ASTHMA IS a chronic lung disease affecting people of all ages. It is caused by inflammation and muscle tightening around the airways, which makes it harder to breathe. The symptoms can include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. These symptoms can be mild or severe, and can come and go over time.

There is currently no cure for asthma, but treatment can help control the symptoms so that you are able to live a normal, active life. Inhalers, which are devices that let you breathe in medicine, are the main treatment. Tablets and other medications may also be needed if your asthma is severe.

However, did you know that historically, onions have been used to treat asthma? According to Dr Orlando Thomas, medical doctor and functional medicine practitioner at Thomas Medical Centre, onions are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and help in clearing the airways. Raw onions can be used to clear air passage for better breathing.

“Onion is a unique vegetable. It contains an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory bronchodilator known as quercetin that has been found to relax the airway muscles and may provide relief of asthma symptoms. Quercetin has some unique properties, one of which includes dilating the tubes in your lungs,” Dr Thomas said.

He indicated that asthma is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that should be managed by a physician; and usually, persons with mild to severe persistence asthma, and even intermittent asthma, will need to be on appropriate medication.

“If you are asthmatic, you should never be out of your inhaler, as a threatening asthma attack may occur. But perhaps, by chance, you may not have your pump and an asthma attack strikes, and you are far from medical attention, an onion could save your life,” he said.

Quercetin in an onion, he said, acts in your body like Ventolin, and it works very fast. It is able to inhibit an acute asthma exacerbation, open your airways and allow you to breathe. It will also allow you valuable time to get to get your inhaler or get to the hospital. “Sometimes in mild cases, an onion is all you need to reverse the attack,” he said.

“You will need a knife and a small onion. You can cut the onion in half and peel just as you do in the kitchen. Dice your onion … this allows the cells to be ruptured open and the quercetin will now become available. To a hot cup of water, add the finely chopped onion. Cover for five minutes until the tea is seeped, then drink the warm tea. Within minutes, the lungs start to clear up and you can breathe better,” Dr Thomas said.

Quercetin is also beneficial in allergic rhinitis, or sinusitis. The polyphenols in onions act as antioxidants, protecting the body against free radicals and can encourage a stronger immune system. The quercetin in onions may also reduce allergic reactions by stopping your body from producing histamines, which can lead to allergic symptoms like sneezing or rash.

Quercetin can also be used for eczema, and if you have reactions such as ptomaine poison. “If you do not have kola nut or bizzy, or anti-histamine, an onion might be helpful,” he said.

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