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Onion Cough Remedy

Onion syrup, made by cooking onions with honey or sugar, is a homemade cough remedy that can help ease a persistent cough.
Onion Cough Remedy

Q. When we were children, our mother made us a cough syrup by slicing an onion and covering the slices with sugar. The sugar sucks the juice out of the onion and makes a clear syrup.

I have had a raw cough and my lungs hurt from congestion. I used a tablespoon of the syrup and it stopped the coughing. I used more as needed, and today my cough and lungs are much better.

Onions are a super-food. The taste of this syrup is like caramelized onions, almost pleasant.

A. This seems to be quite a traditional recipe. A friend told us that her Hungarian grandmother made this syrup for her several decades ago.

Much longer ago, in the mid-18th century, American settlers used the juice of roasted onion to treat children with croupy cough. One advantage of roasted onion juice is that, like many pioneer home remedies, onions were almost always available.

Household Antimicrobials

Onion and honey (sometimes used instead of sugar to make onion syrup) are both active against some microbes, including Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Klebsiella, Pseudomonas and Candida (West Indian Medical Journal, Sept., 2003). These are pathogens commonly found in the throat or pharynx and often associated with sore throats or infections that cause cough.

Another favorite remedy for cough, thyme, might be added to your sliced onion as you are creating the syrup. Ingredients in thyme such as thymol have been shown to be helpful in calming coughs. If you would like to learn more about home remedies for a cough, you may be interested in our Guide to Colds, Coughs and the Flu.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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