This afternoon, I received a message from a friend urging all her friends to have cut onions at home and in the office to keep us away from flu and the killer Middle East Respiratory Syndrome corona virus (MERS) that caused the death of a Malaysian returning from Saudi Arabia and causing alerts in many other places.
My ill-informed friend had apparently heard it from some wrong source that since MERS is respiratory related, onions can keep one from contracting the virus. She also found an article from a Feng Shui magazine describing how onions helped one family stayed extremely healthy in 1919 when flu killed 40 million people. The same article also mentioned about a hairdresser in Los Angeles who reported that some years ago when her employees and customers were coming down with the flu, she remembered about the onion as protection against the flu. So she quickly placed several bowls of onions around her salon and to her surprise, her staff recovered and did not get sick after that.
She even asked me is it placing onions around is a feng shui cure for respiratory related sickness? Duh!! I told her I’ve never read of such cure and so far, there is no scientific evidence that a cut raw onion absorbs germs or rids the air of toxins/poisons and therefore it is another old wife tales.
I can still remember when SARS hit in 2002/2003; there was a terrible rush to buy vinegar as some old wife tales had suggested that placing vinegar at four corners of the house will ward the virus off. From China to Hong Kong to Taiwan to Singapore and even Malaysia, shelves were empty of vinegar and unscrupulous traders used the opportunity to hike the price of vinegar. I hope that such a rush for onions will not happen. It is just a myth, another old wife tale that cut onions can ward off MERS.