Anti-Cancer Uses of Onion Extract

 In Naturopathic News

A new study shows that red onions grown in Ontario have powerful cancer fighting properties.1 The study reveals that not all onions have the same abilities, and that red onions are best. In the first study to look at Ontario-grown onions, Ruby Ring onion variety came out as the top cancer killing onion variety.

Ruby Ring Onion

Onions have been used in traditional medicine for a myriad of various things, including cleansing the air in stagnant rooms, earaches, throat sprays, and as a culinary antimicrobial food. Still, onions are not typically considered a “superfood.” They do, however, contain a very high concentration of quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that exerts strong immune and anti-inflammatory action.2 It has also been researched to support the body in fighting off cancer.3

Red Onions Rich in Quercetin

Not only are red onions rich in quercetin but they also contain high amounts of anthocyanin, which aids in the scavenging properties of quercetin molecules. Since anthocyanin is part of what colors fruits and vegetables, so it makes sense that red onions would have the most of these constituents, and the most cancer fighting power.

The Study

The actual study1 placed colorectal adenocarcinoma cells in contact with extracts of 5 different onion varieties. Pathways that encourage oncogenic apoptosis were stimulated by the onion – apparently by promoting an unfavorable environment for intracellular communication. The same research team has also seen the same effects in breast cancer cells.

Notable Extraction Method Used in Study

The extraction method used for the study is also notable, in that it is a super-heated and pressurized method that uses no chemicals. This food grade method of extraction creates a safe extract for consumption and inclusion in nutriceutical supplements. This will be crucial for future clinical use, as well as human trials on onion extract and cancer.


  1. Murayyan AI, Manohar CM, Hayward G, Neethirajan S. Antiproliferative activity of Ontario grown onions against colorectal adenocarcinoma cells. Food Res Int. 2017;96:12-18.
  2. Chirumbolo S. The role of quercetin, flavonols and flavones in modulating inflammatory cell function. Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets. 2010;9(4):263-85.
  3. Shaik YB, Castellani ML, Perrella A, et al. Role of quercetin (a natural herbal compound) in allergy and inflammation. J Biol Regul Homeost Agents. 2006;20(3-4):47-52.

Node Smith, associate editor for NDNR, is a fifth year naturopathic medical student at NUNM, where he has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine amongst the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend campout where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Three years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

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