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According to this article:

This is what happens when you put cut up onions in your socks while you sleep

when you sleep with onions on your feet, inside your socks, the following happens:

  1. Purify your blood: Phosphoric acid from the onions as it’s applied and absorbed through trans-dermal means purifies the blood.

  2. Kills bacteria, germs and pathogens: Onions (and garlic) have strong anti-bacterial and anti-viral benefits!

Is any of that true?

  • That article is a treasure trove of incoherent pseudo-science strung together. Btw if your nerve endings are what's important I can think of some better places to put those onions than your feet. cough – Adam Phelps Jun 27 '15 at 13:51
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Alright so I did some minor investigating into onions and phosphoric acid. As it turns out these claims are bogus.

Firstly thinking that putting onions on your feet would purify your blood is just simply impossible as the liver and kidneys handle that. More so Phosphoric acid is more of a irritant than anything else its commonly found in soft drinks, in the link found here you can find a compound summary for phosphoric acid from pubchem, and if your interested you can find many more possible uses of phosphoric acid at [wikipedia].2 More so if Phosphoric acid is found commonly in soda then drinking soda should help purify our blood which is clearly not the case.

Now for the second claim I've found a link here that targets it pretty well. The relevant portion.

Dr. MacDonald: No, onions do not absorb bacteria. The idea that a vegetable would attract and suck into itself bacteria from the air is not even logical. The onion may turn black because it would eventually rot from both cell breakdown events and bacterial contamination if you left it out, not because it absorbs germs. Onions and garlic are slightly acidic, which could have antibacterial effects if you rubbed the juice on things, but these are much less effective than bleach or chemical antibiotics. Eating these vegetables provides antioxidants that can have health benefits, but they are unlikely to prevent or cure disease.

While Dr. MacDonald is talking about onions sucking the bacteria out of the air, the point is still the same Onions would at best have a minor antibacterial affects at best, and even then only if you rubbed the acids on yourself, and in which case there are far better antibacterial agents. On the other hand though eating onions and garlic does actually have health benefits that can strengths your immune system to help resist or prevent illness.

To conclude sleeping with onions touching your feet or anywhere else for that matter isn't going to do much, although eating them will give you some health benefits.

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    Hmmm... this only poorly addresses the question. Onion and garlic do have antibacterial properties (see for instance ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25470273 ). Now that does not mean that putting it on your skin would necessarily kill bacteria, however it raises the possibility. The page you link talks about putting an onion next to you, the claim speaks about the onion having a local effect when in contact with the skin. Very different situations. – nico Apr 23 '15 at 13:51
  • You clearly didn't read the full quote where she speaks of the Onions and Garlic having antibacterial effects, only when rubbed on things, but they are not as effective as a regular topical antibacterial cream as you even say it only raises the possibility. Even more so the affect would only be localized to where the onion is touching you which would only be a small part of your feet, compared to Purell an alcohol based hand sanitizer that kills the majority of germs and can be fully spread over a surface. Also the most common foot infections are fungal so onions wouldn't help with that. – Ian Gallant Apr 23 '15 at 14:36
  • What I am saying is if you have onion in your socks the whole night (yuck!) its essential oils (which have antibacterial properties, see link above) will be in contact with your skin. Sure, Purell would probably be better, and less gross... but, hey, the question asks whether onion and garlic in your socks would have antibacterial properties, so your answer does not address that. – nico Apr 23 '15 at 15:01
  • Also, for the phosphoric acid: could you reference the fact that it won't go through the skin to the blood? Note that phosphoric acid is absorbed through the skin (see inchem.org/documents/ukpids/ukpids/ukpid73.htm ) but it would be nice to see a reference of 1) what is its absorption rate and 2) how much there is in an onion, to calculate how much would be absorbed in a night. Furthermore, you have not shown that phosphoric acid wouldn't purify your blood (whatever that means... would be nice to have a definition of that). – nico Apr 23 '15 at 15:04
  • You are stilling missing my point, as the article said as long as your touching or rubbing the onion juices or essentials oils on something they will have mild antibacterial properties, but those would be localized to where the oils are, so it would make more sense to buy the distilled essential oils and rub them across your whole body before bed. So yes onions do have a minor antibacterial properties, but just placing them in your socks while you sleep would be similar to, taking distilled essential oils putting a dab on one spot and leaving it there without rubbing it in. – Ian Gallant Apr 23 '15 at 16:27

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