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Botanical names: Allium cepa

Like its close cousins garlic, chives, scallions, and leeks, onion is a member of the lily family (Liliaceae). It is native to Eurasia but now grows all over the world, due mostly to people bringing it with them as a staple food wherever they migrated. The French explorer Pere Marquette was saved from starvation in 1624 by eating wild onions near the present site of Chicago—the name of the city is derived from a Native American word for the odor of onions. The bulb of the plant is used medicinally.


Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
20 grams fresh onion three times per day
Large amounts of onion have been shown to lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, possibly by blocking the breakdown of insulin in the liver.

Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
Onion has been used as food for many centuries. Onion was also a popular folk remedy, being applied to tumors, made into a syrup for relieving coughs, or prepared in a tincture (using gin) to relieve “dropsy” (heart failure–related edema). It was considered a weaker version of garlic by many herbal practitioners. Like garlic, onion has a longstanding but unsubstantiated reputation as an aphrodisiac.

How to Use It
Most human studies that have shown an effect from onions used at least 25 grams per day and often two to four times that amount. Though some studies have found cooked onions acceptable, several studies suggest that onion constituents are degraded by cooking and that fresh or raw onions are probably most active.

Side Effects
Most people can eat onion in food without any difficulties. Higher intakes of onion may worsen existing heartburn, though it does not seem to cause heartburn in people who do not already have it. There are also isolated reports of allergy to onion, including among people with asthma, manifesting as skin rash and red, itchy eyes.

Onion is safe for use in children and, in small amounts in food, during pregnancy (though some pregnant women may have heartburn that onions could exacerbate) and nursing. It is unknown whether larger amounts of onion are safe during pregnancy and nursing. One study did find that baby rats nursing from mothers that were fed onion developed a taste for onion and suffered no ill effects.

Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
At the time of writing, there were no well-known interactions with this supplement.

Copyright © 2009 Aisle7. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of the Aisle7 content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Aisle7. Healthnotes Newsletter is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. Aisle7 shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. AISLE7 is a registered trademark of Aisle7.

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