Ozark Encyclopedia – O – Onion

Onion – Allium cepa

Parts used: bulb

Traditional uses: Syrup of chopped onions taken for colds. Used to destroy germs because of a volatile oil in roots. Onion placed in a sick room to draw fever out.

“Antiseptic, diuretic. A roasted Onion is a useful application to tumours or earache. The juice made into a syrup is good for colds and coughs. Hollands gin, in which Onions have been macerated, is given as a cure for gravel and dropsy.” ~Grieve MH

Red onion on bedpost for a cold – “A big red onion tied to a bedpost is said to prevent the occupants of the bed from catching cold. A famous politician in Arkansas had an onion fastened to his bedpost as recently as 1937. When I asked him about this he laughed rather sheepishly. ‘That’s just one of Maw’s notions,’ he said, referring to his mother-in-law. ‘She lives with us, and she’s getting old, and we try to humor her. Of course, I don’t believe in such things myself.’” ~Randolph OMF

“Tie a red onion to the bed post to prevent taking a cold.” ~Parler FBA II 1787

Red onion rubbed on wart – “…just rub the wart with a piece of onion, then throw the onion backward over your right shoulder and walk away without looking back.” ~Randolph OMF

Red onion buried for warts – “…it is best to touch your wart with a whole red onion; then you cut the onion in two, eat half of it and bury the other half; when the buried part decays, the wart will disappear.” ~Randolph OMF

Roasted onion juice for colds – “Take an onion and put it in a cloth and wet that cloth. We had an old fashioned cook stove with a hearth in front there. Take and put that onion in them ashes and cover it over with coals and roast it. Then take it out and peel it and squeeze the juice out of it and put a little sugar in it.” ~Carter and Krause HRIO

Onion tea for colds – “Mother made onion tea for a cold, talk about nasty. She steamed those onions, added sugar to it.” ~Carter and Krause HRIO

Poultice for intestinal infection in a baby – “My baby sister had an infection in her intestines and couldn’t nurse. The mid-wife took onions and cut ‘em up in little bitty pieces and made a poultice. She’d put the poultice in a skillet and get it warm so the juice would come out of the onions. Then she’d put that on that baby’s stomach. She did that all night long and by morning that baby could nurse.” ~Carter and Krause HRIO

Raw onion for the liver – “My sister says there’s a doctor out there, he’d always eat an onion before breakfast of a morning and he said it was good liver medicine.” ~Carter and Krause HRIO

Worms, turpentine, asafetida, and red onion juice as a liniment – “Grease rendered from red earthworms mixed with turpentine, asafoetida and red onion juice makes a good liniment because all of these substances draw their strength from the earth.” ~Parler FBA II 1372

Poultice for intestinal troubles – “A hot onion poultice will cure the inflammation of the bowels.” ~Parler FBA II

Roasted onion juice for coughs – “Wrap a red onion in a damp cloth and bake it until you can squeeze the juice out of it. Mix the onion juice with corn likker and drink the mixture.” ~Parler FBA II 1949

Onion juice for croup – “Peel and grate a large onion to extract the juice from it. Give this juice to the croupy child or adult.” ~Parler FBA II 2001

For wasp sting – “Cut an onion, scrape it, and apply the juice part to the sting.” ~Parler FBA III 3257

For warts – “If an onion is rubbed on a wart and then buried, the wart will leave.” ~Parler FBA III 3576

“To get rid of a wart, take an onion and rub it on the wart. Bury the onion, and by the time it rots, the wart will have gone away.” ~Parler FBA III 3577

Onion skins to bring money – “If you burn the skin of onions, you will receive money.” ~Parler FBA V 5738

Carter, Kay & Bonnie Krause Home Remedies of the Illinois Ozarks (HRIO)

Grieve, Margaret A Modern Herbal (MH)

Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Ethnobotany (NAE)

Parler, Mary Celestia Folk Beliefs from Arkansas (FBA)

Randolph, Vance Ozark Magic and Folklore (OMF)

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