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Onion (Allium cepa)


The onion or edible onion or the bulb onion, as it goes by its proper botanical name, is a typical crop of the Polish geographical region. It is generally found as a culinary addition and people usually forget that it also has therapeutic properties.

What does the onion look like and where does it come from?

It may seem that the onion, a plant so popular in Poland, originates from this country. This, however, is not true. The onion hails from Central Asia, from where it was shipped to Poland and added to cultivation.

The onion is very characteristic in appearance. The stem of the onion is short, whereas the root may reach from 30 to 40 centimetres. The fleshy leaf sheaths (commonly termed as layers) are the parts of the onion processed and consumed by humans. The assimilative leaves which grow out of the onion (and which enable the plant's metabolism) resemble chive in form and are often used in the same way.

There are onions and onions. The many varieties of Allium

You know the yellow-greenish variety of the common onion very well. However, the red variety of onion (the Red Baron) has been enjoying growing popularity. Its has a milder flavour and has a more attractive appearance. Considering the form, there are also other crop onions, such as Dako (large and flattened), Rawska (round), Wolska (irregular bulb shape) and Żytawska (average-sized and flattened).

Active ingredient contents in the onion

The onion is from the same botanic family as the garlic. Hence the similar chemical composition of both. The main ingredients in onion extract are sulphur compounds (alliin homologs) which, when the onion is incised, become modified further. The onion also contains dipeptides, prostaglandins, ethereal oil, as well as vitamins (A, several B group vitamins, C and PP) and minerals (magnesium, phosphorus, iron, calcium, sodium and potassium).

The onion and its effect on the human body

The onion has a therapeutic action similar to that of garlic. You can expect that onion extract is bactericidal, disinfecting, hypotensive (lowers the blood pressure) and also alleviates ailments of the digestive tract. The alcohol-based extracts of onion are proven to be anti-asthmatic.

A very often used advantage of the onion is its capacity to reduce visible skin lesions, especially scars and stretch marks. It is the fibrynolytic action (the ability to dissolve clots) of the onion extract that has found use in cosmetic formulations (Alcepal and Alcepalan) intended to improve the appearance of damaged skin.

Why do scars become less visible as a result of administering onion extract?

As mentioned earlier, the onion is bactericidal; hence it inhibits bacterial growth in wounds and reduces inflammation in the area of damaged skin layers. The clot-dissolving ability is another major aspect that reduces the redness of scars making them less visible.

Use of cosmetics with onion extracts

The onion extract ensures that you can effectively deal with scars and stretch marks on your own. Scars caused by postoperative healing, acne or random damage of the skin can be fought with appropriate care formulas (Alcepal, Alcepalan). Cosmetic products with onion extracts can also be effectively used in ulceration, boils or burns.

Onion syrup: a home-made solution to the common cold

The recipe for onion syrup has been passed down traditionally for many generations. It is intended to speed up recovery. The onion is sliced and sprinkled with sugar. The resulting syrup is drunk for its is primarily bactericidal effect and the treatment is used during the seasons of autumn and winter infections.

Why do we cry when slicing an onion?

Each time you cut an onion the same problem recurs: intense burning and lacrimation. The bothersome aspect of processing onions results from the fact that when you damage the successive layers of the onion, its enzyme are mixed with sulphur compounds, resulting in sulfonic acids. Next the acids transform into a volatile compound characterised by its ability to irritate the mucosa of the eye.


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