TikTok's 'Onion Water' Health Hack Doesn't Have Any Medical Basis

Ever controversial and often entertaining, TikTok is probably the last place people should look for health and medical advice. Need an example? Here's one: Many users on the site have recently claimed that onion water is the key to relieving cold and flu-related malaise. Per TikTok user Poshmamma2, the homemade concoction of — wait for it — onions and water can "help you heal from RSV, infections sinus, cough cold [sic]." Many other TikTok users have created similar videos and claim that this healthful hack is alleviating their symptoms on a much faster timeline.

Surprisingly, this latest TikTok trend actually takes a cue from another folksy remedy. According to Healthline, people of yore believed that slicing up an onion and placing it inside their socks overnight would cure cold and flu symptoms come morning. The origins of this practice are somewhat murky, although it may have links to Chinese medicine – particularly reflexology, per Healthline – which emphasized an association between the feet and organs.

Generally speaking, the connection may also harken back to a time before modern germ theory was discovered when people believed bad air caused illness. And to truly understand the proposed benefits of onion water, one must first get familiar with the recipe.

What is the onion water hack and how does it work?

In terms of methodology, making your own onion water couldn't be simpler. The outline Prevention.com lists the steps involved to make your very own onion beverage, which includes chopping onions into small pieces, adding them to a glass of water, and placing the covered glass in the refrigerator for 10 to 12 hours. Letting the onions rest in the water for an extended period of time allows them to "steep", which one assumes imbues the water with lots of oniony goodness.

It's definitely true that onions contain lots of nutrition on their own, according to Medical News Today. They're considered an excellent source of vitamin C and the mineral manganese, both of which play essential roles in many bodily functions. They're also brimming with antioxidants, which means they're effective at lowering a person's disease risk. Onions also contain quercetin, which can reduce blood pressure when taken in supplement form. However, it appears that the cold and flu effects of onion-based medicinal drinks are vastly overstated.

What does the healthcare community have to say about onion water?

NBC Philadelphia is here to throw some cold (onion) water on claims that this hack helps with cold and flu symptoms. Per the news affiliate, most medical professionals, unfortunately, agree that there is no legitimate scientific basis that drinking onion-infused water has any impact on respiratory illness. The strong odor of onions can elicit certain reactions, such as mucus discharge or watery eyes. However, this reaction is not linked to enhanced healing and isn't believed to speed up illness recovery in any meaningful way.

There are some proven cold remedies you can use when feeling sick, per the Mayo Clinic. For instance, drinking plenty of warm liquids can soothe sore throats and increase mucus production to clear out the nasal passages. When it comes to persistent coughs, honey added to tea also has a soothing ability and may help tame any itchiness in the throat. The best course of action is to get plenty of rest until your body is on the mend and ensure you drink plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration.