Does Sleeping With An Onion In Your Sock Cure The Flu?

You've been down with the flu for a few days now, and you're downright miserable. Desperate to find a smidgen of relief, you've happened upon a TikTok that swears putting an onion in your sock will relieve your symptoms. Curious, you notice several stories around the internet promoting this method. So, you've started to contemplate trying this yourself. 

Before you take the plunge and sleep with onions on your feet, it's important to note that there isn't science available to support this claim. The flu is a respiratory infection contracted when an infected person coughs or sneezes. You then inhale those droplets, giving the virus access to your body, per the Mayo Clinic. Onions are a common food known to have many curative benefits for your body when ingested, like lowering your risk of cancer and heart disease, stated by WebMD. However, it's typically by ingesting onions that the curative benefits are brought to light; putting them on your feet isn't going to help your symptoms.

Science doesn't support the onion sock method

Many old wives' tales have a backing in anecdotal evidence. However, science doesn't support putting an onion in your sock to help with the symptoms of the common cold or flu. And in the case of reflexology, it could actually make your symptoms worse.

An onion is proven to have antibacterial qualities and antioxidants, according to Science Direct. These qualities are most beneficial to the human body when the onion is consumed rather than wiping it on your skin. Dr. Ruth MacDonald, a professor at Iowa State University, told Healthline that onions "are much less effective than [...] chemical antibiotics." Healthline also points out that viruses must spread inside a human host, so placing an onion against the skin will not effectively remove it.

Some people think it might be the placement of the onion putting pressure on the foot that is beneficial in relieving the symptoms of the flu. Research by the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine showed that reflexology, using pressure areas on the hands and feet to alleviate symptoms, can overstimulate a body that suffers from infection or a fever. So, it might not be beneficial for those suffering from the flu. While stuffing your socks with onions probably won't hurt you, it won't help either. So, where exactly did this myth come from?

Where did this old wives' tale come from?

The onion in the sock craze didn't just come around when TikTok hit the scene, even though it's made it popular again. It's actually an ancient remedy that was used before modern medicine. The alleged cure dates back to the 1500s. Before modern medicine and a thorough understanding of bacteria and viruses, it was thought that colds and flu were spread by bad air. The onion was supposed to help absorb the bad air to keep it away from the patients and was used as a preventative measure.

Additionally, Medical News Today stated that an onion against the skin was previously thought to clean your blood. So, when you put an onion against the bottom of your foot, many believed it would pull out the toxins. Modern medicine has proven onions don't actually absorb bacteria. And since the flu is happening within your body, the onion is going to be ineffective. Still, some people swear by this method. And research does mention that stuffing onions in your socks can have a placebo effect and make people feel better. You might have more luck with a proven method, though.