The beneficial bulb

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Raw and cooked onions (Allium cepa L.) are a common ingredient in salads and meat dishes and contain carotene, calcium, phosphorous and iron, among other goodies. It's a cheap vegetable that can be eaten to treat cardiovascular disease, reduce cholesterol in the blood, and treat depression, nervous breakdown, flatulence, genital decline, diabetes and influenza.

There are many ways of eating onions for their medicinal benefits. The first two come courtesy of Dr Vu Ngoc Anh.

- Peel some sizeable onions and soak them in vinegar for four days. Eat half a pickled onion every day for one to two months to lower cholesterol, treat the coronary artery, clear blocked blood vessels in the brain, combat arteriosclerosis, reduce blood pressure, ease a headache, counter urinary retention, lose weight and treat pre-menopausal ailments.

- Put two sliced onions, 15g of scallion heads and 100g of rice powder in a pot, cover with water and simmer until it thickens like porridge. Eat twice daily.

Herbalist Duong Tan Hung offers a delicious dish to nourish the kidneys, blood and liver, and ease urinary retention.

- Put 50g of hà thủ ô (multiflorous knotweed), four chicken eggs, 2g sliced old ginger, 10g sliced củ riềng (galingales), and 5g onion in a pot with five liters of water and boil until the water has reduced to 200ml. Turn off the heat and allow the food to cool slowly. The food is now ready to eat.

Hung's herbalist colleague Dinh Cong Bay recommends quite a few remedies featuring the humble onion.

- To ward off influenza in winter, shake hot oil over some sliced onions and eat as is.

- For a fever or headache, cut an onion into small pieces, put them in a pot, cover with water and bring slowly to the boil. Drink the liquid while it's still hot, with or without the onion pieces.

- To aid digestion and warm the stomach, thinly slice one onion, leave the slices to dry out for a bit, then cook them in water to make a beneficial drink.

- For high blood pressure, put a handful of onion skin in two bowls of water and boil until the water is reduced by half. Drink the onion water hot. As an alternative, cut two or three onions into thin pieces and mix with sugar to eat.

- To relieve rheumatism, cut three onions into thin pieces and put them in a pot. Cover with one liter of water and simmer for 15 minutes. Drink one glass of the water in the morning and one in the evening on an empty stomach.

- To stimulate hair growth, crush 30g onion, squeeze out the juice and rub it into the scalp.

- To clear a stuffed nose, hold a slice of onion close to the nostrils. Dinh Cong Bay reckons this is more effective than certain proprietary medicines.

- Married men who want to keep the love light shining in their wives' eyes might care to try Bay's kidney and onion dish. Begin by cleaning, scoring and quartering two pig's kidneys. Then dip them in hot water mixed with a little salt and white rice alcohol and repeat until the meat starts to come out of the shallow cuts. Leave them to dry. Now take an onion and cut it lengthwise into thin pieces. Leave them aside for the moment and put a little garlic in a pan of hot oil and heat over a medium flame until the garlic releases its fragrance. Leave that aside too, and mix some oyster oil, salt and sugar to make a sauce. Now, mix the kidney and onion on a plate and pour on the sauce. Decorate the plate with sliced spring onion, chili, thin pieces of ginger, and fried spring onion, and don't forget the garlic. The dish is ready for eating, with or without rice.

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