woman coughing

Onion Poultice: Grandma’s Natural Cough & Congestion Remedy (That Really Works!)

Are you looking for natural remedies for a cough that just won’t go away or for tightness in your chest? Consider an onion poultice!

Onion poultices are a great traditional home remedy for chest congestion that acts as an expectorant by loosening mucus and lessening inflammation.

A warm onion poultice can be used in instances where there is difficulty breathing such as upper respiratory infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, croup, sinus infection, and even Covid (Coronavirus).

Really, any time you have a cough that is irritating or really hangs on, this healing poultice could bring some relief!

onion poultice for chest congestion

*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this is not intended to be medical advice. This information is from my personal experience and research that I have done. If you or someone you know has a medical condition or trouble breathing, please contact your health care provider.

Interested in learning more about an onion poultice? Here’s what we’ll go over…

Onion Poultice Benefits

I know you may be wondering if this folk remedy is actually an effective treatment.

Could this fragrant (some may say stinky) simple onion poultice be the best treatment to help loosen thick mucus, clear your lungs, and help you feel better?

Well, if you find yourself questioning the use of poultices, consider these science-supported health benefits of onions:

  • they are high in vitamins and minerals, including the antioxidant quercetin which can help boost the immune response
  • onions have a high sulphur content and have been found to have anti-bacterial properties (here is a short interesting article about a 1,000-year-old onion and garlic remedy that astonished researchers!)
  • these little bulbs have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties too!

There are many other health benefits associated with onions as well, along with having medicinal properties, they can help to balance blood sugar levels, aid digestion, reduce the risk of certain cancers, and so much more!

It’s easy to see how medical care has included the use of onions since ancient times!

diced onions

How To Make An Onion Poultice

There are a few methods of making a warm compress, but I’ll share the way that my great-grandmother passed on to my mom and she passed on to me πŸ™‚

Onion Poultice Supplies

  • 2 small-medium yellow or white onions (can add a few cloves of garlic for extra benefit!)
  • 2 medium towels
  • hot water bottle or heating pad

What To Do

  1. Slice or chop the raw onion (and garlic if you’re adding it)
  2. In a frying pan, fry the onions gently until soft (you can add a little water or olive oil if desired)
  3. Remove the onion slices from the frying pan and place them in a cloth approximately the size of the person’s chest.
  4. Place the folded towel (with onions inside) on the affected area and put second towel over the top of the warm poultice. Be sure the poultice is hot, but not so hot as to burn.  If the person is feeling tightness in the back more than the chest, then apply it over the upper back. This can also be used on the outside of the ear for ear infections.
  5. Place a hot water bottle or heating pad over the top of the poultice to maintain heat. If the extra heat becomes uncomfortable feel free to remove it.
  6. Rest with the poultice on for at least 20 minutes.

Repeat this process twice per day or until there is relief!

Helpful Onion Poultice Tips

An onion poultice is really simple to make but here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Use old towels- the onion smell is really strong and can take a few washes to remove all of the odor!
  2. Tie up the ends- if you’re afraid the poultice will make a mess or are using this for a child you may want to put the onions on the towel and use a rubber band to tie up the ends and then place it on the chest.
  3. Use the second towel that is placed on top as a little tent for your nose- this way you can breathe in warm air much like an herbal steam or a warm shower and it can help soothe a cough and irritated airways.
  4. Use this moist concoction before bed to help calm the cough so you can get some much-needed rest!
  5. Pair the use of the onion poultice with fermented garlic and honey or fire cider to help boost your immune system and feel better fast!
onion poultice for earache

FAQ’S About Onion Poultice

Still have a few lingering questions about onion poultices? Let me see if I can help πŸ™‚

1. Do onion poultices actually work?

Onion poultices can provide real benefit if you’re plagued with a cough, chest congestion, respiratory infection, or other health issues that involve mucus and tight breathing.

An onion poultice can help by improving circulation and blood flow, thin and loosen mucus and draw it out of the body, and according to the National Onion Association, onions can also help promote a healthy gut, build immunity, fight infection, and reduce inflammation.

Pretty impressive, right?

2. Are onion poultices safe for kids?

They can be. It really depends on the age of the child and their willingness to sit with onions on their chest. Since an onion poultice is quite warm, it may not be comfortable for young children.

The good news is that there are other helpful natural remedies that could be considered for a chest cold or cough suppressant such as:

*Not all of the suggestions above will be appropriate for every child, especially a small child. Also, babies under a year of age should not be given honey. And as always, please remember- if your little one isn’t feeling well it’s always a good idea to consult your health care provider.

3. Do onions have other helpful uses?

They actually do! In addition to having antioxidant and antiviral properties, turns out there are other benefits to onions that may not be as well known.

For instance, we have successfully used onion slices for bee stings and have found almost immediate benefit. Just slice and apply. In just a few minutes the stinging and swelling are reduced.

It may seem kind of weird, but between onion poultices, onion syrup, and relief from bug bites and stings, it is clear that for many, onions can be a huge part of a health and wellness lifestyle!

sliced onion on a towel

Last Thoughts About An Onion Poultice

An onion poultice is a traditional remedy that has been used for generations with great success to help with upper respiratory tract infections, coughs, colds, chest congestion, and even pneumonia!

All you need is a few supplies (that you probably have on hand) and a few minutes, and you will have an effective natural remedy to help you or someone you love to find relief.

Have you tried an onion poultice? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience!

Be sure to leave a comment or send me a message so we can discuss πŸ˜‰

6 thoughts on “Onion Poultice: Grandma’s Natural Cough & Congestion Remedy (That Really Works!)”

  1. My son has had a horrible, lingering cough at night as a result of a cold. The past 2 nights have been awful for him, and as soon as he got in bed tonight the coughing fits ensued. I consulted Be Your Own Doctor, by Rachel Weaver, which mentioned this as an effective method, although she uses a 2:1 ratio of onion to salt, microwaving the two. I also rubbed his chest with olive oil before applying the poultice, and held it all together on his torso with a neck gaitor/buff (he’s young and it fits!). Literally as soon as I applied this his coughing CEASED! I have only heard him cough once in the past 3 hours, so this blows my mind! It works!!!

    1. Hi Sarah,

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I’m so glad an onion poultice helped your son’s coughing! And thanks for sharing the book info, I’ve never heard of that one but will definitely be checking it out very soon.
      Hope you and your son have a quiet, restful night’s sleep πŸ™‚

  2. I have used onions for years for bronchitis. I slice an onion, lay it on my bare chest, cover with cheese cloth and a hot pad and go to sleep. When I wake up the pressure is gone, I feel great. The onion pulls the junk out of my chest, and I can get back to life.

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