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Onion Poultice - Your Lungs will Thank You

A natural remedy that continues to withstand the test of time!

When we were in Costa Rica on our mission trip last summer, the director of the organization that we were serving along side had been plagued with a cough for over two weeks. The cough was dry and his body was run down from numerous sleepless nights, due the the coughing fits he would have. He asked the team to pray for him as he was scheduled to take us to do work in the community, as well as share his testimony the following day. As I listened to his prayer request, I was reminded of the onion poultice that I had learned about in a Roots of Herbalism class several years prior. I approached the man and asked him if he had any yellow onions I could use and if he would trust me to try something "out of the normal" that I believed would help. After I made the poultice (see recipe below) I put the onions in a pillow case (because that was all they had) and told him to keep them on his chest and go to bed. When he woke up the next day, the frequency of coughing had reduced to nothing. That night he shared his testimony, people were moved, and his cough and congestion were completely gone!

I know this seems a bit odd. But since then I have mentioned it to several patients who have tried it with great success - which led me to write this blog post! My favorite testimonial was from a mom who had tried it on her 4 year old son. He felt so much better the next day that he now ASKS for his mom to make him an onion poultice when he is congested!

When the chest and lungs are congested with mucous they feel heavy. This can also produce unproductive coughing which is not helpful! As the cough persists, the body gets worn down and the things that help the body recover, like sleep, are affected. A onion poultice is an effective way to breaking up chest congestion. To better understand why onion poultices work so well, we need to first understand the properties of the onion.

Health Benefits of Onions:

-Full of Antioxidants

Antioxidants help prevent cell damage by fighting free radicals and improving cell health

-Nutrient Dense

Onions are high in vitamins and minerals, such as manganese which is used to help create connective tissue

-Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Onions contain quercetin (approx. 300mg per onion) which is higher than most fruits and vegetables. Quercetin works inside the body to to fight inflammation.


The high sulphur content in onions makes then antibacterial.

Now that we understand a little bit about the health benefits, let's talk about why an onion poultice can work! Mucous that develops in our head can get thick and settle into the chest. When it does this our body attempts to expel the mucous through coughing. However, if the cough is not productive due to the mucous being thick, the cough becomes dry and unproductive. Because onions have expectorant qualities, they are able to break up and thin the mucous in the chest. One the mucous is broke up and a thinner consistency, the body is able to expel the mucous easier.

Benefits of an Onion Poultice:

- improves circulation to lungs

- breaks up mucus

- assists the body in fighting infection

- reduces coughing

- warms the body

An onion poultice would be useful in cases of pneumonia, croup, bronchitis, croup, sinus infection, congestion, and lingering or nagging cough.

Onion Poultice

Herbal Remedy

Prep: 5 mins

Cooktime: 10-15 mins

Ingredients: 1 White or Yellow Onion Olive Oil
Instructions: 1. Heat oven to 350º. 2. Cut onion into slices (approx. 1/4 inch or less), removing the skin as you cut. 3. Lay the onion sliced onto a baking sheet and drizzle the olive oil over the top. They do not need to be drenched in oil, but need a little oil so they don't burn as easily. 4. Bake the onions for 10-15 mins. or until they are slightly translucent. 5. Place the cooked onion slices, flat, on a dish cloth, cheese cloth, or even a pillow case and fold over so that the onions are sandwiched between the cloth. 6. Place the cloth with onion directly on the chest. CAUTION: Test to see if the temperature is tolerable before putting on the skin so that it will not burn the skin. It is meant to be warming.

Let us know if this "old wives tale" works for you!

As always, contact your health care provider before trying any home remedies. This is to be used for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. This post is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe a medical disease. Consult your doctor for recommendation specific for you condition and especially for children


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