Onions and garlic

Why don't you use garlic and onions?

[Question] We have all your cookbooks, and eagerly await the next one. We have always meant to ask you - why don't you use garlic and onions?
(Belinda and Peter Hanrahan, Oxford, UK)

[Answer] By Kurma das - Dear Belinda and Peter,
You may know that onions and garlic are botanical members of the Allium family - along with leeks, chives and shallots. According to Ayurveda, India's classic medical science, foods are grouped into three categories - sattvic, rajasic and tamasic - foods in the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. Onions and garlic, and the other Alliums are classified as rajasic and to some extent tamasic, which means that they increase passion and to some degree ignorance.

Those that subscribe to pure brahmana-style cooking of India, including myself, and Vaishnavas - followers of Lord Vishnu, Rama and Krishna - like to only cook with foods from the sattvic category. These foods include fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, dairy products, grains and legumes, and so on. Specifically, Vaisnavas do not like to cook with rajasic or tamasic foods because they are unfit to offer to the Deity.

Rajasic and tamasic foods are also not used because they are detrimental to general health, meditation and devotions. Of course some of the Alliums have specific health benefits - garlic is respected as a natural antibiotic - but it is avoided because it stimulates the central nervous system and disturbs meditation.

You may be aware that strict Buddhists also do not eat any of the Alliums for the same reasons as adherents of India's Ayurveda - they disturb meditation. If you visit any strict vegetarian Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, or Japanese restaurant anywhere in the world you will find no Alliums in any of the cooking.

One reason is because in ancient Buddhist Tao writings, one sage (Tsang-Tsze) described the Alliums as the "five fragrant or spicy scented vegetables", and that each have a detrimental effect on one of the following five organs - liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys, and heart.

Tsang-Tsze said that these pungent vegetables contain five different kinds of enzymes which cause "reactions of repulsive breath, extra-foul odour from perspiration and bowel movements, and lead to lewd indulgences, enhance agitations, anxieties and aggressiveness," especially when eaten raw.

That in a nutshell is why I don't cook with garlic and onions.


ONIONS AND GARLIC PROHIBITED AND AGITATING

Indian man: Relieving high blood pressure, best is garlic. Prabhupäda: Garlic. Indian man: Garlic, you don't want it. (laughter) Prabhupäda: Garlic, onions, prohibited. (Room Conversation -- October 9, 1976, Aligarh) Reporter (6): What about onions...? Prabhupäda: Yes, onions is also very agitating. (Conversation with News Reporters -- March 25, 1976, Delhi)

(Srila Prabhupada mentioned many times to his disciples they should refrain from using Onions and garlic) Many people ask the question why is it that in the Hare Krishna movement we do not eat onions and garlic. After all they vegetables are they not. Of course it is not only us who keep them out of our diets but Jains, many Buddhists, many Hindus, and even some Christians apparently. Several years ago the question was raised in the Back to Godhead magazine Question: I can understand the prohibition against meat-eating. But what's wrong with eating garlic and onions? Surely there's no more violence committed when we eat an onion than when we eat a potato. Is it considered sinful to eat garlic and onions? Ranjeet Sharma Durban, South Africa

Answer: "Eating onions and garlic adversely affects one's consciousness. Why? Because the modes of goodness, passion, and ignorance influence every living thing -- human, animal, or plant -- and we learn from the Vedic literature that onions and garlic are in the lower modes of nature: passion and ignorance. In spiritual life one should cultivate the mode of goodness and avoid the lower modes. Sin in its broadest sense is any activity that hinders our spiritual advancement. Since eating foods in the modes of ignorance and passion hampers our Krsna consciousness,

Vaisnava spiritual masters teach their followers to give up onions and garlic. Most important, as aspiring devotees of Krsna we eat only what we offer Him. And His great devotees tell us He doesn't eat onions and garlic." The foul breathe and sweat of anyone who has consumed garlic is enough to turn many off. Not only the breathe but the whole body may reek. Although the above may satisfy the faithful it does not give substantial scriptural, historic, scientific or medical evidence. We will try to present some other evidences as to why no onions and garlic -especially see the Vedic conclusions at the end. CONSCIOUSNESS Eating onions and garlic adversely affects one's consciousness. Why? Because the modes of goodness, passion, and ignorance influence every living thing-human, animal, or plant-and we learn from the Vedic literature that onions and garlic are in the lower modes of nature: passion and ignorance. They cause a disturbance, and even pain and sickness to those who eat them. In spiritual life one should cultivate the mode of goodness and avoid the lower modes.

In Bhagavad Gita (17.9) Krsna states that 'Foods that are too bitter, too sour, salty, hot, pungent, dry and burning are dear to those in the mode of passion. Such foods cause distress, misery and disease.' Onion and garlic fall in this category. They excite the baser instincts and make it difficult for one to control the senses. The prohibition on onion, garlic etc. is implicit, by virtue of their characteristics.

HISTORY There are several stories about the actual appearance of onions and garlic in this world - here are a few: (The following story was kindly provided by HH Bhakti Purusottama Swami) One ayurvedic doctor had told me that this description is there in Ayurveda: When Lord Vishnu in His Mohini form was distributing nectar to demigods two demons named Rahu and Ketu sat down along with the line of Demigods. By mistake the Lord served them nectar into their mouths. Immediately the lord was informed by the Sun and Moon that those two were demons. As soon as the Lord came to know of this He cut off the heads of both demons. By that time nectar had not passed through their throats. It was still in their mouths. When the Lord cut of their heads , the heads were separated from their bodies. Thus nectar did not pass to the stomach but fell on the ground . (That is the reason why Rahu and Ketu's head are still alive but their bodies were finished.) When their heads were cut off garlic and Onions manifested from this nectar which fell on the ground from the mouth of the two demons. Thus Garlic and Onions are regarded as nectar but not used for the Lord because these are remnants of demons having touched their mouths. Even the nectar touched the mouths of these two demons still garlic and onions act like nectar in curing the diseases. But they are not meant for Vishnu or Vaishnavas. The doctor told me that whoever will eat garlic and Onion, their body will Be very strong like demons body and at the same time their intelligence also will be contaminated like the intelligence of demons.

Here is another historical account: "Once, in Satya Yuga the rishis were performing gomedha and asvamedha sacrifices for the welfare of the whole universe. A cow or a horse would be cut into pieces and placed in the fire. Afterwards the rishis would utter mantras and the same animal would come alive in a beautiful young body. One time the rishi who was about to perform a gomedha sacrifice, his wife was pregnant. She had a very strong desire to eat and she had heard that if, during pregnancy one has a desire to eat and does not fulfill this, then the baby that will be born will always have saliva coming from its mouth. Very strangely, she desired strongly to eat meat, thus she decided to keep one piece of meat of the cow's body that was offered in sacrifice. She hid it and was making a plan to eat it very soon. At that time the rishi was finishing the sacrifice and uttered all the mantras for the new young cow tocome to life. However when he saw the new cow, he noticed that there was a little part missing from her left side. He went into meditation and realized that his wife had taken away a piece of meat during the sacrifice. Now his wife also understood what happened and quickly threw the meat far away in a field. Due to the effect of the mantras uttered by the rishi there was now life in this piece of meat. Then the bones in that piece of meat became garlic and the meat became onions in that field. Thus these foods are never taken by any Vaishnava devotee because it is not vegetarian. Plus it is in the mode of ignorance." Another historic reference: From the Puranic Encylopedia by Vettam Mani (under CANDRA VI.), (Kamba Ramayana, Yuddha Kanda and Bhagavata, Astama Skandha.

Kamba Ramayana is a Tamil text by poet Kambar): "Solar eclipse according to the Puranas. The Devas and the asuras jointly churned Ksirabdhi wherefrom emerged Dhanvantari with the Amrtakumbha (pot of nectar). But an asura mayavi (magician) called Saimhikeya absconded to Patala with the Amrtakumbha which nobody noticed as everybody was busy with dividing other divine objects. Only after the mayavi's disappearance was it noticed that the Amrtakumbha was missing. At once Mahavishnu assumed the figure of a beautiful woman, got back the Kumbha and gave it to the devas. The devas began drinking the amrta when, at the instance of some other devas, Saimhikeya, the mayavi, assuming the form of an old Brahmin reached svarga, got a share of the amrta and began to drink it. Surya and Candra (Sun and Moon) who were on guard at the gates divined the secret of the 'old Brahmin' and informed Mahavishnu about it. He cut the throat of the pseudo-Brahmin with his Sudarsana Chakra. But, half of the nectar he had drunk stayed above the throat and the other half below it. Therefore, though the head and the trunk were severed they remained alive. These two parts, in course of time, evolved as Rahu and Ketu. When the throat was cut some blood dropped on on the ground, and became the red onion and the white onion (garlic) respectively. So both onion and garlic originated from the throat and blood of the demons or asuras, thus their consumption brings us closer to tamo guna (mode of ignorance) which characterizes the nature of the demons and thus is detrimental to Bhakti."

CONTROL OF MIND: ROLE OF DIETARY REGIMEN

Onions have, almost since prehistoric time, been attributed aphrodisiacal properties. They are mentioned in many classic Hindu texts on the art of making love, they were the most used aphrodisiac in ancient Greece, and they are frequently included as an ingredient in Roman and Arab recipes. Garlic is a natural aphrodisiac. Even Dr. Robinson, an eminent sexologist of America considered it so. It is a tonic for loss of sexual power from any cause, Sexual debility, impotency from over indulgence in sex and nervous exhaustion from dissipating habit. It is said to be especially useful to old men of high nervous tension and diminishing sexual power. Onion and garlic are forbidden for the pregnant mother because the child's body is too delicate and new for him to tolerate such pungent food. Restrictions and precautions to be taken by the pregnant mother, as enunciated in the smrti scriptures of Vedic literature, are very useful. Many ancient cultures recognized the aphrodisiac effects of onions and garlic and highly recommended them for those who wished to increase their sexual potency and discouraged them for those who were on the spiritual path, as they irritate the mind and senses. Onion is one of the most important aphrodisiac foods. As an aphrodisiac, onion stands second only to garlic. It increases libido and strengthens the reproductory organs. Onion aids in spermatogenesis i.e. increases production of sperms.

BUDDHISTS AVOID ONIONS AND GARLIC

One reason is because in ancient Buddhist Tao writings, one sage Tsang-Tsze described the Alliums as the "five fragrant or spicy scented vegetables" , and that each have a detrimental effect on one of the following five organs - liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys, and heart. Tsang-Tsze said that these pungent vegetables contain five different kinds of enzymes which cause "reactions of repulsive breath, extra-foul odour from perspiration and bowel movements, and lead to lewd indulgences, enhance agitations, anxieties and aggressiveness," especially when eaten raw Onions are well known for attracting bacteria, and it is said that a peeled onion in a sick room will draw the infectious microbes. Many diseases are spread therefore from chopped onions at salad bars. They are a tamasic food with some medicinal application though we avoid them for their rajasic and tamasic qualities, (Thanks to Kurma prabhu for above references)

ALLIUM FAMILY

You may know that onions and garlic are botanical members of the Allium family - along with leeks, chives and shallots. According to Ayurveda, India's classic medical science, foods are grouped into three categories - sattvic, rajasic and tamasic - foods in the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. Onions and garlic, and the other Alliums are classified as rajasic and to some extent tamasic, which means that they increase passion and to some degree ignorance. Rajasic and tamasic foods are also not used because they are detrimental to meditation and devotions. Of course some of the Alliums have specific health benefits; garlic is respected as a natural antibiotic. In recent years, the cardiovascular implications of vegetable Alliums has been studied in some detail, although the clinical implications of onion and garlic consumption from this point of view are not well understood (Block 1992; Briggs et al. 2001). Nevertheless, despite medical comings and goings, alliums are still avoided by spiritual adherents because they stimulate the central nervous system, can act as a natural aphrodisiac, and disturb meditation. You may be aware that strict Buddhists also do not eat any of the Alliums for the same reasons as adherents of India's Ayurveda - they disturb meditation. If you visit any strict vegetarian Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, or Japanese restaurant anywhere in the world you will most likely find no Alliums in any of the cooking.

SCIENTIFIC AND HISTORICAL FACTS ABOUT GARLIC

Garlic and onions are libido enhancers. When you lean towards spiritualism you lean away from the worldly things. Because of its stimulating qualities, garlic was never part of Buddhist tradition in China or Japan, whose practitioners felt it would upset one's spiritual balance. Garlic was never adopted into traditional Japanese cuisine and was shunned by Zen masters. The Greek citizenry, especially the aristocracy, firmly rejected garlic and found its smell repugnant. Anyone smelling of garlic was considered vulgar and was prevented from entering the temples. However, in Aristophanes' play Wives at the Feast of Thesmophores, the women who were cheating on their husbands found garlic the perfect cover-up for a night of indulgence. Garlic Like the Greeks, the early Roman nobility did not embrace garlic in their own diets but considered the herb worthy only of being fed to the laborers and slaves, to give them strength and vigor. Any man smelling of garlic was considered of low breeding. Horace, Roman lyric poet and satirist (65 to 8 BCE), said of garlic in his Epodes, it is "more poisonous than hemlock." Hippocrates did warn that garlic "caused flatulence, a feeling of warmth on the chest and a heavy sensation in the head; it excites anxiety and increases any pain which may be present. When the British colonized India, they noticed that lepers were peeling and consuming garlic non-stop. The British began referring to leprosy as the "peelgarlic disease." Today Hindus and Brahmins eschew garlic and onions, believing they are too stimulating and interfere with the ability to reach a high spiritual plain in meditation and self-reflection. Some do not eat garlic or onions because they practice ahimsa, the philosophy of non-violence. Concern that they might be destroying potential life forms or souls, they recognize that a bulb of garlic, with its many individual cloves, could possibly produce many more plants. In Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, the character Bottom tells the other actors not to eat garlic or onion, "for we are to utter sweet breath." The seventeenth century British view of garlic was solidly negative, with expressions like, "not fit for Ladies' Palates, nor those who court them," or that eating garlic "was part of the Punishment for such as had committed the horrid'st Crimes." When famous poet Percy Shelley visited Italy with his friend Lord Byron, he was shocked and appalled to see his friend eating the garlic that was served at a social gathering.

SCIENTIFIC FACTS ABOUT ONION

Onions contain complex sulphur compounds. When you cut into an onion, two chemical reactions take place. First, when a knife cuts through the cells of an onion, its enzymes release a strong odor. Second, the onion releases allicin, a volatile sulfur gas that irritates the eyes and sends one rushing for a tissue. One cannot deny the power of the onion on the olfactory senses. The rich found the odor downright disgusting. From ancient history up to the 19th century, onions were relegated as the food for the poor. The Code of Hammurabi, known as the ancient law of Mesopotamia, shows great concern for the needy by providing them a monthly ration of bread and onions, a ration that comprised the mainstay of the peasant diet. As disagreeable as the onion was to the aristocrats, the peasants devoured them completely raw. Apparently onions took on dual status in the attitudes in the ancient world. In Egypt they were highly revered by the poor and eaten extensively along with bread and beer. A small sect of Egyptian priests, however, were forbidden to eat them. Onions may have been reviled by those in high positions. In India Brahmins and others are also forbidden to eat onions, even today. We're all familiar with onion breath. Perhaps that is why the upper classes, such as the Brahmins of India, turned up their noses. In Pompeii those "lowly vendors" who sold onions were rejected from the guild of fruit and vegetable vendors, and had to form their own guild. The pungent odor and awesome strength of the onion was a mystery to ancient man. An old Turkish legend explains it rather profoundly. It tells that when Satan was thrown out of heaven, garlic sprouted where he first placed his left foot, and onions grew where he placed his right foot.

MEDICAL BENEFITS

There is certainly much information to indicate that onions and garlic are beneficial in many areas of health such as the following: Antibacterial, antifungal, blood pressure, cholesterol, circulation, impotence, pregnancy, diabetes, as a cardioprotective, anti-oxidant, coughs and colds, stomach conditions, cancer, garlic supplements, garlic and cooking, for pets and other animals, festivals, synergistic effect with other health food supplements. However for those wishing to cultivate spiritual life they should better not be taken even for those reasons.

GARLIC IS TOXIC - PROVEN MEDICALLY

Garlic - a Brain Poison? from GARLIC - TOXIC SHOCK! Reprinted from Nexus Magazine, Feb/Mar 2001. Source: From a lecture by physicist Dr. Robert C Beck, DSc, given at the Whole Life Expo, Seattle, WA, USA, in March 1996. The reason garlic* is so toxic, is that the sulphone* hydroxyl* ion penetrates the blood-brain barrier, just like DMSO [a sulfoxide*], and is a specific poison for higher-life forms and brain cells. We discovered this, much to our horror, when I (Bob Beck, DSc) was the world's largest manufacturer of ethical EEG (electro-encephalography*] feedback equipment. We'd have people come back from lunch that looked clinically dead on an encephalograph, which we used to calibrate their progress. "Well, what happened?" "Well, I went to an Italian restaurant and there was some garlic in my salad dressing!" So we had them sign things that they wouldn't touch garlic before classes or we were wasting their time, their money and my time. I guess some of you ... are pilots or have been in flight tests... I was in flight test engineering in Doc Hallan's group in the 1950s. The flight surgeon would come around every month and remind all of us: "Don't you dare touch any garlic 72 hours before you fly one of our airplanes, because it'll double or triple your reaction time. You're three times slower than you would be if you'd not had a few drops of garlic." Well, we didn't know why for 20 years later, until I owned the Alpha-Metrics Corporation. We were building biofeedback equipment and found out that garlic usually desynchronises your brain waves. So I funded a study at Stanford and, sure enough, they found that it's a poison. You can rub a clove of garlic on your foot - you can smell it shortly later on your wrists. So it penetrates the body.

This is why DMSO smells a lot like garlic: that sulphone hydroxyl ion penetrates all the barriers including the corpus callosum* in the brain. Any of you who are organic gardeners know that if you don't want to use DDT,garlic will kill anything in the way of insects. Now, most people have heard most of their lives garlic is good for you, and we put those people in the same class of ignorance as the mothers who at the turn of the century would buy morphine sulphate in the drugstore and give it to their babies to put 'em to sleep. If you have any patients who have low-grade headaches or attention deficit disorder [ADD], they can't quite focus on the computer in the afternoon, just do an experiment - you owe it to yourselves. Take these people off garlic and see how much better they get, very very shortly. And then let them eat a little garlic after about three weeks. They'll say "My God, I had no idea that this was the cause of our problems." And this includes the de-skunked garlics, Kyolic, some of the other products. Very unpopular, but I've got to tell you the truth. Garlic can affect the mind and concentration.

Do not eat it if performing activities requiring concentration and mental acuity. People who have an angry temperament or reddish complexion should use garlic cautiously. SASTRIC In the Kurma Purana it is said: "One should avoid eggplant, plantain, safflower, asmantaka, onion, garlic, sour cereal, and the sap of trees." palandu lasunam sigrum alambum grjanam palam bhunkte yo vai naro brahman vratam candrayanam caret (Padma Purana, Brahma Khanda 19.10, spoken by Suta Gosvami) O sages, one who eats garlic, onions, sigrum (a kind of plant), turnips, bottle gourd and meat, that person should observe a candrayana fast. vrntakam jalisakam kusumbha smantakam tatha palandu lasunam suklam niryasan caiva varjayet grjanam kinsukan caiva kukundanca tathaiva ca udumbaram alavun ca jagdhva patati vai dvijah (Hari Bhakti Vilasa 8.158,159, from Kurma Purana)

One should not eat eggplant, banana leaves, sunflower leaves and asmantaka leaves, onions or garlic. One should not eat sour gruel (a thin watery porridge) or the juice of the tree. One should also give up turnips and beetroots, carrots, kinsuka, forest figs, and white pumpkin. If the twice born persons eat these things, they all become fallen. (It is true our acaryas do not follow the strict standard mentioned above in all circumstances but they do follow the injunction not to eat onions and garlic. Even then on one occasionfor the sake of preaching Srila Prabhupada did eat some onion which was mixed in the sabji so as not to offend the host who had not been informed of the proper standards. Prabhupada approved also the use of carrots) palandulasunadini jagddhva candrayanam caret sraddhe devanpitrnprarcya khadanmamsah na dosabhak By eating garlic and onion one becomes sinful and as atonement one should perform Candrayana. (Garuda Purana 1.96.72) Onion, stool-thriving pigs, Selu, garlic, Goplyusa (milk of a cow before the lapse of ten days from calving), Tanduliya (a grain growing in faecal rubbish) and mushrooms- all these are to be avoided. (Skanda Purana 40.9) The householder taking the rite shall avoid heavy indigestible pulses like Nispava, Masurika etc., stale food, defiled food, brinjals, gourds, cocoa-nuts, garlic, onion, intoxicating beverages and all kinds of meat. (Siva Purana 7.10-12)

(But) he should avoid stalks of lotuses, safflower, gold or silver, onion, garlic, sour gruel, a thick fluid substance; so also chatraka (a kind of mushroom), vidvaraha, greasy milk of a cow during the first seven days of calving, vilaya (a particular product of milk) and mushrooms. By eating the small red variety of garlic, blossoms of kimsuka, a gourd, so also udumbara, bottle-gourd, a twice-born becomes fallen. (Padma Purana Vol. 42, 4.56.19b -24) I shall now mention those things that should always be avoided in Sraddha. Garlic, onions, globular radish and Karambha (groats or flour mixed with curds), and other articles devoid of smell and with no taste should be avoided in Sraddha.The reason is also mentioned (as follows): Formerly in the fight between devas and asuras, Bali was defeated by suras. From his wounds drops of blood gushed out and from them these articles grew up - hence they are avoided in the Sraddha rite. (Varaha Purana 16.11b-15) Manu-samhita: 5.5. Garlic, leeks and onions, mushrooms and (all plants), springing from impure (substances), are unfit to be eaten by twice-born men. 5.19. A twice-born man who knowingly eats mushrooms, a village-pig, garlic, a village-cock, onions, or leeks, will become an outcaste. 
 

Onion Toxicity And The Raw Food Diet


Onion Toxicity? With all the new ideas thrown at you when you begin a raw food diet, do you really have spend mental energy worrying about onions? 

While there's no question that onions look relatively benign when lined up against the great disease-causing foods humans regularly consume, such as meat, dairy, and eggs, they have enough downsides that I've eliminated them from my diet. 

Do they have beneficial compounds? Sure. You can find the upside to virtually any plant food if you look hard enough. Even poison hemlock has plenty of nutrients. The question is if a food's downsides are outweighed by its potential for good. Whether you think onions pass muster is up to you, but you should be informed about what they are. 
 

Onion Toxicity: Are Onions Good For You?


Are onions good for you? Their miraculous qualities are often touted today among the foods-are-healthy-drugs crowd, as they have been for millenia. They can cure soar throats and act as an aphrodisiac, ancient Indian texts tell us. The Egyptian nobility and peasants were so enamored with the onion's supposedly life-giving properties that they worshiped it, and the Romans believed onions could induce sleep and heal mouth sores, dog bites, toothaches, dysentery and lumbago

Do these healing properties sound familiar? They should. You probably hear million-dollar marketing machines touting very similar properties for name-brand drugs all the time. 

Onions may have been around longer, but it's hard to make a profit off them so their promotion is mostly relegated to home remedy and herbalism books. 

Yet the message is the same for onions and drugs: this is a substance that can act on your body to get rid of a symptom of disease, a message that should immediately set off warning bells in your head. 
 

Onion Toxicity: What Are Onions, And What Do They Contain?


Onions, like the very similar shallots, leeks, chives, scallions, and garlic, are part of the Allium family (lilies). Allium is a genus of perennially-growing bulbous plants that produce a series of chemical compounds such as cysteine sulfoxide, isoalliin, syn-Propanethial S-oxide, allicin, and mustard oil, which are responsible for their distinctive taste, smell, and the irritation they cause to your body.  

Different members of Allium have varying levels of these chemicals, and their pungency generally depends on how much they carry.  
 

Onion Toxicity: What Is Allicin?


Allicin is a sulfur compound found in onions responsible for a lot of the irritation the plant causes. 

Why is it there?

According to chemist Eric Block of the University of Missouri at St. Louis, who has been studying onions since 1971:
 

"Since allicin is anti­ fungal as well as antibiotic, it could offer the garlic plant protection against the bulb decay induced by fungi. And since the lacrimatory factor is irritat­ing and repugnant to certain animals, it too has survival value."
-Eric Block, Ph.D., "The Chemistry of Garlic and Onions."


Essentially what we have is an element - just one of several sulfur compounds present - that is intended to repel and injure things that would devour the plant and bulb, be they fungi, bugs, of mammals. When onion extract is applied to bacteria and fungi it literally destroys them. 

Many a canny gardener has realized this and strategically planted onions, garlic, leeks, and other members of the Allium family to ward off pests. Many creatures will not cross a phalanx of allium, and so can't get to the juicy tomatoes waiting beyond. Their senses warn them that this is a food to avoid. 

Although we like to think of ourselves as a species apart, at the end of the day we are just big, smarter-than-average animals with vulnerable physical bodies, and if a food is damaging enough that it destroys fungi and other bacteria and drives hungry animals away, it probably isn't wise for us to ignore the fact. 
 

Onion Toxicity: Onions Sicken And Kill

While working as a newspaper reporter several years ago I ran across a man in a retirement home in Meriden, Connecticut that grew up on a onion farm in California. Always interested in agricultural life, I struck up a conversation and he told me something interesting: onion toxicity had almost killed him. 

His mother died when he was 13 and since his father wasn't much of a cook, the boy was frequently hungry. To supplement his unappetizing meals, he would take breaks during his farm chores to eat onions.

"I didn't like them raw at first, but after awhile they started tasting great," he told me when I informed him that I found the taste of onions to be sickening. 

Although he didn't connect it to the onions, he became increasingly pale and weak over the course of a few months until one day he collapsed while doing his chores. 

He awoke in the hospital getting a blood transfusion, and was told that he'd come down with severe case of onion-induced anemia and had been dangerously close to death. After treatment he went on to a full recovery, but, he said, "I haven't eaten an onion since. When they try to put them in my food here I throw a fit."
 

Onion Toxicity: Humans Are Not Exempt


Although no full-scale tests have been done on onion toxicity in humans, for obvious reasons, there are plenty of instances of all types of animals, large and small, being sickened and killed by onions when their senses don't do a good enough job warning them away.

For instance, a group of water buffalo that ate some onions dumped in their field all died (4). A study on geese found that onions killed them too, with an autopsy revealed swelling of the liver and spleen (5). In a herd of cows that had 20 onions a day per cow added to their feed for six weeks, five cows died and two pregnant cows lost their calves. Anemia is the initial result of onion toxicity, the researchers found, but it eventually lead to organ damage and death (6). 
 

Onion Toxicity: Thinning Out The Blood


It's is certainly one of the bizarre peculiarities of our mind that we can look at something in animals and see the cause of sickness and look at the same thing in ourselves and see a potential benefit. 

Despite the well-documented ability of onion intake to bring on anemia in sheep (7), Cats (with just onion powder added to their food) (8), horses (eating wild onions) (9), and dogs (10), researchers have cooed over new studies showing this effect in humans and praised the onion's ability to thin the blood in the hopes that it might help us fight blood clots and prevent heart attracts, which folk lore says it does. 

[Onion toxicity Onion Cry] A 1979 study in India compared three groups of vegetarian Jains who ate an average of 600 grams of onions per week, 200 grams per week, or never in their lives. The study found that the onion abstainers had the shortest blood clotting time and that those who ate more onions had the longest time till clotting (11).  

"The (positive health) folklore concerning garlic and onions seemed to be gaining some credence," said chemist Eric Block of the finding, noting the food's potential as an antithrombot­ic (11). 

The mature way to deal with atherosclerosis is to eat a low fat plant-based diet that prevents and reverses it (12), and given that blood clots almost always affect sedentary, overweight individuals eating poor diets, the way to prevent them is to get regular exercise and eat a healthy diet.  

Poisoning ourselves in the perverse hope of escaping the consequences of a bad lifestyle won't work.
 

Onion Toxicity: Weeping Over Onions


When you slice into an onion and start to get teary eyed, doesn't it strike you as a bit odd? You haven't even put the thing in your mouth yet your body is already irritated. 

When an onion is sliced and the cell walls are broken, enzymes called alliinases begin a complex chemical reaction that results in the release of volatile gas known as the onion lachrymatory factor. This gets released into the air and eventually enters your eyes if you're hovering over the onion. The gas stings and irritates your eyes, and the tears that well up are your body's attempt to wash the toxic gas out (3). 

I've sliced into a lot of peaches and hacked apart more than my fair share of lettuce, but none of these foods have been so irritating that my eyes had to wash the resulting chemicals away with bodily fluids. 

You have to wonder about exactly how toxic an onion is when the gas of it alone makes your eyes tear up. What's it doing to you when you put it into your stomach?
 

Onion Toxicity: But What About All Those Benefits?


The cures attributed to onions are essentially drug reactions and the resulting stimulation of your body attempting to rid itself of harmful substances. Treating yourself with an onion is like taking a drug in the hopes that your body will stop producing that symptom. And just like drugs, when you rely on such a treatment you never remove the underlying cause and merely hope any side effects brought about by the drug reaction will be bearable.  

If the entire Allium family were a drug, there would have to be a warning attached to the commercials, undoubtedly spoken by an agreeable-sounding women reading the list as if she were chatting about the pleasant weather:   
 

The Allium Family Warning Label

Onions and other members of the Allium family may cause bad breath, indigestion and acid reflux , anemia, reduced blood clotting, or even death. Pregnant women should avoid the Alliuin family because its members have been known to cause accidental abortions in humans. Nursing women should not eat them because the chemical Allicin enters into their breast milk and disturbs a baby's ability to breast feed

Those at risk for major bleeding, such as those soon to undergo surgery or enter into labor are urged not to eat members of the Allium family because they have been shown to prevent the clotting of open wounds.


Onion Toxicity: But What If I just Eat A Little?


Although dogs have shown the beginning stages of anemia after only a single dose of onions, it's probably true that it takes sustained intake to bring about any noticeable negative impact. The average westerner only uses onions as a condiment, so irregular use may be fine. 

But don't fool yourself, a little bit of poison is still a poison. Even the Jains eating fairly modest portions of onions showed reduced blood clotting ability. 

You could gorge all day on watermelons or bananas and show no ill effects beyond a bloated stomach. Take the same dose of onions, though, and you'd probably be very sick. 

Although like all foods, onions have some up sides, the overwhelming force of them is negative. 

I don't eat onions or garlic, but I have periodically tried the weaker variates of the Allium family, such as the leaves of the chive plant. After so long without these foods I find them unpleasantly strong and that my breath reeks of them for days, but overall I don't run into any significant problems. 

If you want to include these foods in your diet periodically, I don't think it's going to be a deal breaker, but it's probably safe to say that onions and the Allium family should not be a regular part of your meals.