In this article, I am focusing on the cultivated onion – Allium cepa. Allium sibiricum and Allium validum were two prominent wild species in North America.
In trade, there are three popular varieties of onions. They are classified by their color like yellow, white, and red onions. Yellow onions are the most common. The white variety is sharper and more pungent in flavor. Red onions have a milder flavor. There is yet another very mild variety called the sweet onion. This variety of onions perishes faster in comparison to the others. Sweet onions are thinly sliced and served in salads. They are mainly used to garnish food. The pungency of the onion can be reduced by soaking them in water after slicing.
In traditional Chinese medicine, onions are said to enhance chi or energy. They induce urination and perspiration. It is recommended for consumption when the weather is cold. Mixed with garlic and sugar, onion is said to ameliorate respiratory stress induced by cold weather.
Herbal medicine systems of both China and India regard onion to be beneficial to the cardiovascular system. It helps reduce blood platelet aggregation and cholesterol levels. Onion, both ripe and green, are said to help improve digestion. They also keep oral bacteria under check.
Shallots have higher phenolic content and high levels of antioxidants. These antioxidants are preserved if cooked in low heat. Onions are also anti-inflammatory and can help reduce arthritic and associated pains in bones and joints.
The German Federal Health Agency’s Commission has approved onion as an antibacterial agent. The Commission has concluded that onion is a healthful vegetable that may have many medical benefits.
While the onion is found to be beneficial to humans, it was observed to be harmful to animals like cats, dogs, sheep, and goats. Animals fed a diet rich in onions can turn anemic with impaired oxygen transport (American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
The plant is rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds. The strong smell emanating from the onion is attributed to cysteine sulphoxide.
To know more about onions, garlic, and other spices and herbs from Asia you can explore here.