Onions are a treasure trove of bioactive phytochemicals with many prospective health benefits

Oct 5, 2022

Onions are widely used as anti-microbial agents and have beneficial effects on the digestive, circulatory and respiratory systems, as well as on the immune system. This review paper discusses the many health benefits and traditional uses of onion in pharmacological perspectives.

Onions are a nutrient-rich plant food with a wide range of potential health effects* including anticancer, antidiabetic, antioxidant, antiplatelet, antihypertensive, antidepressant, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory and antiparasitic.

*As part of a healthy varied diet

Anti-microbial effect: Onions are effective in the treatment of various infectious diseases, and many fungi, bacteria and viruses have been found to be vulnerable to components of Allium cepa (onions).

Cardiovascular diseases: Onions contain flavonoids which are used for the treatment and prevention of heartburn and cardiovascular diseases. Quercetin, in particular, reduces blood pressure in hypertensive subjects, activates platelets and has shown some cardiovascular benefits.

Cancer benefits: Studies suggest that onions have anticancer and similar biological properties, which are thought to be due to the presence of different organosulfur derivatives, flavonoids, polyphenols, quercetin and glycosides.

Diabetes management: There are many new studies being investigated to determine the antidiabetic properties of onions. One experiment, involving diabetic rats, showed the aqueous extract of onions reduced blood glucose level in the same manner as that of a conventional antidiabetic drug.

Bone disorders: Onions have been used to increase bone resorption activity (osteopenia) and bone density, and treat osteoclastogenesis and osteoporosis.

Practice Tips

  • Add onions to daily meals such as chopped onions in a breakfast omelet, red onion rings for a lunchtime salad and roasted baby onions to accompany dinner
  • Have a supply of chopped frozen onions in the freezer to add to daily meals
  • Make a batch of brown onion and carrot fritters to snack on during the day



Chakraborty AJ, Uddin TM, Matin Zidan BMR, Mitra S, Das R, Nainu F, Dhama K, Roy A, Hossain MJ, Khusro A, Emran TB. Allium cepa: A Treasure of Bioactive Phytochemicals with Prospective Health Benefits. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2022 Jan 18;2022:4586318. doi: 10.1155/2022/4586318. PMID: 35087593; PMCID: PMC8789449.

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