You’re probably thinking “Onion tea? Yuck!” Well, at least that’s what I thought when I first heard of this cold-busting/immune-boosting tea that’s so praised in the Dominican Republic. I asked my Dominican friends and family about it in disbelief, and not only did most of them already know all about it, they sternly agreed it’s one of the best remedios caseros (home-made remedy) against colds/flu and boosting the immune system!
What they didn’t tell me was that, despite the onion, this tea is surprisingly delicious and fills the home with a lovely aromatic fragrance. That’s because of its unique combination of nutritious and tasty ingredients which help neutralize the onion’s taste.
As I experimented in the kitchen trying to create the perfect onion tea, I took to my Instagram @dominicanabroad, asking our community how this traditional onion tea was prepared in their own Dominican households. The answers varied slightly but the main ingredients stayed the same.
Onion Tea – Main Recipe
Serving: 8 cups / (about 4 mugs)
|1 red onion||Chopped into quarters|
|1 apple||Chopped into quarters|
|2-3 inches of ginger||Chopped into small pieces or grated|
|1 tbsp of cinnamon||Or 3 cinnamon sticks|
|1 tsp of cloves||Or 10 clove sticks|
|Orange/Grapefruit peel||Only if organic|
In a large pot add 7-10 cups of water. Set the heat to medium-low and let it boil slowly for 10-15 minutes. Let simmer for another 15-20 minutes (the longer, the better) until the apples are brown and sink to the bottom. Then serve with an optional squeeze of lemon and honey.
I love to keep the same pot in the fridge for the next 2-ish days and re-heat each time on low heat. The next few days the tea will be even more concentrated and the ginger will taste extra spicy. Yum!
Though like most Caribbean cuisine, there is no one “main” recipe; there are several variations intuitively personalized to each person’s tastes or needs.
Tip: Add an extra apple if you really want a sweeter/fruiter tea.
Tip 2: The onion can be red, white or yellow but red onion is more traditionally used, has more antioxidants, tastes less pungent, and gives the tea a beautiful crimson color.
Extra Ingredients to Consider
|1-2 garlic cloves||No need to cut the cloves|
|Onion’s dry skin||Only if organic|
|Quarter lemon||Squeeze into cup and after boiled|
|Honey||Pour into cup and after boiled|
|Green Tea||For morning|
|1tsp vanilla||In powder, liquid, or pod form|
|Leaves/herbs:||Naranja agria, limoncillo, guanabana, bay, anise, fennel seeds, thyme, etc|
From Santo Domingo to New York City, us Dominicans love to use flavorful herbs and spices when cooking meals or preparing beverages. In addition to flavor, we also use them to nourish our bodies, boost our immune system and heal quicker from illnesses. Thus, feel free to add your own variations of the above ingredients for flavor AND nutritional value (para subir las defensas).
Quick Video Recipe
Dominican Traditional Medicine
In the Dominican Republic, we pass ancient traditional medicinal recipes down to the next generation. Especially those who grew up in rural farmlands appreciate and embrace the natural medicinal wisdom from our Afro-Taino ancestors.
While a curandera (rural healer) may not be able to conduct a clinical trial and specify the exact mechanism/chemical compounds of a plant/food, they have hundreds of years of first-hand holistic medicinal knowledge and experience that’s helped them heal, improve overall health, and reduce recovery time for their community members from many illnesses.
The Medicinal Benefits of This Healing/Immune-Boosting Tea
Please note that while agencies such as the FDA will often cite that there is not enough “evidence” of certain foods/plants having any medicinal benefits, that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t. Perhaps it’s that there’s little incentive for a major pharmaceutical company to invest millions into conducting research/clinical trials of a 25 cent onion (versus a $500 pill). But I think we can all agree, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, that what we consume can be a key contributor to illness and wellness.
Here are just SOME of the MANY health benefits of the main ingredients of this special Dominican onion tea and sources from different publications and studies.
Onions are nutrient-dense and offer a wide range of unique and impressive health benefits. An entire book could be dedicated to the onion and its history throughout time. But here is a quick recap: Onions are high in vitamin B and C, antioxidants, folate, pyridoxine (metabolism, red blood cells, nerve function), potassium, and most notably quercetin* (heart and lung health). Onions have anti-inflammatory properties which reduce high blood pressure (5), controls blood sugar, have antibacterial (6) and anti-viral properties, and much more.
Source: Healthline: 9 Impressive Health Benefits of Onions
*Read More: The Special Health Benefits of Quercetin
“90% of the essential oils in orange peels are made up of limonene, a naturally occurring chemical …studied for its anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties” (3)
For thousands of years, garlic has been used for its powerful health benefits. Even the Greek physician Hippocrates (the “father of medicine”) used to prescribe garlic to treat various medical conditions from respiratory problems to parasites and more. And today, garlic is still widely known to help boost the immune system and combat colds and other sicknesses. The wonders of garlic are many but here are some of many famous properties.
Garlic is rich in Manganese, Vitamin B6 and C, Selenium, Fiber. It is known for lowering blood pressure, improving cholesterol levels, aiding bone health, and containing antioxidants that may help against Alzheimer’s/ dementia. [Source]
“One large 12-week study found that a daily garlic supplement reduced the number of colds by 63% compared to a placebo” (7)
Fun fact: garlic and onion are both a plant of the onion family!
Ginger is purported to aid in the prevention of many illnesses and diseases and to inhibit: inflammation, nausea, cancer, dementia, osteoarthritis, and rheumatism (8), among many other things. Please see the graphic above.
“Ginger has been purported to exert a variety of powerful therapeutic and preventive effects and has been used for thousands of years for the treatment of hundreds of ailments from colds to cancer.”
Ginger has been widely used around the world for its flavor and medicinal properties for thousands of years. It is known for helping fight the flu and the common cold among many other illnesses. Its main bioactive compound is called GINGEROL. [Source]
Fun fact: Ginger is in the same plant family as cardamom and turmeric!
“The idea of boosting your immunity is enticing, but the ability to do so has proved elusive for several reasons. The immune system is precisely that — a system, not a single entity. To function well, it requires balance and harmony.”
DISCLAIMER 1: Healing and boosting the immune system is a holistic process. Please read Harvard Medical School’s advice on things to do and NOT do to boost your immune system. [Quoted above]
DISCLAIMER 2: I am not a doctor. This is not medical advice. Consult with a doctor if you have any medical conditions or are on medication that may not interact well with certain types of foods/plants.