Pelargonium (Pelargonium sidoides) is an herb long used in South African traditional medicine. Also known as "umckaloabo" or "umcka," pelargonium is now widely used as an ingredient in cough and cold syrups.
Uses for Pelargonium
In traditional medicine, pelargonium is typically used to treat upper respiratory tract infections (including the common cold) and dysentery-related diarrhea. Some proponents suggest that pelargonium can also help treat bronchitis and inflammation of the sinuses.
Benefits of Pelargonium
In test-tube research, pelargonium has been found to fight bacteria and viruses, as well as stimulate the immune system. In addition, a number of studies show that pelargonium may help treat certain health conditions, although some of the studies are older. Here's a look at some key study findings:
1) Pelargonium and Bronchitis
Pelargonium may help soothe acute bronchitis, according to a 2008 report published in Phytomedicine. In their analysis of six clinical trials testing pelargonium's efficacy as an acute bronchitis treatment, the report's authors found that pelargonium significantly improved symptoms of acute bronchitis without causing any serious side effects.
2) Pelargonium and Colds
Pelargonium may help relieve the common cold, suggests a 2007 study published in Explore. For a period of up to 10 days, 103 adults experiencing cold symptoms received either a liquid preparation of pelargonium or a placebo treatment. Results revealed that pelargonium helped reduce the severity of cold symptoms, as well as shorten the duration of sickness.
3) Pelargonium and Strep Throat
In a 2003 study from Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, researchers found that pelargonium may help treat a strain of strep throat called "non-group A beta hemolytic strep" (or "non-GABHS"). Unlike group A beta-hemolytic strep throat, non-GABHS is typically treated without the use of antibiotics.
For the study, 143 children with non-GABHS were given either pelargonium or a placebo for six days. In addition to easing strep throat symptoms more effectively than the placebo, pelargonium was found to shorten the duration of illness by at least two days.
Is Pelargonium Safe?
Use of pelargonium may trigger a number of mild to moderate side effects, such as stomach upset. In some cases, pelargonium may worsen existing respiratory symptoms. Additionally, some individuals may experience allergic reactions to pelargonium.
There's also some concern that use of pelargonium may increase risk of bleeding. Therefore, patients using blood-thinning medications should consult their physician before using pelargonium.
Where to Find Pelargonium
Widely available for purchase online, syrups containing pelargonium are also sold in many natural-food stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.
Should You Use Pelargonium for Health Purposes?
Although pelargonium may help treat certain short-term ailments (including the common cold and bronchitis), pelargonium is not known to treat any chronic health conditions.
If you're experiencing any symptoms of chronic bronchitis (such as a cough that lasts longer than three weeks, disrupts your sleep, and/or produces blood), it's important to consult your physician. Self-treating any chronic condition with pelargonium and avoiding standard care may have serious consequences.
Agbabiaka TB, Guo R, Ernst E. "Pelargonium sidoides for acute bronchitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis." Phytomedicine. 2008 May;15(5):378-85.
Bereznoy VV, Riley DS, Wassmer G, Heger M. "Efficacy of extract of Pelargonium sidoides in children with acute non-group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus tonsillopharyngitis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial." Altern Ther Health Med. 2003 Sep-Oct;9(5):68-79.
Kayser O, Kolodziej H, Kiderlen AF. "Immunomodulatory principles of Pelargonium sidoides." Phytother Res. 2001 Mar;15(2):122-6.
Kolodziej H, Kiderlen AF. "In vitro evaluation of antibacterial and immunomodulatory activities of Pelargonium reniforme, Pelargonium sidoides and the related herbal drug preparation EPs 7630." Phytomedicine. 2007;14 Suppl 6:18-26.
Lizogub VG, Riley DS, Heger M. "Efficacy of a pelargonium sidoides preparation in patients with the common cold: a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial." Explore (NY). 2007 Nov-Dec;3(6):573-84.
Matthys H, Eisebitt R, Seith B, Heger M. "Efficacy and safety of an extract of Pelargonium sidoides (EPs 7630) in adults with acute bronchitis. A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial." Phytomedicine. 2003;10 Suppl 4:7-17.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. "Pelargonium sidoides." March 2011.