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Umcka

What You Need to Know About Umcka

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Updated March 01, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

What Is Umcka?

Umcka (Pelargonium sidoides) is a geranium plant native to South Africa. Long used in traditional African medicine, umcka (short for "umckaloabo") has recently become popular in other parts of the world, particularly in treatment of respiratory problems.

Uses for Umcka

Umcka is typically used to treat these respiratory issues:

  • the common cold
  • sore throat
  • bronchitis
  • sinusitis
  • Benefits of Umcka

    To date, few studies have explored umcka's efficacy in treatment of health problems. Existing research suggests that umcka may help manage the following conditions:

    1) Rhinosinusitis

    For a study published in 2009, researchers assigned 103 people with acute rhinosinusitis to take either an extract of umcka root or a placebo for a maximum of 22 days. (Usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection, acute rhinosinusitis is marked by inflammation of the mucosa of the nasal passages and at least one of the paranasal sinuses.) Study results showed that umcka was more effective than placebo in treatment of the condition.

    In a research review published the previous year, scientists concluded that doubt exists as to whether umcka is effective in alleviating symptoms of acute rhinosinusitis.

    2) Bronchitis

    Umcka appears to be more effective than placebo for patients with acute bronchitis, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2008. Researchers sized up four placebo-controlled clinical trials, finding that umcka significantly reduced bronchitis symptoms by day 7 of treatment.

    3) The Common Cold

    A 2007 study indicates that umcka may decrease the severity of cold symptoms and shorten the cold's duration. Focusing on 103 adults with cold symptoms, researchers found that 78.8 percent of those who took umcka were clinically cured after 10 days (compared to 31.4 percent assigned to a placebo).

    How to Use Umcka

    Available in syrup, liquid extract, and capsule form, umcka can be found in most health food stories and pharmacies that carry herbal products.

    Umcka has been found to produce few adverse effects, but may trigger allergic reactions of gastrointestinal upset in some cases.

    Sources:

    Agbabiaka TB, Guo R, Ernst E. " Pelargonium sidoides for acute bronchitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis." Phytomedicine. 2008 15(5):378-85.

    Bachert C, Schapowal A, Funk P, Kieser M. "Treatment of acute rhinosinusitis with the preparation from Pelargonium sidoides EPs 7630: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial." Rhinology. 2009 47(1):51-8.

    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 3(6):573-84.

    Timmer A, Günther J, Rücker G, Motschall E, Antes G, Kern WV. "Pelargonium sidoides extract for acute respiratory tract infections." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 16;(3):CD006323.

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