Onion & Salt Poultice for Coughs

Before Christmas the children and I came down with a fever, cold, and cough. We were going through tissues at an alarming rate and nothing I did seemed to help very much.

As the days crept by, I began to lose hope we’d be better by Christmas. The fever was short-lived, but the cold lingered. Meg’s nose was running about as fast as the Missouri River. There was no way we could take her around other children.

Then I remembered onion poultices. Putting ground up onions (or anything else!) on a toddler’s chest seems like a recipe for a humongous mess, but after reading about the great successes people had with onion and salt poultices for coughs in 10 Essential Herbs (a new favorite!), I was ready to try it anyway.

Fight nasty coughs with this effective onion and salt poultice

I am not a doctor or a nurse. The only hospital I have ever worked in is a doll hospital. There, a band-aid can cure a heart attack. Do you own research (here are some of my favorite resources) and talk with your health care provider.

Onions help break up congestion and relieve a cough. They’re good for more than just a cough though. According to 10 Essential herbs, you can use this onion poultice for bruises, swelling, or inflammation. I know first hand that onions can clear up a nasty bruise.

The poultice wasn’t nearly as messy as I’d feared.

More importantly, the poultice worked. After just a few hours, Meg’s congestion dried up and her nose stopped running. I couldn’t help but stand in awe at the healing power God locked within such humble plants.

How to Make an Onion and Salt Poultice for Coughs

What you’ll need: 

  • Onion
  • Sea salt, optional (Salt helps draw out unwanted liquid. Since regular salt has so many minerals removed/added though, use sea salt.)
  • Thin cloth, optional
  • Plastic wrap (to keep in the moisture)
  1. Grind or finely chop the onion. (I blended mine in the blender, and that worked really well.)
  2. Mix in 1 part salt for 2 parts onion (i.e. 1/2 cup salt to 1 cup onion.)
  3. If you’re using it to break up congestion, gently heat on the stove or in the oven. Do not cook. You want the onions to still be raw.
  4. Wrap in the cloth, if you’re using it.
  5. Wipe coconut oil (or olive oil) on the chest, then place the poultice on and cover with a plastic wrap.
  6. Leave for 2-8 hours, then discard.
Tips and tricks. 

It’s obviously easiest to leave the poultice on while asleep. I tried a poultice while cleaning the bathrooms, since I had extra onion goop. It worked, but was a wee bit more messy!

If you don’t want to walk around smelling like an onion, wipe the area clean with a bit of lemon juice and water.

Onions draw out toxins. Since they’re so good at it, freshly chopped onions (that haven’t had the chance to attract toxins) are the best choice.

Have you ever used onions to clear up congestion? 

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

(photo credit)

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  1. says

    And a tid bit of info. If you are at a restaurant, you might want to avoid adding raw onions to your food! Onions collect toxins and if you eat them you could very well be eating the germs of dozens of other people. 😛

    • anna says

      Great tidbit! I’d read that when people get sick after eating potato salad, the first thing checked is the onions (not the mayo, like I would have thought!) I don’t plan to eat any more raw onions that have been sitting out for hours! Thanks Bekah!

    • anna says

      Someone told me that that is actually not scientifically proven. I looked it up and read more and it really seems depend most upon *how* the onions were handled. Onions themselves aren’t supposed to be particularly dangerous.

    • anna says

      Hmmm.. I’m not sure. I think with a stuffy nose, doing a nasal rinse with a saline nasal rinse might help better. I wouldn’t put the poultice on your nose though.

        • anna says

          I’ve tried saline water and it works great! I’m sure the onion would give it added power. 🙂 Does it not sting very bad?

  2. Jen says

    Just wondering if you somehow attach this to yourself so that it doesn’t get all over when you’re sleeping. I toss and turn constantly, so I would be afraid that it would get all over.

    • anna says

      For my kiddos, I folded it in an old tea towel and placed on the chest then wrapped the torso in plastic wrap. I only have used it on myself for a nap-time when I was careful to lay pretty still and actually used masking tape to tape it over the chest under my shirt. It looked pretty ridiculous. 🙂

  3. ibivi says

    This is a folk remedy my father taught me for a bad cough. Take a smaller onion and slice crosswise as you would for cooking. Salt liberally and put into a container with a lid or apply clear wrap to seal. Let it sit for about 40 minutes. Uncover and eat about a tablespoon amount. It works instantly in calming your cough and later will help break up phlegm. You can repeat later in the day if necessary with the onion remaining.

  4. Rita says

    I started using raw onion poultices last year. Due to an aotoimmune disease I have I am prone to bronchitis and pneumonia. When I started the onion poultice last year I didn’t even know how to make one!! But it worked anyway. I used raw onion slices placed on a single layer of paper towel. Placed these slices up under a stretchy bra that kept them tightly in place. Made a poncho, of sorts, from 2 fresh garbage bags and kept them on 24 hours. Then I repeated the process another 24 hours. Worked more quickly and BETTER than any antibiotic I’ve ever used with NO side effects! Well, after it worked so well on my chest I decided to try it on an abcess on my leg (from kittens claws). Within 24 hours you couldn’t tell I had even had an abcess on my leg! There is MUCH to be said about the healing power of onions and garlic (and even GREATER things to be said about our Lord and Savior Who created them! There is no doctor bill, no prescription drug cost, no side effects (unless you are allergic to onions and/or garlic), and the cost is very minimal. If you don’t mind smelling like an onion for a couple of days, I highly recommend it!!

    • anna says

      Hi Marina! I’m not a health care professional and would definitely recommend contacting one before using on someone so little.

      I’ve not personally used it with someone that young, though I did have incredible results with my 1-year-old. On a practical level it might be hard to keep in place if the baby squirms. Something less messy that might still work would be to place raw onions in the room near the baby (preferably a kind that doesn’t make the eyes water!) I’ve done that several times with little ones and it seemed to help clear up congestion.

      But again, I’d recommend talking to a health care professional. 🙂

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