful as a blood thinner, a diuretic, and an antibacterial. This site has a good breakdown.

This site, which offers well researched information, gives a possible use that I've not seen suggested before- apparently there is some evidence that onions help heal the scars from having a tattoo removed. That information is toward the end of the page if you want to read it for yourself.

You can find an incredibly thorough list of nutrients in our Noble Interest here.  Reading this, it becomes very clear why onions are considered so good for you.

I'm sure that there are uses that I didn't list here. Our relationship with the onion has been so long that there's no way to condense it into one post. Do you have a favorite use that wasn't mentioned? Tell me about it in the comments below. Please remember to like and share this post. Thanks for stopping by!

Tomorrow I'll see where our Noble Interest stands on the social ladder.

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The information and recipes contained on this site are presented for intellectual and historical interest only. If you are looking for medical advice, please consult with a licensed physician. If you choose to try any recipe for the sake of adventure or curiosity, you do so at your own risk.

About Me

About Me

My interest in plants started young. While most of my friends were playing with Barbie or dreaming of horses, I was out in the fields of our farm creating imaginary villages and caching collected seeds, roots and herbs against winter need. When I discovered the library and field guides, I realized that I had found my passion- the interaction between plants and people. While my caching habits have switched to saving more useful plants, some things don’t change. I still …
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