Wholesalers check onions at a market in Bangalore. (AFP / Manjunath Kiran)

False claims touting raw onion with salt as 'Covid-19 cure' not backed by scientific evidence

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As Covid-19 cases surged in India, Facebook and Instagram posts shared a claim that consuming raw onion with salt can cure the disease within minutes. The claim is false, according to experts. There are no credible reports the purported remedy can treat Covid-19 patients.

The claim was shared here in a Facebook group with more than 500,000 followers.

“People are testing negative from positive in just 15 minutes after eating peeled, raw onion with rock salt. There is no harm in eating anyway,” the post's Hindi-language caption reads.

Screenshot of Facebook post, taken on May 17, 2021

AFP found the same advice shared in dozens of Facebook and Instagram posts in India, including here, here and here.

The posts emerged as coronavirus raged in India. A spike in cases has stretched the country’s poorly-funded healthcare system to breaking point. 

India’s coronavirus death toll passed 250,000 on May 12, 2021, although experts believe the true figure is much higher.

No scientific evidence

The World Health Organization (WHO), which regularly debunks baseless advice about coronavirus treatments, said there was no scientific evidence that eating onion and salt could cure Covid-19.

“The WHO does not have any scientific evidence about this claim,” the agency’s South-East Asia office told AFP.

Keyword searches on the Google Scholar database in English and Hindi found no research supporting the claim that Covid-19 patients tested negative after taking the concoction.

The Indian government has rejected the claim.

“News stating that COVID patients are recovering from the intake of rock salt along with raw onion are FAKE! Don’t fall prey to misinformation!” MyGovIndia tweeted

The government’s anti-misinformation platform PIB Fact Check also warned the public about the baseless claim.

“There is a message going viral on social media which claims eating raw onion with rock salt can cure coronavirus,” it said in a Hindi-language tweet.

“This claim is false. There is no scientific evidence which proves that consuming raw onion with rock salt can cure Covid-19.”

AFP has previously debunked a string of coronavirus claims related to onions: including that placing online around your house can ward off the virus; or that consuming an onion-based tonic can prevent infection.

COVID-19