Unfortunately, this is not advice that homeopath Diane Elms has taken to heart. Elms is a Canadian homeopath and "specialist in drugless cancer care" who won "Iridologist of the Year" in 2008. (Iridology, if you've not heard of it, is right up there with homeopathy in the "crazy alt-med" department; it is the contention that you can diagnose any disease by looking at the irises of a patient's eyes. Here's what the Skeptic's Dictionary has to say about it.)
Elms writes a column called "Healthy Habits" for the Sachem and Glanbrook (Ontario) Gazette, and this week she had a doozy. The title, "The Use of Onions as a Healthy Habit," doesn't raise any immediate red flags, especially with me. I grew up in southern Louisiana, where onions are one of the Four Major Food Groups. (The other three are pepper, garlic, and seafood.) But it turns out that Elms isn't just talking about eating onions, although she does recommend that, too.
She wants you to put onions in your socks.
I wish I was making this up. Apparently she is under the impression that onions have the ability to "draw out toxins." Here's a direct quote:
Recently, one of my patients shared how when she was nine years old and was very sick, the homeopath told her parents to put onions in her socks to draw the fever to the feet. I sat up and listened. I asked her to share more about the onions since I myself have never had the opportunity to use them as of yet. She explained that she had a high fever. The medical doctor said she contracted pneumonia. At the time, her family lived in Germany and couldn’t afford to do the medical treatment, so they called the homeopath. The homeopathic doctor gave her a homeopathic remedy and told her parents to put onions in her socks. Her parents were to change her socks every 12 hours and put new onions in them each time. In three days, her fever broke, and she came out of her coma. The homeopath told her parents to burn the onions. They were not to bury them but to burn them because they would be so full of toxins.Oh, for sure! I will definitely tell this to my AP Biology students, next time we are studying human physiology and the immune system. I will, however, add one additional thing, which is:
BA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA *falls off chair*
So, homeopathy isn't enough? It's not sufficiently loony to give a desperately ill person a pill that has nothing in it, you are also going to stuff onions down her socks to "draw the fever to her feet?" What next? Are you going to smear CheezWhiz in her hair to magically protect her head from evil spirits?
But Elms isn't done:
Back in flu season, I was speaking at a wellness expo and talked about the benefits of onions. You can eat onions for their anti-toxic benefits as well as their antioxidant, cholesterol lowering, atherosclerosis, blood thinning, asthma and anti-cancer properties. You can also cut an onion in half and place it beside a person who is sick. The onion will draw the toxins from the person into the onion. I know it sounds odd. A few people in the audience had a hard time digesting the new information about onions.Yes, Ms. Elms, I'll just bet they did.
What gets me here is the whole medieval aspect of this -- because what is this but the "invoking magical plants" thing that they did back in the 14th century, with new terminology? Because she can throw out words like "antioxidant" she sounds like she knows what she's talking about, and I bet there are lots of folks who read this column and now are walking around with their feet smelling even worse than usual.
I mean, really. Think about it from an evolutionary perspective. Here we mammals have evolved an excretory system -- liver and kidneys, especially -- that is excellent at removing toxins from our blood. How on earth could we have evolved a system that only works if there are onions nearby?
"Hey, Ogg," says one proto-hominid on the African savanna to another, "you no look so good. Maybe you should stick onion in your socks, yeah?"
"But Thag," Ogg responds, "we live on African savanna. No onions here. Besides, you and me both naked. What are 'socks?'"
"I don't know," Thag says. "I figured you did. I guess you screwed, then."
Anyhow, that's our crazy idea of the day. My recommendation: eat all the onions you want. They're tasty, although it is true that if you eat too much of them, your sweat starts to smell like onions. Be that as it may, they're a nice addition to dinner, even if they don't "draw out toxins" any more than garlic repels vampires.