Onion juice for coughs: the most important questions and answers

Zwiebelsaft bei Husten: Die wichtigsten Fragen und Antworten

When you are ill, you often want to do without medication and prefer to use natural home remedies that strengthen the immune system and can heal naturally. Coughing is a common side effect of a cold, especially. Onion juice is not only easy to prepare, but also very effective against cough.

In this article we explain how you can easily prepare onion juice at home, whether it is really effective against coughs, whether it is suitable for children and babies and whether it can be taken during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Finally, we even give you a few alternatives to onion juice that also help against coughs.

the essentials in brief

  • Onion juice is one of the most important home remedies for coughs and other cold symptoms. It has been used in many households for centuries to strengthen the immune system.
  • Onion juice is not only healthy. It also has an antibacterial effect and thus kills germs that have accumulated in the body. This is mainly due to the vitamins and fiber found in onions.
  • Onion juice can be prepared in many different ways. Depending on how you prefer the taste, you can add a few ingredients to the onion juice that will give it a better flavor.

Onion juice for coughs: what you should know

Onions are not only healthy, they also have an antibacterial effect and strengthen the immune system. They contain many minerals , fiber and vitamins such as vitamin C. Onions are vegetables and are very low in calories. Red onions in particular are good because they have special pigments that give the vegetable that red hue called anthocyanins. When present in food, they can reduce the risk of heart disease and protect against cancer and diabetes(1,2).

Different types of onions can be used to prepare cough syrup. The widespread kitchen or table onion with the rather pungent aroma that is caused by the high alliin content is very practical. Green onions are larger and taste mildly sweet (10).


Onions are a vegetable and are very healthy because they contain many beneficial ingredients that boost both our immune system and our overall health. (Image source: mayu ken / Unsplash)

In order to protect the ingredients of the onion, the cough syrup is prepared cold and is best left to steep overnight. It can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days in a clean, sealable container such as a jam jar. The maximum shelf life is one week.

How is onion juice prepared?

This is how you make the classic onion juice for coughs:

  • Peel and chop an onion into small pieces and place in a bowl
  • Add tablespoons of honey or honey substitute (100-150 g of sugar or rock candy).
  • Leave overnight or several hours
  • Strain the liquid through a sieve
  • Take the finished cough syrup by the spoonful every day

Additional option 1: If you want, you can add lemon juice at this point. It provides an extra portion of vitamin C and a fresh aroma.

Additional option 2: Instead of lemon, you can also pour a teaspoon of thyme and a teaspoon of sage with 250 ml of boiling water. After everything has cooled down, you can pour the brew through a sieve and add it to the onion juice. Thyme and sage support the antimicrobial and expectorant effect. The juice is also suitable for babies.

Additional option 3: If you want, you can also add the same amount of chopped horseradish to the onion pieces and then leave the mixture with sugar or honey overnight. Horseradish contains mustard oils and flavonoids that have antibacterial properties. Since horseradish is an irritant, this syrup should not be taken for gastrointestinal ulcers and is only suitable for children aged four and over(2,3).

How effective is onion juice for cough?

Onions contain an essential oil, sulfur-containing compounds and flower pigments. These three components have an antibacterial effect and thus kill germs. In folk medicine, the onion is used to treat various ailments, such as arteriosclerosis, gastrointestinal disorders, loss of appetite, bites, scars and colds(4,5).

Onion juice can soothe the urge to cough and loosen mucus.

In addition, onions not only have an anti-inflammatory effect, they also have a calming effect on the bronchi. For this reason, onion juice can also relieve the urge to cough and loosen mucus. Onion juice may have better cough suppressing effects, especially when combined with honey, which also reduces sore throat (7,9).

How often should I take onion juice for a cough?

A teaspoon of the homemade cough syrup made from onion and honey can be taken several times a day as needed. Since here, in contrast to cough syrups from the pharmacy, the risk of an overdose is very unlikely.

Is onion juice suitable for coughs for children and babies?

It is recommended that children under the age of one year not be given honey due to the rare risk of botulism. Botulism is food poisoning caused by spores of the botulinum bacterium. The spores can be found in honey and can lead to poisoning, often with permanent paralysis, in susceptible people and infants(1,8).

pregnant woman has her hands on her belly

Taking onion juice is not a problem for you or your baby, neither during pregnancy nor while breastfeeding. (Image source: freestocks / Unsplash)

The following applies: if there are no intolerances or allergies and it is not a question of a child under the age of one year, you can take onion juice for sore throats and coughs.

Can I take onion juice for a cough when pregnant or breastfeeding?

During pregnancy, it is even recommended to take onion juice from the pharmacy instead of cough syrup, as it is a natural remedy that is very effective against coughs and loosens phlegm.

Even if you are breastfeeding, taking onion juice is not a problem for you or your baby.

How do I dose onion juice for cough?

Children, teenagers and adults can take the onion juice one tablespoon three times a day to every hour. It is best to take the syrup undiluted and let it linger in your mouth for as long as possible. This increases the local antitussive effect. If the syrup is too strong for you, you can mix it with cold to warm liquid such as tea.

An overdose of onion juice is rather unlikely. Nevertheless, an average daily dose of 50g fresh onion is recommended as a guideline for ingestion. The reason for this is the substance diphenylamine, which was found in edible plants such as onions and tea. If taken in excess over months, it can lead to kidney damage(1,8).

What side effects should I expect with onion juice?

Allergic skin reactions such as contact eczema and irritation of the conjunctiva of the nose and eyes can occur as side effects of onion juice. The odor of skin and breath can change, and gastrointestinal irritation and bloating are also possible(5,6).

Onion juice should not be consumed if allergic to any of the ingredients. Preparations with honey are suitable for infants from the age of one year, the onion and horseradish variant is only suitable for children from the age of four. Onion syrup with horseradish should not be taken if you have gastrointestinal ulcers(5,8).

When should I see a doctor if I have a cough?

When newborns and babies under a year old have a cough, you always go straight to the pediatrician. Young children are brought to the doctor no later than after a week of continuous coughing. Even if they are in poor general condition, have a fever or wheezing, they should be examined by a doctor.

A doctor's visit is necessary if the cough worsens or other symptoms develop.

Children, adolescents and adults need to see a doctor if they have other symptoms in addition to coughing, such as fever, severe exhaustion, headaches, body aches or chest pains. Medical treatment is also necessary for hard, bloody coughing, bronchitis and asthmatic coughing fits. If the clinical picture worsens again after initial improvement or if the cough lasts three weeks or longer, you should also go to the doctor.

What alternatives are there to onion juice for coughs?

It is not uncommon for some people to find the onion smell too strong and uncomfortable. For this reason, we have listed a few alternatives to the classic onion juice for coughs here:

alternative Effect
cough tea moistens the mucous membranes, liquefies viscous mucus and relieves the urge to cough
ginger tea has an immunostimulating, disinfecting effect
thyme has a bronchodilator, expectorant and antibacterial effect
Diluted apple cider vinegar effective expectorant
buckhorn stimulates the immune system and has an antibacterial effect
Hot milk with honey works against insomnia, coughing and mild respiratory problems
Inhale has a beneficial effect on coughing and phlegm

In the following section we explain in more detail how these alternatives to onion juice can help against coughs and what you need to pay attention to or how you could prepare them and fight the cough.

cough tea

Cough teas not only help with the medicinal plants they contain (e.g. thyme, anise, ivy), they also relieve the symptoms relatively quickly and accelerate recovery. The liquid that you ingest through the cough tea moistens your mucous membranes, liquefies the viscous mucus and relieves the urge to cough.

Homemade ginger tea

Homemade ginger tea has a similar effect to cough tea. Thanks to its immune-stimulating, disinfecting effect. Ginger contains essential oils that stimulate saliva production, thus improving digestion and preventing painful bloating. Another benefit of ginger is that it stimulates fat burning.


Thyme is a versatile medicinal and aromatic herb. In natural medicine, the plant is considered an excellent medicinal herb that can relieve coughs and stomach problems, among other things. It has a bronchodilator, cough-relieving and antibacterial effect. Thyme oil can also be used as a mouthwash to treat a sore throat. Pour the leaves of thyme into tea or boil them down to make a syrup.


Thyme is a versatile medicinal and aromatic herb. In natural medicine, the plant is considered an excellent medicinal herb that can relieve coughs and stomach problems, among other things. (Image source: gate74 / Pixabay)

Diluted apple cider vinegar

Diluted apple cider vinegar is considered an effective expectorant. All you have to do is mix 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with 200 ml of water and gradually drink either cold or warm. If you want, you can sweeten it with a little honey.


The household remedy buckhorn stimulates the immune system and has an antibacterial effect. It also has a positive effect on the structure of the mucous membrane. To do this, you simply have to infuse the leaves of buckhorn into a tea or boil them down into a syrup.

Hot milk with honey

Both milk and honey have an antibacterial effect on the body and can counteract the growth of harmful bacteria. They can also act as a natural antibiotic in infections. Furthermore, milk and honey are also said to be effective for coughs and mild respiratory problems.

Simply heat the milk in a saucepan over low heat and then add the honey (one to two tablespoons to 500 ml milk). You can then refine the hot milk with spices such as cinnamon, vanilla or nutmeg.


Hot steam has a beneficial effect on coughing and phlegm. The easiest way is to inhale with the help of an inhaler. You can also just put hot water in a bowl and slowly inhale the steam with a towel over your head.

You should do the inhalation three to four times a day. You can also add some sage to the infusion if you want. This soothes the mucous membranes even more. Dry cough is relieved by inhaling, tough phlegm is loosened.


Onion juice is one of the classics when it comes to the most effective and simple home remedies for coughing and strengthening the immune system. It's easy to prepare with foods that everyone has at home. All you need is some patience and after taking it several times a day, the magic works and you usually feel better.

This homemade onion juice not only helps against coughs. It can also be used for sore throats, earaches, and even bug bites. It is a traditional home remedy that has been used to treat the common cold for centuries.


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