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Trisha Torrey

Will Onions Really Ward Off the Flu?

By December 18, 2012

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It's one of those emails that makes the rounds. It actually sounds somewhat plausible, and it seems like it wouldn't HURT anything...

The idea is that if you place an onion (unpeeled, in a bowl, of course) in each room of your house, all the flu virus that may be in the air or on surfaces of your home, will instead be attracted to the onion, and not to the people who live in, or visit, your home. Then, because the virus is stuck to the onion, you won't get sick.


The story goes that back in 1919 when the flu killed 40 million people, a doctor visited a farmer's family and the wife had done just that - placed onions throughout their home. Despite the fact that all the other farmers and their families were getting sick - this one family was healthy as could be.

The doctor took a look at the onion under a microscope and - lo and behold! - there was flu virus all over the onions. That's why the farmer and his family were healthy - because the virus was more interested in the onions.

Except (a very loud EXCEPT!)... according to Snopes, the attraction of viruses to onions just is not true. And my favorite part of Snopes is that they offer proof.

I can offer even further proof to refute the email. No doctor could have seen a virus under a microscope in 1919 - because the first virus wasn't seen by the human eye until 8 years after invention of the electron microscope - in 1949. (That is, according to the NIH.)

So yes, this is one more in a long series of bogus email facts that go - ahem - VIRAL across the internet. Bottom line - don't insult your sense of smell, or waste your onions.

Your best bets against the flu are to get a flu shot, or to wash your hands well (and not necessarily with anti-bacterial soap.)

Although I can think of a way onions might keep you healthier... Fry those onions with some sausage and green peppers - and chow down. While it won't help you resist the flu directly, you might be very successful in warding off your potentially contagious friends and family. If you don't come in contact with them, that might help you stay healthy.

Learn how to determine the credibility of email claims, blogs or social media posts.

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Agree? Disagree?
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December 19, 2012 at 10:38 pm
(1) David says:

The probable reason for the good health would be the germ killing ability of freshly chopped onion,Next time you have a sore throat try breathing vapours of freshly choped onion alternately through nose and mouth.It must be fresh if it doen’t make you cry it probably won’t work.I think it is the Sulphur compound that kill the bugs.

December 26, 2012 at 2:07 am
(2) gemdiamondintherough says:

I agree that onions just sitting around the room will not help you, but eating them, may be beneficial. Of the top of my head, I do not remember the compounds found in them, but between onions and garlic, fresh, they do have properties that are beneficial to your health. Will they keep the virus away. Probably not. But if you are in general GOOD health, your body will naturally be able to fend off more viruses or bacteria. What is in our diet, does really make a difference in our health. The other thing is that people are not getting enough sleep, therefore making their immune system more vulnerable to disease!
What you eat, rest/sleep, sunshine, water/inside and out!, exercise, fresh air, temperance in all you do, and trust in Divine power are some of the simplest and cost free guidelines to follow to improve your health.

April 8, 2013 at 10:27 am
(3) jebs says:

This idea hasn’t been that familiar so much to me, but I guess it’s worth a try. Though onions as they say are considered to be some sort of a sponge (i just read it in a book forgot it’s name) and maybe because of that said description it can absorb all the flu viruses flying in your room. This sounds interesting though, gonna try it at home :P

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