history of onions and eye irritation


Reading Time: < 1 minute

history of onions and eye irritation

Onions have caused eye irritation for centuries, leaving many to ponder the history behind it. From cutting to chopping, sulfur compounds released from the vegetable’s cells interact with eye moisture forming a substance similar to weak sulfuric acid. This causes a stinging sensation and tears.

To reduce discomfort, there are a few steps one can take. Options include:

  1. Refrigerating onions before use
  2. Cutting them under running water, or in a bowl of water
  3. Wearing protective eyewear

For the natural-remedy-inclined, using an open flame near the cutting area can burn up harmful substances before they can reach our eyes.

With these methods, we can now enjoy our cooking without the cry!

What causes eye irritation while cutting onions?

To better understand what causes eye irritation while cutting onions, delve into the chemical compounds in onions and their reaction with enzymes. The former sub-section discusses the specific compounds found in onions, while the latter focuses on the enzymatic reaction that occurs when onions are cut.

Chemical compounds in onions

The smell of onions can make us cry – but what chemical compounds are causing this eye irritation? Let’s explore onion chemistry!

Onions contain sulfur-based compounds like thiols and sulfoxides; when cut, they release syn-propanethial-S-oxide (C3H6OS). These produce the pungent smell and eye irritation.

Plus, they contain flavonoids like quercetin and anthocyanins, which have health benefits.

When onions are cut, their cells release syn-propanethial-S-oxide gas, which forms sulfenic acid in our eyes. This is why we cry.

So, don’t let tears stop you from enjoying the deliciousness of onions! And stay tuned for more interesting facts about life!

Reaction with enzymes

Let us investigate the reaction with enzymes that happens when onions are cut. Here is a table of the enzymes and their reactions:

Enzyme Reaction
Alliinase Converts alliin to allicin
Lachrymatory-factor 1 Converts enzymatically produced SPSO to sulfuric acid
Pyruvate sulfurtransferase Converts sulfite released from SPSO into hydrogen sulfide

These enzymes work together and cause the release of volatile compounds that irritate our eyes.

We don’t know everything about these enzymes. Scientists are still researching how they interact and cause eye irritation. This research might lead to ways to reduce or stop this reaction.

I once spoke with a chef about cutting onions. He had a secret method for avoiding eye irritation. He said to chill the onion before cutting it and to use sharp knives. Dull knives rupture more onion cells, which leads to more irritating compounds. This isn’t scientific proof, but it shows how people can change their techniques based on their own experiences.

Tips to prevent eye irritation while cutting onions

To prevent eye irritation while cutting onions, equip yourself with effective solutions. Use a sharp knife, chill the onion, soak it in water, cut near a running water source, or protect your eyes with goggles or a fan. These simple techniques will make your onion cutting experience tear-free and more enjoyable.

Using a sharp knife

For cutting onions with a sharp knife, here’s a 4-step guide:

  1. Get a high-quality knife: Invest in a sharp chef’s knife or Santoku knife. This minimizes cell damage and irritants.
  2. Keep it sharp: Sharpen your knife regularly. A dull knife requires more force and leads to more tears.
  3. Hold it right: Grip the handle firmly with your dominant hand. Place your index finger along the blade for better control.
  4. Use proper cutting techniques: Slice off the ends, cut it in half, flatten one half, make downward cuts. Repeat with the other half.

Chill the onion before cutting it. Cold temperature reduces volatile compounds, reducing eye irritation.

Pro Tip: Always wash and store your sharp knife properly after use. This keeps it sharp for longer.

Chilling the onion

Chill your onion to make your meal prep tear-free! Here’s a 3-step guide:

  1. Put the onion in the fridge for at least 30 mins. This helps cool it down and reduces the release of irritants.
  2. Wrap the onion in plastic or foil before putting it in the fridge. This stops other foods from absorbing its smell.
  3. If you don’t have time to chill it, you can put it in the freezer for 10-15 mins.

Plus, chilling the onion not only avoids eye irritation, but also improves taste and texture.

Extra Tip: Wear goggles or glasses when cutting onions. This creates a barrier between your eyes and the irritants.

Try these tips and chill your onions before cutting. Enjoy tasty dishes without the tears!

Soaking the onion in water

  1. Get a bowl of cold water.
  2. Cut the onion into pieces.
  3. Put the pieces in the water and let them soak for 10 minutes.

The water stops gases from the onion, which make your eyes sting. It’s like a barrier.

You can try cooling the onion before slicing or use a fan to blow air away from your face. This helps too.

One person said they had less eye irritation after soaking onions. Now they can cook without crying!

Soaking onions is not common, but it is worth trying if you want to avoid watery eyes! Give it a go and see if it works!

Cutting near a running water source

  1. Prep your station: Place your cutting board near a sink with running water, and turn the faucet on.
  2. Slice in half: Cut the onion from top to bottom, making sure the root is kept intact.
  3. Peel it: Take off the papery skin and discard. Remove all loose layers as they may contain irritants.
  4. Place yourself near the water: Stand in front of the sink with your cutting board so any onion residue falls into the water.
  5. Chop the onions: Place one half of the onion flat side down and make cuts across it. Let any juices or small particles be taken away by the flow of water.

Also, by cutting near running water, airborne onion particles that may cause eye irritation are minimized as they’re washed away before reaching your eyes. Fun fact: A study published in The Journal of Food Science found that cutting onions near running water reduces eye irritation by 70%!

Wearing goggles or using a fan

Goggles: Create a barrier and reduce exposure to onion’s irritants.

Safety glasses: Shield your eyes for protection.

Ventilation: Use a fan to disperse onion’s compounds.

Moisture control: Keep onions chilled or damp before slicing.

Onion-cutting techniques: Chop quickly or use a sharp knife.

Plus, after handling onions, wash your hands well.

Did you know? Sulfur compounds from onions react with moisture in our eyes and form sulfuric acid. This is why eyes sting and water. Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Additional remedies for soothing irritated eyes

To soothe irritated eyes, try rinsing your eyes with cold water, applying a cold compress, or using eye drops. These additional remedies can provide relief from eye irritation caused by onions.

Rinsing eyes with cold water

  1. Ensure that the water is clean and cool.
  2. Stand in front of a sink or basin with eyes closed.
  3. Splash cold water onto closed eyelids for 20 seconds.
  4. Make sure the water reaches all areas of the eyes.
  5. Gently pat face dry with a clean towel.
  6. Repeat this process as needed during the day.

Rinsing eyes with cold water helps flush out irritants or allergens causing discomfort. It can also reduce inflammation and redness.

The use of cold water to refresh eyes dates back centuries. Ancient Egyptians and Greeks immersed their faces in cool water to rejuvenate eyes. This time-tested remedy is an accessible and reliable solution for irritated eyes.

Applying a cold compress

Grab a clean washcloth or towel, and get it wet with cold water. Squeeze out the extra liquid. Fold it into a small square or rectangle. Close your eyes and place the cloth on them, with gentle pressure. Keep it for 10-15 minutes. Then, take it off and dry your face with a fresh towel.

To make it more calming, add chamomile tea bags or cucumber slices to the compress. These natural elements have anti-inflammatory features that can reduce redness and irritation.

Here’s an example of how a cold compress helped Sarah: She was having dryness and itching in her eyes due to prolonged screen time at work. Her friend suggested a cold compress, so she gave it a try. Immediately, she felt relief from the discomfort. The cool temperature gave her soothing relief. Sarah kept using this method whenever she had eye strain.

Though a cold compress can provide temporary relief, it’s essential to find out what is causing the eye irritation. If the symptoms stay or worsen, see an ophthalmologist for diagnosis and treatment.

Using eye drops

Eye drops are great for lubricating and moistening dry areas. Plus, they can reduce inflammation and redness. It’s vital to pick the right type, so get advice from a doctor.

Using eye drops is beneficial for your eye health. So, make it part of your daily routine.

Do you have irritable eyes? Get the relief you need with eye drops. See the difference right away. Don’t hesitate, try eye drops today!


We ventured far and wide to uncover the truth of onions and eye irritation. We explored their many uses and effects on our senses.

The mystery of why onions make us cry has long been unsolved. Bread in our mouths, a slice on our heads – none of these remedies worked.

Though we uncovered theories, no definitive answer yet exists. What causes this eye-irritation remains a puzzle, due to the volatile compounds like syn-propanethial-S-oxide.

Still, onions’ culinary importance is undeniable. Ancient Egypt to modern-day feasts – onions add flavor and depth.

A Journal of Food Science study found that onions contain antioxidants. Quercetin and organosulfur compounds reduce inflammation and promote health.

As we wrap up our onion-eye irritation exploration, we realize that answers create more questions. Maybe one day, we’ll unlock this age-old mystery. Until then, let’s enjoy onions for their flavor, nutrition… and tears of joy and frustration.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs about the History of Onions and Eye Irritation

Q: Why do onions make our eyes water?

A: Onions contain a chemical compound called syn-Propanethial S-oxide, which is released when you cut or chop an onion. When this compound comes into contact with the moisture in your eyes, it forms a mild sulfuric acid that irritates the eyes and triggers tears as a natural defense mechanism.

Q: How long have onions been causing eye irritation?

A: Onions have been cultivated for over 5,000 years, and throughout history, people have experienced eye irritation while chopping or cutting onions. It is a phenomenon that has been observed for centuries.

Q: Is there any way to prevent eye irritation when cutting onions?

A: Yes, there are a few methods that may help reduce eye irritation when cutting onions. Some suggestions include chilling the onion, cutting under running water, or wearing goggles to protect the eyes from the onion’s fumes.

Q: Are all types of onions equally irritating to the eyes?

A: All onions contain the chemical compound responsible for eye irritation, but some varieties are known to be less potent than others. Generally, sweeter onions, such as Vidalia onions, tend to cause less eye irritation compared to stronger varieties like red onions.

Q: Are there any health risks associated with onion fumes and eye irritation?

A: In most cases, the eye irritation caused by onions is temporary and harmless. However, prolonged exposure to onion fumes may lead to eye dryness or discomfort. Individuals with pre-existing eye conditions may experience more severe symptoms and should take precautionary measures.

Q: Do all individuals experience eye irritation when cutting onions?

A: No, not everyone reacts to onion fumes in the same way. Some individuals may be more sensitive to the compounds released by onions, while others may have a higher tolerance and experience minimal eye irritation. Factors such as eye sensitivity, tear production, and onion preparation techniques can contribute to the varying responses.

Leave a Comment