The Onion Poultice

The onion poultice is a great ally in my home remedy arsenal. Find out the why, how, and the many uses for an onion poultice. The onion poultice is a very old fashioned remedy that has so many modern applications. It’s a basic and frequently used tool in our home remedy arsenal for all sorts of complaints. The word poultice is very old fashioned, and it’s fitting…this is a timeless remedy. I have a special place in my heart (and my pantry) for these sorts of old fashioned and time tested remedies.

There are three key factors that make me reach for a warmed onion half as a soothing remedy:

Sure, it’s a little…fragrant. But it’s warm, soothing, and it really works! Want to know more about the science behind it? I wrote a short referenced post here outlining onion nutrition and why its been used since ancient times as a remedy.

And it couldn’t be easier to make. Simply slice an onion into halves or thick slices. Warm in a skillet until a comfortable skin temperature. They heat quickly so be careful not to get them too hot! I like to test for young children on my inner wrist area to make sure it’s not too warm.

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Arrange the slices, warm side down, onto a soft cotton cloth or bandana. This is an old cloth diaper that’s SO soft and perfect for this application. Then apply your warm compress to the area of inflammation or pain. Gather up the extra fabric, and apply the warm onion side down to the area needing treatment. I sometimes top with a hot water bottle to extend the heating time.

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Classic onion compress areas are the chest, but we’ve also done just under the ears, on the throat area, over the bladder, or even on the back.

Last summer, my girl got a cold that settled into the connective tissue between her ribs. It hurt her every time she moved or took in a breath. We turned to warm onion poultices, and it was her saving grace. She felt relief very quickly and was able to sleep and recover in days instead of weeks.

Have you ever used onions as home remedies? What’s your favorite onion remedy? (Here are some more of mine!)

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The onion poultice is a great ally in my home remedy arsenal. Find out the why, how, and the many uses for an onion poultice.

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    • says

      We’ve been really amazed at how much it can help to the point where my kids *ask* me for it when they get earaches. :) Hope you’re pleasantly surprised if you try it!

  1. says

    We have used poultices too. One year when my young dtr got croup and the weather was awful outside (snowy winter) we helped her through the night by using an onion poutlice. We use GOOT all the time, on everything. It is our go to cure all. Even the little ones know how to apply it themselves. :-)

    Modern medicine is great but so is knowledge of being able to take care of ourselves.

    ~Cinnamon

  2. Mary-Ann says

    I used an onion poultice on our son’s ear. He had an awful earache that reduced him to tears. He was about 14 years old. I was desparate and found the remedy in a book. I prepared the poultice, put it on his ear and he instantly fell asleep. The next morning I found a note in the table that he had written, thanking me for the poultice because it had worked so well.

  3. says

    Does the onion really make a difference? We use rice packs, and the heat is soothing, but I’m trying to figure out what onion has to do with it!

  4. J.Z. says

    Thanks for this post! I’ve heard before about using an onion poultice but was rather skeptical. I think you’ve given me the courage to try it! My son has a cold right now, congested etc. but I’m out of onions right now :)

  5. says

    I never considered it as an external remedy which is good to know. I have heard and read of people making teas, tinctures and drinks etc with onion in order to reduce colds and flu.

    Even your kids appreciate it which is always a plus. Earaches. I will keep this in mind.

    Really great job Gwen.

  6. Meade says

    I have used onions for decades, taught by my grandmother.
    Once bitten in the lower shin by a spider while camping, I was a distance from any medical care. I made a 1″ slice of brown onion, applied to the surface, wrapped with saran around the leg to seal, and applied hot towels for about the 2 hours it took to get to the clinic.
    By the time we arrived there, the red streak had diminished from 5″ to a mere 1″, and the onion was covered in purulent material (pus) from the bite opening.
    The Doctor, while skeptical, could not deny that the drawing effect was very efficient and lots of drainage had likely saved me from danger or worse recovery time.

  7. Deb Gibson says

    I have diverticulitis and when have a bad flare up, I eat a couple potatoes and a whole sliced onion, boiled then smooshed, with salt, pepper o taste. Heals my sore innards right away.

  8. says

    I’m 66…when I was growing up my Nana,and,Grandpa,would use onion to draw venom from the flesh after bug bites or bee stings, and to soothe vaccination injection sites. They’d slice a white or ulyellow onion about a half inch thick, lay it on the sting or shot site, wrap a piece of clean Flannel around it and tape it shut, and let the fever from the skin warm the onion…as that happened, the fever was drawn out of the affected area, swelling went down. And often, tge stinger would be up on the skin surface, no longer buried beneath the skin.

  9. Kittykills says

    Onion have a drawing effect, when flu season hits I break out the onions each bedroom gets two (1 by bed, one on opposite side of room), same with my L/R bowl by the door ( I buy the smaller cheaper yellow onions). If one turns I toss it out. By turns I mean it gets squishy and dark. – a side note if I may in regards to the onion and it’s pulling power, let’s visit the potato salad at picnics…most people think it’s the mayonnaise that makes you sick because it’s Sat out all day when in fact (the mayo has such a high acidic level no bacteria can grown) but the bits of raw onion seems to pull things out of the air. Thus making for an unhappy tummy. This is why IF we picnic I make individual servings and use pint Mason jars. This was my learning experience.
    I have weak lungs (my terminology) so when I start feeling “tight” I’ll blend up a small onion and put it in an old bandana that I keep for the purpose put it on my breasticle area cover with a towel (I do it at night) and by morning no more tightness.

  10. gwen says

    My mom always used half an onion as a poultice on a bee/wasp sting when we were kids. Was refreshing to see this :)

  11. Gosia says

    Hey! Thank you for that post!! I’m still looking forward for more and more home remedies. The syrup of onions and garlic is my favourite way to heal every kind of cold or health weakness :)
    [I’m not sure if you know that way, so here you have a short recipe: two onions, two garlic cloves and 3tbsp of sugar/ honey. Cut onions on a cubes and musch garlic, mix everything togehter and leave mixture in a warm place for several hours. [to the time you see the liquid] Enjoy! :)

    Greatings form Poland!

  12. April says

    Have you used onions to ease menstrual cramps. My daughter suffers from them and I’d like to find natural remedies for her.