Onion, Medicine Of The Poor, Scarce Like Gold! By Femi Kusa

ONION has been so scarce in Nigeria for months now that everyone is talking about it. I joined the conversation about two weeks ago when my house manager became stingy with it in the kitchen. Every morning, I like to eat on empty stomach a medium size onion and to knock off at night with one as well. I also like raw onion served with every meal, especially the one which comes with boiled palm fruits which I chew for retinol, beta carotene and all shades of natural vitamin E, in particular d-alpha tocotrienols. When I go for raw onion, it is not the aphrodisiac effects I hunt for. It is libido building, alright, and all men who are still men like to feel the airs of manliness about them even when they have long hung their boots, but this is not my primary goal when I munch raw onion.

Conversations on the current scarcity of onion in Nigeria are, not surprisingly, outside its health benefits. This is because many people know it for only the culinary uses as a taste enhancer. Yet the onion can prevent many illnesses and even avert death in some cases. I do not remember how I came to using or eating onion for its health benefit. My first encounter with onion must have been in Frank J. Lipp’s book, HERBALISM (ISBN 0-316-52750-5), which I read in October 1996. The book is “a comprehensive guide to herbalism “which traces the histories of medical plants in different cultures, with special emphasis on their collection, their cultivation, their uses, their symbolism, and the light that they shed on a vast spectrum of traditions and beliefs”. Even today, HERBALISM is a standard book for anyone who wishes to study medicinal plants or use them for their health benefits. Therefore, I recommend it for the Alternative Medicine libraries of the readers of this column.

I recall that I once asked a balding uncle to rub onion juice deep into his scalp, and it helped him contain his alopecia and to regrow some lost hair. Insect stings may lose their poisoning, swelling and pain they cause the skin if onion juice is massaged onto the site or onion poultice is placed over it. It sucks out toxins. At the Pen Cinema branch of Zenith Bank about 10 years ago, one of the young women who was attending to us customers in the front office was struggling with a cold and runny nose. I suggested she immediately juice an onion and use it as nasal drops. The nostrils opened almost immediately and the dripping stopped. That is because onion is not only anti-inflamatory but anti-microbial as well. Its healing power is evident when the scalp is massaged with the juice in dandruff situations. I no longer have cracked heels, which may be hiding places for germs, because I have learned to massage it with onion juice whenever I feel the itch of a fungal infection. Last year was the first time I experienced gum infections and gum boils. I got round them partly by chewing raw onion and by leaving some in the mouth for a while. Onion can be dangerous to handle, though. This is because it easily attracts bacteria and other germs and kills them. For this reason, it is dangerous, while cooking, to expose cut onion to the air before it is diced in the food or plate. We should remember why we cut onion and place them in sauces around our beds when we are down with a cold, cough or sore throat, for example. The onion attracts and kills the cold virus and other germs in the room which is, thereby, purified. Imagine, therefore, what harm some cooks cause when they keep cut onions for the next cooking, say some days apart. If we assume the heat from the stove would kill the germs as it cooks the food, what about the toxins which may not be degradable by heat? I became an habitual onion eater to check the veracity of a report that when it is eaten raw, onion clears congestions of all sorts in the prostate gland, thereby preventing or easing those troubles of inflammation, enlargement or even cancer. We may begin to appreciate the onion beyond its culinary flavour when we see it as a refrigerant herb in hot weather. Its nature is intriging as well. Covered by fleshy leaves, the short stem that is the vegetable called bulb onion survive harsh weather conditions because the leaves are well packed with nutrients for its sustencence. I wonder if this suggests that eating onion can make humans survive harsh environmental and health condition! Some writers have even suggested that the concentric rings of the leaves are a symbol of “eternal life”. In Frank J. Lipp’s HERBALISM we learn:

“Like the ancient Babylonians, Austrian farmers use onions to “fix the fates” on new year’s eve. They fill twelve onion shelter with salt, and the ensuing months of the year will be dry or we, according to whether the salt in the corresponding peel remains dry or form a fluid. The onion was a basic food and medicine in Greece, and the Romans ascribed twenty-seven medicinal uses to it. In 16th century Europe, onion was used to treat upset stomachs, burns and wounds, to expel worms and to aid sleep. During World War II, onion paste was applied to severe burns in order to prevent infection. Onion stimulates the appetite, assists digestion and alleviates coughs, sore throat and congested lungs caused by colds. An old cure for cold is to macerate an onion and mix it with three spoonfuls of honey. This is cooked for several minutes in 1.5 fl oz (12.5cl) of water and left to set. Made fresh each day, one to two teaspoonfuls are taken three to four times a day”.

Onion research

In many countries, onion is no longer seen as medical or folks medicine. At scientific and medical levels, onion and garlic, its more conceited kindred, are being presented as possible cures for some diseases, including even cancers. It is always difficult to speak of one without the other. Researchers at the University of Buffalo and at the University of Puerto-Rico School of Medicine found that women who ate garlic and onion were less likely to develop breast cancer than those who did not. Worldwide breast cancer tops the list of cancers which affect women. In a study published in the JOURNAL NUTRITION and CANCER, the researchers examined the impact of “front-based” foods in combating cancer, especially that of the breast. It was reported to be the first population-based study designed to verify relationship between garlic and onion consumption, and breast cancer prevalence. The researchers found that women who ate both spices everyday or ate a popular food in which both were 67 per cent unlikely to develop breast cancer compared with women who did not eat them. The women ate garlic and onion in SOFRITO, a local cuisine, stews, bean and rice-based dishes. Puerto Rico is reported to have a lower breast cancer rate than the United States and many European countries where women do not eat as much onion and garlic, if they do at all. The researchers investigated women aged between 30 and 79 years stricken with breast cancer and, also, reviewed cases of women who were free of cancer. The study involved 314 women with breast cancer between 2008 and 2014. There were 346 “healthy controls “in the experiment. It is natural to wonder what gives garlic and onion these capabilities against cancer. Researchers put it all down to organic sulphur compounds and flavonoids which exhibit antioxidant properties. Garlic, for example, is created with Diallyl Disulficle, Diallyl sulfide and S-allylcysteine. Various varieties of onion contain sulphoxides and All(en)yl cysteine. They are all said to exhibit anti-cancer activities in humans. Flavonoids are being reported every day by scientists to have cytotoxic effects which can cause apoptosis in cancer cells. Apoptosis is programmed cell death or suicide for the cancer cell caused by activation of the P.53 gene. Literally speaking, this gene pulls the “trigger” of the gun on the aberate or misbehaving cell to kill it. Flavonoids-rich diets are now widely believed to prevent cancer, cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) disease and neurogenerative conditions, such as nerve damage in glaucoma or the peripheral nerve damage in diabetes.

Folklore rain fall in the Northeast and Northwest parts of the country where onion farming thrives. This vegetable does not like too much water. So, when the heavy rains flood onion farms, crop failure is an aftermath. In forward-looking countries, these excuses are not tenable. Some people who are in charge of agriculture ought to have been thinking ahead, seeing these problems from afar and finding solutions to them before they have an opportunity to arise and to strike. In a country where thinkers are incharge of food afairs, for example, crops are stored in the times of bumper harvests and released when harvests are poor as in this case. One way in which this has been well done elsewhere is by dehydrating fruits, vegetables and other crops, including even yam and potato. I do not know how Egyptians did it in the times of Joseph the prime minister when seven “lean cows”were prevented from swallowing “seven fat cows”! It was possible the great pyramids served as storages. I am not a pyramid expert. I learnt a lot about pyramids from architect Lekan Adams who in Lagos designs and constructs pyramids of all sorts for all kinds of purposes. In my days of youthful exuberance, I asked him for the design of a house with a shape of a pyramid. I backed out when I learnt that the structure may attract radiations or energies from the universe which I may not require for my sojourn on earth. The extraterrastrial forces which gave Egyptians of old knowledge of the pyramids knew why they gave them. Egyptian pharoahs or kings whose earthly remains were buried in some pyramids more than 300,000 years ago are still looking fresh as if they died one minute ago. Mr Alexander Thomopoulus, a water engineer, gave me an insight to the origin of the pyramids about 25 years ago. This insight permitted me better understanding of Geometry which I hated in high school. The starting point of our conversation was the SQUARE OF THE FOUR ANIMALS ARE THE FOOTSTOOL OF GOD THRONE, as reported in the Bible. Each of the four Animal Beens is equidistant from the others. If you project a straight line from an equidistant point to a point above them where all the lines converge, what you get is a PYRAMID. When you project the equidistant point down words to form a SQUARE at the base, what you get is a CUBE. If you look at the sides of a pyramid they are triangular. What all of this is telling us is that this is a starNION has been so scarce in Nigeria for months now that everyone is talking about it. I joined the conversation about two weeks ago when my house manager became stingy with it in the kitchen. Every morning, I like to eat on empty stomach a medium size onion and to knock off at night with one as well. I also like raw onion served with every meal, especially the one which comes with boiled palm fruits which I chew for retinol, beta carotene and all shades of natural vitamin E, in particular d-alpha tocotrienols. When I go for raw onion, it is not the aphrodisiac effects I hunt for. It is libido building, alright and all men who are still men like to feel the airs of manliness about them even when they have long hung their boots, but this is not my primary goal when I munch raw onion.

Folklore

Science and medical research are only now just telling us what we had known for centuries about the onion, garlic and other healing herbs. The folklore medicines of India and some other lands are aptly captured in the book series of H.k.Bakhru who enjoyed wide-spread reputation in India as a natural medicine writer and nature doctor. Some of his books are titled HERBS THAT HEAL, VITAMIN THAT HEAL and fOODS THAT HEAL. In FOODS THAT HEAL, H.K. Bakhru leads us back to the pristine healing and disease preventing potentials of many food stuff we often think are good only for filling the stomach. Among them are Apple, Apricot, Dates, Banana, Grape, Grapefruit, Indian Gooseberry (Amalaki, or Amla), Lemon, Mango, Orange, Papaya (pawpaw), Pomegranate, Raisins, Amaranth, Asparagus, Beetroot, Bitter Gourd (Karella), Cabbage, Carrot, Cucumber, Drumstick, Fenugreek, Garlic, Ginger, Lettuce, Mint, Onion, Potato, Radish, Soya Bean, Spinach, Tomato, Barley, Maize, Rice, Wheat, Sugarcane etc. Of onion, H.K. BAKHRU says:

” The physcians of ancient Egypt prescribed onions in various diseases. Diocororides in the first century AD attributed many herbal remedies to them. They are stimulant, diuretic, expectorant and rubefacient.”

The white onion is preferably eaten raw, fried or cooked onion is comparatively difficult to digest. For therapeutic purposes, it is advisable to use onion juice instead of the whole onion as it is an all-round medicine.

Several parts of the plant have a place in traditional medicines. The seed onion increases semen and relieves dental and urinary diseases. The stalk of onion is a source of vitamin A, thiamin and ascorbic acid.

Respiratory Disease

“Onion is said to possess expectorant properties. It liquifies phelgm and prevents its further formation. It has been used as a food remedy for centuries in cold, cough, bronchitis and influenza. Equal amounts of onion juice and honey should be mixed and three of four teaspoons of this mixture should be taken daily in these conditions.

 

Sexual Debility

“Onion is one of the most important aphrodisiac foods. As an aphrodisiac, onion stands second only to garlic. It increases libido and strengthens the reproductory organs.

Tooth Disorders

” Latest researches of Russian doctors have further confirmed the bactericidal properties of onion. According to these findings, if a person consumes one raw onion every day by thorough mastication, he will be protected from an host of tooth disorders.

Ear Disorder

“Onion juice dipped on cotton wool and put into the ear is a popular Russian remedy for ringing sounds in the ears.

Anaemia

” Onions are noted for their easily assimilable iron content. They are, therefore, beneficial in the treatment of anaemia.

Heart Disease

” Recent researches in the West have established onion as an effective preventive food item against heart attack. Dr N.N. Gupta of the K.G Medical College, Lucknow, in 1966, and a panel of doctors in England in 1968 had stated that onion has been found helpful and beneficial in diseases of the heart. According to them, these benefits are due to the presence of essential oil, alipropyl disulphide, catechol, calcium, iron, protocatechnic acid, phosphorus and vitamins in onion.

ONION SCARCITY

Onion is scarce in this season because Nigerians are not always a forward-looking people who do no recognise that excuses for failure are admissions of failure. The present onion scarcity has been blamed on heavy rain fall in the Northeast and Northwest parts of the country where onion farming thrives. This vegetable does not like too much water. So, when the heavy rains flood onion farms, crop failure is an aftermath. In forward-looking countries, these excuses are not tenable. Some people who are in charge of agriculture ought to have been thinking ahead, seeing these problems from afar and finding solutions to them before they have an opportunity to arise and to strike. In a country where thinkers are incharge of food afairs, for example, crops are stored in the times of bumper harvests and released when harvests are poor as in this case. One way in which this has been well done elsewhere is by dehydrating fruits, vegetables and other crops, including even yam and potato. I do not know how Egyptians did it in the times of Joseph the prime minister when seven “lean cows”were prevented from swallowing “seven fat cows”! It was possible the great pyramids served as storages. I am not a pyramid expert. I learnt a lot about pyramids from architect Lekan Adams who in Lagos designs and constructs pyramids of all sorts for all kinds of purposes. In my days of youthful exuberance, I asked him for the design of a house with a shape of a pyramid. I backed out when I learnt that the structure may attract radiations or energies from the universe which I may not require for my sojourn on earth. The extraterrastrial forces which gave Egyptians of old knowledge of the pyramids knew why they gave them. Egyptian pharoahs or kings whose earthly remains were buried in some pyramids more than 300,000 years ago are still looking fresh as if they died one minute ago. Mr Alexander Thomopoulus, a water engineer, gave me an insight to the origin of the pyramids about 25 years ago. This insight permitted me better understanding of Geometry which I hated in high school. The starting point of our conversation was the SQUARE OF THE FOUR ANIMALS ARE THE FOOTSTOOL OF GOD THRONE, as reported in the Bible. Each of the four Animal Beens is equidistant from the others. If you project a straight line from an equidistant point to a point above them where all the lines converge, what you get is a PYRAMID. When you project the equidistant point down words to form a SQUARE at the base, what you get is a CUBE. If you look at the sides of a pyramid they are triangular. What all of this is telling us is that this is a starting point which gave rise to a square. This source transmits power to the square which projects the power thus transmitted through a cube to the base of a cube. Inside the cube are circular motions of energy thus I learned about the point which Geometry says is 360 degrees, the triangle, the straight line, the pyramids, the square, the cube, and the cycle. All of them belong to knowledge from Above gradually brought down through the cube to earth men at the base of the bottom square of CREATION.

Today, we no longer talk about the pyramid for natural preservation of surplus food crop. Rather, we talk about silos where we spray dangerous poisinous chemicals on food crops to preserve them for a rainy day. In some countries, backing away from chemical preservation because it endangers human life, a new technology is dehydration. Dehydrated crops do not have enough water to permit the existence of germs which can make them spoil or decay. We import dried oranges, okra, juice leaf (ewedu), kale and other vegetables but do not see them as opportunities to create jobs in the food value chain, and to make some money. A few years ago, some farmers in the North were sent to Morocco to learn how Moroccans did it, but nothing would appear to have come out of it. Shall we not say that onion scarcity in a nation that should be exporting onion is yet another failure of the National Arientation Agency? In my humble view, what this agency ought to be doing is identifying areas of national failure, studying their causes and developing strategies to change orientation from thinking of an action which causes failure to thinking of an action which brings success. Some of us who can no longer do without onion have been challenged to grow it in the backyard gardens. Thanks to organic farmers such as Mrs Sola Sowemimo of Ope Farm and her Urban growers family. Is Mrs Shade Kusa thinking of replacing the troublesome chicken lines with onion lines?

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Post Author: Friday Ekeoba