Onion tea might make you tear up, but listen to your gut

Onion-based tea can offers benefits such as improved gut health, enhanced immune function, reduced inflammation, and weight management support.
Onion-based tea can offers benefits such as improved gut health, enhanced immune function, reduced inflammation, and weight management support.

Summary

After backing a plan to make sweeteners from onion waste, the consumer affairs ministry is now supporting a team that's come up with onion-based prebiotic tea

NEW DELHI : If cardamom, cinnamon, lemon, citrus, jasmine and chamomile can make it into teas, why can’t onions?

Onion tea may not be popular—although in a few rare households the bulbs make for a redoubtable remedy for cold—but India’s consumer affairs ministry believes it might have stumbled upon a unique, gut-friendly blend.

The ministry, which is backing a plan to produce sweeteners extracted from onion waste, specifically for India’s mass demographic of diabetics, is also sponsoring a team that wants to make prebiotic tea from onions.

As with the onion-based sweetener, the idea for producing tea from the vegetable was among winners selected by the department of consumer affairs in a 2022 grand onion challenge.

A team being incubated by the Indore-based Acropolis Institute of Management Studies and Research (AIMSR) has developed the onion-based tea, which it says offers benefits such as improved gut health, enhanced immune function, reduced inflammation, and weight management support.

Also read: Is an onion sweetener a bright bulb idea to combat diabetes?

“Currently, the proposal (for the final product) is under review for approval," said an official from the consumer affairs ministry. “The (institute) has received initial financial assistance exceeding 5 lakh, along with a prize of 75,000."

Teams from the consumer affairs ministry as well as the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India have already evaluated the manufacturing process for the onion tea, this official said, asking not to be identified.

The consumer affairs secretary and the chief executive of FSSAI didn’t reply to emailed queries.

A unique blend

What’s unique about the prebiotic onion tea, according to the institute, is that it’s infused with inulin-fructo-oligosaccharides, or inulin-FOS, a blend of dietary fibres that support gut health by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon. Besides, inulin also serves as a sweetener with low caloric value.

“The patent for the product has been published, and the process of launching it in the open market under the PreBiotea brand name is underway," said Pragya Goyal, the leader of a team of four that’s working on the onion-tea at the Acropolis Group of Institutes's incubation centre, Acrobizz.

The blend for the tea is prepared by boiling onions to extract the prebiotic content. About 60 grams of inulin-fructo-oligosaccharides can be extracted from about 1 kg of onions—the main bulb of an onion, sprouted onions with excess roots, or unconsumed onions without peels.

“We have developed the production process of purified inulin-FOS powder from waste or unconsumed onions," said Goyal, assistant professor, department of biosciences, AIMSR.

Sustainable solution

The onion-tea bags, each containing 3g for one serving, will be available in sachets priced at 12- 15 by the end of the year. It will initially be launched in three flavours—cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon.

The onions would be sourced directly from farmers for the extraction of inulin-FOS, providing a sustainable solution to farmers left with surplus or unconsumed onions.

The shelf life of the final product will be between 3 and 6 months under packaged conditions and without refrigeration.

“It is evident that many natural ingredients provided by mother earth possess rich antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties," said Dr. Monashis Sahu, an endocrinologist. 

“However, that may not be the case with every manufactured product," Sahu added. “It needs to be scientifically and meticulously reviewed for any properties claimed by the manufacturers."

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