Traditional and modern uses of onion bulb ( Allium cepa L.): a systematic review

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2019;59(sup1):S39-S70. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2018.1499074. Epub 2018 Oct 4.


Onion, (Allium cepa L.), is one of the most consumed and grown vegetable crops in the world. Onion bulb, with its characteristic flavor, is the third most essential horticultural spice with a substantial commercial value. Apart from its culinary virtues, A. cepa is also used traditionally for its medicinal virtues in a plethora of indigenous cultures. Several publications have been produced in an endeavor to validate such traditional claims. Nonetheless, there is still a dearth of up-to-date, detailed compilation, and critical analysis of the traditional and ethnopharmacological propensities of A. cepa. The present review, therefore, aims to systematically review published literature on the traditional uses, pharmacological properties, and phytochemical composition of A. cepa. A. cepa was found to possess a panoply of bioactive compounds and numerous pharmacological properties, including antimicrobial, antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, hypolipidemic, anti-hypertensive, and immunoprotective effects. Although a large number of in vitro and in vivo studies have been conducted, several limitations and research gaps have been identified which need to be addressed in future studies.

Keywords: onion bulb; ethnopharmacology; medicinal; pharmacological; traditional.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents / analysis
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Antihypertensive Agents / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Databases, Factual
  • Ethnopharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology
  • Hypolipidemic Agents / pharmacology
  • Medicine, Traditional*
  • Models, Animal
  • Onions / chemistry*
  • Phytochemicals
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Preparations / analysis
  • Plant Preparations / pharmacology*
  • Plant Preparations / therapeutic use
  • Plants, Medicinal / chemistry


  • Analgesics
  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antihypertensive Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Hypolipidemic Agents
  • Phytochemicals
  • Plant Preparations