The Cousins

When scientists classify an onion, they use a Latin genus and species combination: Allium cepa. Plants such as garlic, chives and leeks are what we call cousins. Each has its own species name, yet they are all alliums. Similarities in their qualities are easily noticeable.

When you see or hear the word ‘allium’ in the future, tune into what is being stated. IF the word is used in reference to one of the vegetable alliums, no wonder. Allium veggies, rich in nutrients, are also richly flavorful – so much so that they’re often treated as spices.

Lovely Allium Illustrations by Bambi Edlund

The O-N-I-O-N

Semi-varying versions of the origin of the word ‘onion’ are available. Most are semi-interesting!

According to many sources, the word ‘onion’ comes from a Latin word: Unio. Think about what you know about the ‘uni’ letter combination. Does the thought of ‘one’ or ‘single’ come to mind? And the onion plant produces a single bulb, right? Now, visualize an onion bulb cut down the middle. Notice the union of many separate, concentrically arranged layers.

Union. Union. A union is something which, if taken apart, is destroyed in the process… much like an onion!

Stretch your imagination further. What if, while thinking of the word ‘union’, you imagine the onion-shaped letter ‘o’ setting before it? That would be ‘ounion’… which could easily evolve into the modern spelling – onion.

Notice this concept here as you enjoy fine Texan hospitality.

The Growing Gains

The onion plant grows until the roots support a hint of a bulb…from which hollow, bluish-green leaves fan upward. Spring onions harvested at this stage provide both that hint of a bulb and the greens for our eating pleasure. If left to grow further, the bulb begins to swell. More days of sunlight absorption are enjoyed. The bulb swells until autumn-day-factors cause the foliage to die and the outer layers of the bulb to become dry and brittle. Harvest ranges from uprooting and further drying, to transporting the onions to varying locations.

This adorable image is,  I am guessing, personally developed by Monica Irwin. Here's a bit of her background. Here's her present venture.

Knowing Your Onions

By the early 1900s, many varieties of onions were being cultivated in America. Each locale had its own name for each onion type. There was no standard for the naming, so knowing your onions meant becoming familiar with the varieties grown and sold in your area. As years passed, ‘knowing your onions’ became an idiomatic expression used to describe a thorough knowledge of a subject.

Such a cute spin-off of this ‘know your onions’ concept!

The Composition Positives

Introductory descriptions of onions often include the term ‘humble’
  …leading up to onions being one of the most essential herbs in history.
  But, think. The ‘humble’ onion. The ‘lowly’ onion. ‘Low’.
  • Onions are low…in cholesterol.
  • Onions are low…in calories.
  • Onions are low…in sodium

Onions are a GENEROUS SOURCE of…

 Antioxidants: nutrient/enzyme combinations continuously refreshing the body

 Phytochemicals: (similar to antioxidants) compounds for disease protection

Allicin, for example, works wonders on our blood vessels, plus fights bacteria, virus, fungus, and parasite microbes.

 Flavonoids: (types of phytochemicals)

 One particularly valuable flavonoid within an onion, quercetin, is…

  • anti-carcinogenic – fights substances that tend to cause cancer
  • anti-mutagenic – reduces mutation rates; often associated with cancer
  • anti-diabetic – works to regulate blood sugar
  • anti-inflammatory – combats issues presenting swelling, redness…
  • anti-histamine – combat histamine released during allergic reaction

Dietary fiber

Onion fiber contributes to our soluble fiber intake, which helps regulate our blood cholesterol and blood sugar.


Onions provide fuel for our bodies by way of both carbohydrates and proteins – a helpful, not excessive amount of each.


  • Calcium – supports strong bones, teeth and gums, …
  • Chromium – helps stabilize blood sugar and cholesterol levels, …
  • Manganese – required in the metabolism of enzymes in cells, …
  • Molybdenum – produces many beneficial enzymes, …
  • Phosphorous – aids the release energy from food, …
  • Potassium – conducts electricity within the body, …


Onions contain special complex sugars that pass to the large intestine where good bacteria digest them. This helps the good bacteria grow; this helps YOU.


Onions contain plentiful amounts of vitamin C, capable of giving our immune systems a boost. In addition, phytochemicals in onions improve the body’s utilization of the vitamin C!

Onions contain plentiful amounts of the B vitamins, which greatly assist both physical and mental health.

The early-harvest’s immature bulb and green leaf combination is excellent source of beta carotene, which the body turns into vitamin A, which is good for our eyes and skin, helps our body utilize its protein intake…and more.

The early-harvest’s immature bulb and green leaf combination also provides one of the richest sources of vitamin K. Vitamin K strengthens bones (think osteoporosis prevention) and nourishes the brain (think Alzheimer’s prevention).

The Second Dose of Onion Science

  • Antiseptic
    Onions, applied externally, discourage harmful microorganisms.
  • Diuretic
    Onions increase urine, so decrease fluid and pressure in blood vessels.
  • Expectorant
    Onions help to remove excess mucous from the lungs.
  • Vermifuge
    Onions destroy or expel parasitic worms within the body.
One knowledgeable herbalist mentioned twenty-six such benefits.
His list ended with the phrase "among others".

little sunshine onion Naturally, an onion's benefits depend upon how it is grown and eaten. Obviously, we offer only a springboard for thoughts and further study.

The Onion-Eye-Connection Explanation

Essentially, each onion bulb is a bundle of tender cells. Each cell is enclosed in a protective membrane. Each layer of cells is further separated and protected by a thin tissue; hence, the tissue wisp sometimes noticed. A perfectly developed onion will have 13 layers, each with its own protective covering, though the outer covering is the most obvious and the toughest.

Each onion cell is packed with natural chemicals that burst forth, mix, and change forms when its protective membranes are disturbed (peeled and cut).onion tears

Sulfur is the major chemical culprit that permeates up through the air and oft times reaches your eyes, often causing the flow of reflex tears.

It is like our lachrymal glands say, "Uh, oh! What's happening? Turn on the rinse water!"

Sulfur, though found naturally in many things, has a reputation for undesirable odor. In the case of onions, natural compounds beyond sulfur are present and at work. When a mindset of appreciation is added to that factor, at times the more the individual works with onions (peels, slices, chops, dices), the more commonplace, acceptable and appreciated their aroma becomes.

Their lachrymal glands seem to say, "Live and learn. Incoming nutrients – for me, not against me. Rinsing optional!"

little sunshine onionGuess what! The greater an onion's aromatic influence (which in many cases could be translated "the more the tears"), the greater its benefits.