Food, Neuropathy, Supplements

The onion skin cure

Scratch that itch

Do your legs ever feel so itchy, as if even grinding them with a gravel-coated power sander still wouldn’t relieve the prickly feeling? That used to happen to me nearly every night. I’d scratch until I bled, rub on whole tubs of shea butter and coconut oil, then slab on calamine lotion just to let me sleep. My shins looked like the surface of Mars, a landscape of bumpy red welts. It might have been eczema, it might have been bug bites (we have a big garden full of exotic biting insects). In any case, it was an allergic reaction to something.

QuercetinI refuse to take antihistamines. Just one pill puts my mind in a druggy haze that lingers for three days. My search for a natural alternative led me to Quercetin. I tried this product, and it worked like a miracle! The moment the itch would flare up, I’d take two of these, and within half an hour the irritation was gone, swelling and rashes subsided, and I could sleep. No cloudy mind, no other side effects.

Later, my knuckles and wrists developed white spots which looked like bleach had been dribbled on my skin.

What does all this have to do with neuropathy? Can you say:


Dirty Ratz
TV cartoon pilot I wrote and directed, starring non-neuropathic rats

I finally saw a dermatologist, who confirmed that not only did I have eczema, but the white spots were caused by vitiligo, the skin-whitening disease that Michael Jackson had. He explained that these were not localized skin issues, but were both autoimmune related problems. Something was seriously messed up with my immune system.

With hindsight, this was an early warning sign that I was on the path toward peripheral neuropathy, another autoimmune disorder. Since then, I’ve heard from numerous neuropathy sufferers that they also have insatiably itchy shins covered with rashes. The two conditions seem to go hand-in-hand leg-in-leg.

If Quercetin is such a powerful antidote to one kind of autoimmune problem, then what about neuropathy? Imagine my delight when I discovered that not one, but two studies, demonstrated Quercetin had cured neuropathy in rats.

Not alleviated. Cured.

Quercetin for neuropathy

There haven’t yet been any studies of Quercetin on human peripheral neuropathy. But there are reasons why it should be a powerful addition to anyone’s daily regimen, whatever the state of your health.

  • It regulates immune responses, as my formerly itchy legs can testify. Ever since I added Quercetin as a daily supplement, my legs have stopped itching, rashes have largely vanished, and the related swelling in my ankles subsided. What might it be doing to help my nerves? Good news:
  • Quercetin has strong neuroprotective qualities. As an antioxidant it can reduce nerve tissue damage and alleviate pain. Quercetin also protects against the neurotoxic effects of chemical or environmental toxins.
  • As the rat studies indicate, Quercetin might contain neurogenetive factors: it appears to help not only to repair, but to actually regrow damaged nerves.
  • Its anti-inflammatory effects reduce neuropathic pain.
  • There is evidence that Quercetin has proven benefits for diabetic neuropathy, alcohol-induced neuropathy, and neuropathy as a side effect of chemotherapy.
  • As a bonus, Quercetin targets and kills certain cancer cells, including colorectal and oral cancers, and even leukemia.
  • Oh yeah, and it also alleviates asthma, and lowers LDL cholesterol and blood pressure.

I’m convinced. How many pills do I pop?

Natural sources of Quercetin

Yes, you can buy the pills pictured above. There is no doubt that they helped my skin condition. But my goal is to take fewer pills, not more. Plus I’m cheap. Isn’t everybody? Fortunately, with Quercetin you can save money and obtain much higher quality by getting it from the original natural source. In fact, tests on human volunteers demonstrated that Quercetin derived from food sources is twenty times more bioavailable (that is, more fully absorbed into the body) than Quercetin supplements.

Quercetin is found in many foods, including kale, dill, grapes, apples, plums, broccoli, green or black tea, and red wine. But the most potent source of this super substance is also the cheapest (yay!): onion skins.

Onion skins drying
Onion skins rinsed and drying in the sun

I’m talking about the brittle, papery outer layer of an onion that most of us throw away. Well, stop tossing them out, now! Onion skins have more than 200 times the Quercetin than the nearest other food source.

Purple, red, pink, yellow, or white?

Many articles point to red or purple onions as being the Quercetin champions. But this is a misunderstanding. It’s true that in general, whole red onions tend to be more Quercetin-rich than whole yellow onions. But, as I said, it’s the skin we’re after. A study at Texas A&M University concluded that on average, red, pink, and yellow onion skins all tend to have similarly high amounts of Quercetin. Only white onions score consistently low.

Where to get onion skins

If you’re going to supplement daily, you need a steady supply. A Japanese company sells a pricey pure onion skin powder, which you can buy online from Amazon and elsewhere. But why spend the money when you can gather it for free?

I go to my local wet market, where one of the vegetable sellers gladly saves me bags full of skins. If you don’t have a wet market, try a farmer’s market, explain what you’re doing, and ask them to save you the skins. Or ask a local Italian restaurant or the fresh vegetables manager at your supermarket.

When you get them home, rinse the dust off—quickly! You don’t want to wash out too much precious Quercetin—then dry them in the sun for a day. Then chop them up into strips or flakes, it doesn’t matter. If you have a grinder, such as one that grinds nuts and seeds, you can turn your onion skins into a convenient powder.

How to use them

Simply eat them: raw or cooked. Drop a handful of onion skins into your daily smoothie. Or you can add the flakes or powder to soups, stews, omelets or wraps. Some people brew a tea out of them, then strain out the solids.

What if I don’t like the taste of onions?

The skins have an extremely mild flavor which you’ll hardly notice in a soup or omelet. If that’s still too much for you, then plug your nose and remind yourself: this is medicine. It will make you better.

You won’t end up with onion breath.

How much do I need?

First, take it every day on an empty stomach, at least twenty minutes before eating.

  • Pills: If you’re taking supplement pills, most studies point to doses of 500-1000 mg per day.
  • Onion skins: Because Quercetin from onion skins has greater bioavailability than from supplements, you need only 150-200 mg of onion skins daily.

Either way, you’ll have increased benefit if you take it with turmeric. For maximum benefit, take Quercetin or onion skins with a sprinkle of pepper or a tablet containing piperine, the active ingredient in pepper, which aids absorption into the gut, giving you much more Quercetin bang for the buck.

What about side effects?

There aren’t any documented side effects. However, doses higher than 1000 mg can put a strain on your kidneys. If you’re taking Quercetin supplements, it’s advisable to take them on a cycle of four weeks on, two weeks off, to prevent your body building a tolerance and thus weakening their effect.

It’s also important to check for interactions with other drugs or supplements you may be taking. Quercetin may hinder the effectiveness of certain antibiotics, blood thinners (including non-pharmaceutical blood thinners like gingko), and steroids. And like so many things, be cautious about supplementing with Quercetin if you’re pregnant or breast feeding.

As for me…

Since adding Quercetin to my diet on a daily, measured basis, I rarely experience itching on my legs, many rashes have subsided or disappeared, and the vitiligo has not spread further. As to its contribution to my general treatment for neuropathy, it’s impossible to measure how much to attribute to Quercetin’s effects.


Benefit: Regulate immune system, reduce neuropathic pain, nerve repair; general tonic
Dose: (as supplement pills) 500-1000 mg; (as onion skins) 150-200 mg
Frequency: Once or twice daily, preferably 20 minutes before meals
Combine with: Turmeric (or curcumin), black pepper or chili pepper (or piperine)
Do not combine with: antibiotics, blood thinners, steroids

Further reading

7 Proven Benefits Of Quercetin For Neuropathy
Rats 1: Quercetin Promotes the Recovery from Neuropathy in Rats
Rats 2: Growth-promoting effects of Quercetin on peripheral nerves in rats
Quercetin as cancer treatment (blog): “My peripheral neuropathy has gone completely.”
Quercetin content in different colored onions (PDF)



  1. Richard Aguilar
    13 September 2018 at 2:39 am

    Proud of your achievements Herr Feign! I wish you the very best, and hope for a recovery! May the blessings of the Universe embrace you, and Heal! Cute Besserung! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Larry Kahaner
    20 September 2018 at 3:00 pm

    Remarkable story.

  3. Allen Appel
    4 October 2018 at 3:36 pm

    Fascinating story. You met my friend Larry on a bus in Portugal. I hope you continue the posts.

  4. Dave Yates
    21 May 2019 at 5:18 am

    Oh Larry Oh Larry Oh Larry !! – they do say what goes around come around or whatever – did I stumbling on you again accidentally – well who knows but I think it’s written in the stars! We first met many moons ago when I discovered your blog “The Toilet Bar” and pestered you and your dear wife to continue it – but now I see there have been many other mountains to climb!
    I’m also an ex- HK er – gweilo for a few years ’79-81 – enjoyed HK so much that my family called me “obsessed with HK” ” can’t get it out of your system” etc etc.
    We corresponded for a while and the we parted but I never forgot your contributions to HK and it’s islands!
    I was just suddenly drawn to looking at HK blogs again – what a useless activity and then remembered ‘the toilet bar’ -they’ve got another one somewhere else in the city!! and then there you were but now talking about neuropathy which I have also!
    Mine is officially bilateral lumbar/sacral peripheral neuropathy – fancy way of say – ‘peripheral neuropathy’

    Read your story – amazing and many thanks for sharing – “the beast can be tamed when it is exposed to the light”
    some prefer to keep it a secret! Mine is right at the bottom range – feet and lower legs mainly the rest of me seems normal – but if I don’t look down at my feet I don’t know whether I have socks on only ; socks on with shoes; or bare feet – it’s all the same.

    anyway love the onion story and have started slicing the skins and had first dose today – heh how do you convert a handful of onion skins into the does you recommend?? I did notice an immediate effect which was transient but little twitches of pain and then stopped.

    I do believe mine was generated by an over -enthusiastic GP who upped my statins dose too high – put me in agony and first needed schedule 8 drugs to control but then settled on Pregabalin. the specialist when questioned started that there was no connection between heavy statins and neuropathy – thank you the medical profession!

    the itching resonated – I get itchy balls – really itchy – and the more I scratch the worst they get!

    cheers – Dave

  5. Dave Yates
    21 May 2019 at 10:10 pm

    tenacity is a word that comes to mind – Hi Larry we met in cyberspace some moons ago when I’d discovered the toilet bar and badgered you to continue with it!! – I’m an ex- gweilo – spent a few years in Lai chi Kok teaching in their hospital and then many moons later in OZ after a doc upped my statins too high started my road of neuropathy – the consultant called it sacral/lumbar bi-lateral neuropathy – a phrase that still dumbfounds my friends! mine fortunately was minor compared – just the feet and lower legs – like the onion idea – I tried it yesterday and the legs started tingling immediately – I was impressed.
    in ’80 I spent a w/end or two on Lantau with chinese friends and visited some hillside homes – were all the youngsters had moved to HK or abroad and just left the old fellow living on his property and still growing his vegies which he shared gracefully. oh happy years – you can keep the concrete jungle give me the real thing anyday.

    great to hear your story I’ll let you know how the onion goes!!

  6. Erszebet Elizabeth Nilsson
    22 May 2020 at 6:06 pm

    I drink onion skin tea every day and just LOVE IT due to how it makes me feel better every day and treat many illnesses such as hemophilia. I was easy to get blood-clothing but this free of charge medicine is makes wonders so far…!

  7. Erszebet Elizabeth Nilsson
    22 May 2020 at 6:09 pm

    I use onion skin tea every day and it is a MUST now in my life…

  8. Sonya Harris
    25 October 2020 at 10:50 pm

    I would really like you to post something about your diet. I have been drinking the smoothie and taking the supplements for several months. I still have a lot of nerve pain, and I need to lose weight.

    • Larry
      26 October 2020 at 5:27 am

      Thanks for your comment. I know I need to write about my diet. It’s such an exhaustive topic that I confess to putting it off. There is a lot of information out there about neuropathy diets which might help you. In a nutshell, I cut my diet down to little more than sweet potatoes and leafy green vegetables for six weeks (no, it was not fun), then gradually added in various foods one at a time to gauge their effects. I also started going to a gym for the first time in my life, which had just as much positive effect on my neuropathy and general health as diet and supplements. I was 35 pounds overweight and lost 30 pounds of that within three months.

      It’s important to completely 100 percent eliminate all sweets, all wheat products, all processed foods, and many other things. Simply eliminating wheat and sweets of all kinds will have a rapid and positive effect on your weight. Not “cutting down”, I mean an extreme and total elimination of sugars, fruit juices, any and all foods containing sugars (which includes 99.9% of all packaged and fast foods), and anything with wheat: bread, pizza, pasta, etc. And no “cheat days”. That’s the summary of what I will eventually write in a (probably) very long post.

  9. K
    24 March 2022 at 5:04 am

    Can you show a picture of the onion skins when dried in the sun.? I will use my dehydrator and want to see how long it will need to get the same effect.
    Thank you for sharing

    • Larry
      24 March 2022 at 5:13 am

      In fact, the picture in the center of the page is exactly that. I’d just finished drying some onion skins and took the picture before storing them. Most onion skins start out fairly dry to begin with. They don’t change color much when sun-dried.

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