Onion Sleep Remedy

The informant is marked EL. I am CS. She shared with me a few forms of folk medicine she has learned over the years.


EL: “There’s this other remedy too I always used to tell my friends about. Obviously in like high school everyone always has a hard time falling asleep, so my mom always made me put onions in a jar to help aid sleep deprivation.”

CS: “Interesting, where did you put the onions?”

EL: “We’d cut them up and put them in a jar and leave the jar on the nightstand. If you still can’t sleep in the middle of the night you are supposed to open the jar and breathe in the scent of the onions. Not exactly sure what it really does it help you sleep, but I guess it doesn’t hurt to try, right?”

CS: “Right. How long have you been doing it for?”

EL: “Probably from like late elementary school to high school. Obviously I’m too lazy to do it every time I have a hard time sleeping. That’d just be a waste. But here and again I do it and I still am not sure if it really works.”



Met for coffee to record her different encounters with folk medicine and remedies.



EL is a first year student at The University of Southern California. She was raised in Dallas, Texas.



This remedy was fascinating to me because I can’t possibly understand how it works, but it makes me even more curious to try it. It seems to be such a bizarre form of folk medicine that I can’t help but wonder its origins and subsequently if there are other variations to this so-called “sleep aid.” It would be interesting to see this remedy’s specific origin and if it is linked at all to heritage or particular cultures.