Umckaloabo, a term derived from Zulu words meaning cough and chest pain, is also known as Pelargonium sidoides or South African Geranium. The root of this plant contains potent polyphenols and proanthocyanidins that are thought to provide antimicrobial and immune stimulating effects. It was “discovered” by the West when a tuberculosis patient set out to South Africa to search for the traditional medicine that had been rumored to be beneficial for TB patients. Based on his experience with this remedy, a comprehensive professional search ensued to find exactly what the herbal remedy was and what active compounds were in it.
Numerous clinical trials have found Pelargonium sidoides can reduce the severity and duration of bronchitis symptoms in adults and children. In a 2008 review of available studies, researchers concluded that there was encouraging evidence that P. sidoides was more effective than a placebo for those with acute bronchitis. Children appear to respond better to the liquid drop form rather than tablet form.
A 2009 study published in Phytomedicine examined P. sidoides’ impact on children with non-strep sore throats. They found that children receiving an extract of P. sidoides had a significant reduction in symptoms and it reduced the length of time they were sick by at least 2 days. The researchers concluded that the extract of P. sidoides was superior to the placebo.
There is some evidence that Pelargonium sidoides may also help reduce symptoms associated with sinusitis and the common cold but more research is need in these areas.
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, 2011
Phytomedicine. 2007;14 Suppl 6:2-4