The herbal remedy, Pelargonium sidoides, is extracted from the root of a South African geranium. It has several centuries of use as a Zulu herbal remedy where it was known as Umckaloabo – a word which roughly translates as ‘for heavy cough and chest problems’. The remedy was first popularised in Britain over a hundred years ago, when it was brought back by an Englishman who was ‘cured’ of tuberculosis by a tribal healer. Then known as ‘Steven’s Consumption Cure’, it went out of fashion with the advent of anti-tubercular drugs. It is now making a resurgence as an effective treatment for respiratory infections such as colds, bronchitis and sinusitis with modern research confirming its effectiveness.
Within the UK, Pelargonium falls under the Traditional Herbal Registration scheme and is licensed as a traditional herbal medicine used to treat symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections including the common cold, such as a sore throat, coughs, and a blocked or runny nose.
How does it work?
Pelargonium contains a number of unique substances, such as reniformin, which have antiviral and antibacterial actions. It increases the activity of white blood cells that target and destroy infections and blocks the adhesin molecules that bacteria use to stick to cells in the respiratory tract, so they are more easily dislodged and flushed away. It has also been shown to block the attachment of viral particles to target cells, so they cannot enter to multiply. Another interesting action is that Pelargonium stimulates the movement of hair-like cell projections (cilia) which form a ‘respiratory escalator’ that helps clear mucus and infection.
Every year, a quarter of the population visit their doctor with an acute respiratory infection which, until recently, accounted for 60% of antibiotic prescribing by GPs. Most acute respiratory infections are viral, however, and antibiotics only work against bacteria – usually disrupting their cell walls or disrupting the microbial machinery needed for bacteria to divide and grow. Viruses have a very different biology, with no cell walls and very little machinery of their own – they invade cells to hijack the host’s own genetic machinery, so do not respond to antibiotics.
Now that doctors are advised to limit antibiotic prescribing to reduce disease resistance, Pelargonium is an effective back up for treating mild to moderate respiratory infections. From personal experience, I can confirm that it is a far more effective cold remedy than anything I can prescribe as a doctor. Pelargonium works quickly to relieve symptoms and shorten the duration of upper respiratory tract infections. Obviously if your symptoms are getting worse, it’s important to see your doctor for medical assessment and treatment.
What is the evidence that Pelargonium works?
Common cold: A study involving 103 people with cold symptoms present for between 24 and 48 hours found that taking Pelargonium sidoides extracts produced significant improvements in symptoms. After 10 days, 78.8% of those receiving treatment were clinically cured, versus only 31.4% taking placebo. A review of data from eight trials, involving almost 750 adults and over 800 children with acute bronchitis, found significant treatment effects for Pelargonium sidoides in reducing cough, sputum production, headache and nasal discharge. The authors concluded that it may be effective in treating symptoms of acute rhinosinusitis and the common cold. Doubt existed because in some trials treatment wasn’t started until the infection was in full swing. It’s most effective if you start taking it as soon as possible after symptoms start.
Bronchitis: Data from four trials suggests that Pelargonium sidoides extracts are significantly more effective than placebo in treating acute bronchitis. Since then, the results of two more trials have occurred which show that Pelargonium sidoides extracts are effective and safe for treating acute bronchitis in 406 adults and in 200 children and adolescents aged 6 to 18 years. When I initially discovered Pelargonium, I had lost my voice due to acute laryngitis/bronchitis. Within 20 minutes of taking my first dose, my hoarse voice was back to normal.
Sinusitis: a double-blind, placebo controlled study of 105 people with bacterial sinusitis present for at least one week, showed that taking Pelargonium extracts three times daily for up to 22 days produced significant improvements in symptoms, with faster recovery than those taking placebo, and no significant side effects.
Tonsillitis: A study involving 140 children with tonsillitis found that taking Pelargonium sidoides extracts was significantly better than placebo in treating acute symptoms. Treatment reduced the severity of symptoms and shortened the duration of sore throat by at least 2 days.
Asthma: In children with asthma, symptoms are often triggered by a viral respiratory tract infection. A study involving 61 children with asthma showed that taking Pelargonium for 5 days to treat a common cold significantly reduced cough frequency, nasal congestion and the frequency of asthma symptoms in those taking the extract compared with those taking inactive placebo. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23142309
The recommended tablet dose is 20mg, three times a day.
A tincture is available (Kaloba, from Amazon.co.uk) for which the recommended dose for adults and children over the age of 12 years is 1.5 ml three times per day for 7 to 10 days to treat an upper respiratory tract infection. Children ages 6 to 12 years may take 1 ml, three times per day. For children 2 to 5 years of age, the dose is 0.5 mL three times per day.
It’s important to continue treatment for 3 days after symptoms have resolved to prevent a relapse.
Experience in Germany suggests that Pelargonium sidoides extracts are safe, with 1 in 189,000 patients experiencing a side effect during an average treatment period of 10 days. A few reports of potential liver problems were found to relate to other causes.
As it is classed as a medicine, always read the patient information leaflet before taking the tablets. Do not take during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Pelargonium works well with vitamin C and zinc against common cold symptoms.
Have you tried Pelargonium to treat a cold, sore throat, bronchitis or sinusitis? Did you find it as helpful as I do?
I’ve found it improves cold symptoms rapidly – certainly within 24 hours – when started as soon as possible after infection strikes. Keep taking it for three days after your symptoms have resolved to stop them coming back.
|Healthspan’s Pelargonium Cold Relief is a traditional herbal remedy providing 20mg pelargonium root extract per tablet. Made to GMP standards this is a pharmaceutical grade product.
Recommended dose is 1 tablet, three times a day, for adults and children over the age of 12.View current offer at Healthspan.co.ukThese can only be shipped to the UK.
This herbal remedy comes in a handy pocket pack of 16 tablets – enough to treat one cold – or a larger pack of 30 tablets. Dose is 1 tablet, three times a day.
|Schwabe’s Kaloba cough and cold relief drops contain Pelargonium sidoides root extracts in tincture form. This is the original Pelargonium tincture which put this remedy on my radar as an effective herbal remedy for the common cold.
Dose for adults and children over 12 years is 30 drops, added to water or juice, three times a day. For children aged 6 to 12 years, dose is 20 drops in water or juice, three times a day.
Herb Pharm’s Umckaloabo contains certified organic root of Pelargonium sidoides and its herbal potency is confirmed through laboratory testing. The suggested dose is up to 40 drops, added to water or juice, two to four times per day between meals.
Image credits: peganum/flickr