Green Onions (Cong Bai)

spring onionGreen onions, also known as Cong Bai in TCM, are one of very common spices or vegetables in the East Asian countries as well as throughout the Chinese-speaking regions. So to speak, it plays an irreplaceable role in orient cooking culture. This is simply because Chinese are accustomed to frying chopped onions and ginger well with oil before putting in other meats or vegetables. And other major occasions that need scallions include light soup noodle or beef flavor noodle, miso soup, pancakes, and so on. More than just an important seasoning in cooking, onion is also one of common conventional herbs that have awesome healing power.

What are green onions?

Actually they have a few different names and similar species, such as scallions, spring onions, shallots, chives, and China leeks. However, from the point of view of TCM, they refer to the bulb and stalk part near the root of Allium fistulosum L., one member of Liliaceae family. They grow all over the country in China and can be plucked at any time. After the excavation, for the medicinal purpose the fresh scallions should have the fibrous roots, leaves, and outer membrane removed before the use.

Green onion is a perennial herb, up to 50cm, usually clustered, with pungent, smelly odor, and with pungent mucus after broken. White fibrous roots cluster. Bulbs are cylindrical, with slightly larger tip and white layered scale leaves, which have white vertical stripes. Leaves are basal, cylindrical, hollow, about 45cm, 1.5-2cm in diameter, apex acute, green, and with vertical stripes. Sheaths are light green. Floral axis grows from the foliage stems, usually in only one, with enlarged central part, hollow, green, and with some vertical lines. Flowers are in spherical umbels. Involucre is membranous, ovate or lanceolate. Capsule is in the shape of three prisms. Seeds are black, triangular-shaped, and semicircular. It blossoms from July to September and fruits from August to October.

Green onion chemical composition

Scallion bulbs contain mucilage, crude fat, crude protein, crude fiber, nitrogen free extract, pentosan, and polysaccharides. And mucilage mainly contains polysaccharide, cellulose, hemicellulose, protopectin and water-soluble pectin, sugar, vitamin C, carotene, vitamin B1, B2, A, PP, oxalic acid, lipids, linolenic acid, linoleic acid, palmitic acid, oleic acid, arachidic acid, and ubiquinone-9, -10. In addition, the bulb also contains volatile oil, in which the allicin and diallyl sulfide are the main ingredients. Roots contain aluminum.

Health benefits of green onions

As stated, onion is one of spices commonly used in cooking thanks to its great functions of adding flavor and getting rid of undesirable odor. And it is a good herb traditionally. Here are the detailed benefits for your reference.


1. It inhibits diphtheria bacillus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Shigella, and Streptococcus;
2. It inhibits dermatophyte;
3. It promotes sweating to reduce fever, promotes urination, invigorates the stomach, and makes expectoration easy;
4. It kills Trichomonas vaginalis when 25% of the onion filtrate is added in vitro and the exposure time is more than 60 minutes.

Popular scallion related Chinese herbal formulas

In the light of TCM theory, this herb is acrid and warm in properties. It covers two channels of lung and stomach. Its main functions are to relieve exterior syndrome by diaphoresis, activate Yang, relieve internal heat or fever, and kill parasites. Its basic indications and uses are common cold due to wind-cold pathogens, headache, stuffy nose, chill abdominal pain, constipation and urinary obstruction, dysentery, sore and carbuncle, and parasites causing abdominal pain. Usual dosage is from 9 to 15 grams in decoction or decocted with wine. 1 5 to 30 grams of fresh onions should be used in the form of porridge. In external use, proper amount should be applied.

Cong Chi Tang

Cong Chi Tang comes from Bu Que Zhou Hou Fang (Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies). This formula is basically for headache, hot flesh, and full pulse in the early stage of typhoid fever. The Cong Bai (Green onions) combines with Dan Dou Chi (Prepared Soybean) to induce perspiration;

Wu Jin San

Wu Jin San is from Wai Ke Jing Yi (Essence of External Diseases). It is formulated for hard carbuncle or swollen boils with no head. Main herbs include Cong Bai, rice flour, and vinegar;

Bai Tong Tang

Bai Tong Tang comes from Shang Han Lun (On Cold Damage). It is a key prescription for diarrhea in Shaoyin diseases. Other two herbs combined are Gan Jiang (Dried Ginger Root), and Fu Zi (Prepared Aconite Root).

Green onion recipes

Onion is not only delicious, but also with high nutritional benefits. However, when it comes to how to chop, use, and prepare this spice to bring out its best flavor, honestly it is a bit challenging. But don’t worry here are the most easy and tasty recipes for your reference.

Green onions pancake

Ingredients: medium strength flour 250g, 1 teaspoon sugar, ¼ teaspoon sea salt, ¼ teaspoon yeast, Warm water 150 ml, Spring onion 100g, and 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil.

Directions: 1. firstly sift the flour and place them in a big plate. Add sugar, salt, and yeast and then mix them well. Pour in warm water and twist the dough into a ball. Transfer the dough to a clean countertop and hand rub it until the surface is not sticky. 2. Spray a little oil at the bottom of the plate. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Leave it for about 35 minutes until the dough becomes soft. Divide it into 4 equal parts. Use a rolling pin to roll them into a rectangle respectively and evenly coat them with salt, oil, and chopped green onions. 3. Roll them from the long side and curl them up into a snake-like round. Flatten them with the rolling pin. 4. Heat a non-stick pan and pour in a little oil. Fry the raw pancake with slow or moderate heat till both sides turn slightly yellow. That’s it.

Green onions and chicken

Ingredients: chicken 1 (about 2 pounds), spring onions 1/2 cup, ginger 1/2 cup, a little pepper, and oil 4 tablespoons. Seasoning A: salt 1 tablespoon, rice wine 2 tablespoons, a little MSG, onions 5 sections, ginger 5 slices. Seasoning B: cornstarch 1/2 tablespoons, and water 1 tablespoon.

Directions: 1. firstly drying and smearing inside out the chicken with seasoning A. Leave it for 2 hours. Put it into the steamer and cook for 20 to 25 minutes with big fire. 2. After the chicken is done, chop and place them to a plate. Scatter the chopped scallions, pepper, and ginger on it. 3. Heat a pan and pour in 4 tablespoons of oil. Pour the heated oil to the surface. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup steamed chicken soup with seasoning B to make starchy sauce. The delicious scallion chicken is ready to serve once the chicken is covered with starchy sauce.

Potential green onion side effects and contraindications

TCM wise, Green Onions (Cong Bai) should not be used in case of excessive sweating due to exterior deficiency. And this herb contradicts honey, dates, Di Huang (Rehmannia), and Chang Shan (Dichroa Root).

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