Pelargonium (Pelargonium sidoides), also known as Umckaloabo or South African Geranium is a herbal medicine traditionally used to help relieve the symptoms of colds, coughs, sore throats, runny noses and other upper respiratory tract infections. I have previously written about other nutrients which may be helpful for symptoms of the common cold so please read those posts for further advice.
Recently there have been some studies looking into the effectiveness of pelargonium. In 2008 a review (1) of research evidence was published. The paper wanted to assess the usefulness and safety of pelargonium for respiratory tract infections in children and adults. The researchers found that there was evidence to suggest that the remedy might be useful for relieving symptoms of acute bronchitis in adults and children and sinusitis in adults and possibly symptoms of the common cold in adults. The researchers called for further trials before any firm conclusions or recommendations could be made.
Acute bronchitis is one of the most frequent health complaints for which parents seek medical care for their children and the common treatment of acute bronchitis with antibiotics has been questioned because of concerns about the emergence of antibiotic resistance and only scant evidence of benefit (2). Any alternative to antibiotic treatment is therefore interesting to review.
Since the review was published there have been further studies of pelargonium which have shown interesting results. Last year a study was conducted with 400 children aged 6-18. The children received either 30mg, 60mg or 90mg of pelargonium or an inactive placebo daily. The primary outcome criterion was the change in the ‘Bronchitis Severity Score’ (BSS) from day 0 to day 7. The results showed that after 7 days of treatment the change in the bronchitis severity score (especially coughing and phlegm production) was significantly better in the children taking 60mg and 90mg of pelargonium compared with the placebo group. Time of bed rest was also shorter in the 60mg and 90mg pelargonium groups. The authors conclude that pelargonium “is effective in acute bronchitis outside the strict indication for antibiotics in 6-18 years old patients, with a dose of 60 mg or 90 mg daily offering the best benefit/risk ratio. EPs-7630 [pelargomium] significantly reduces the severity of symptoms, leads to a more favourable course of the disease and a faster recovery from acute bronchitis compared with the placebo, and is well tolerated”.
Pelargonium is approved for use in children older than one year of age in Germany as a first-line treatment of acute bronchitis. It seems as though the herbal preparation has antibacterial and antiviral properties and may directly influence the immune system (2).
Another study published last year (3) looked at a group of over 400 adults with acute bronchitis who were given either a placebo or 30 mg, 60 mg or 90 mg of pelargonium daily for 7 days. The researchers found that there was a statistically significant and clinically relevant improvement of patient health-related quality of life and patient-reported outcome in those individuals taking pelargonium, at any dose, compared to placebo.
Two (4,5) laboratory based studies which were published this year looked at the mechanisms by with pelargonium might be working. One (4) found that the herbal medicine seems to prevent specific respiratory infection causing bacteria from binding to body cells i.e. it has anti-adhesive properties. The other study (5) investigated the influence of pelargonium on a variety of respiratory viruses. The researchers found that the herbal medicine interfered with the replication of a variety of viruses (such as seasonal influenza A virus strains (H1N1, H3N2), respiratory syncytial virus, human coronavirus, parainfluenza virus, and coxsackie virus). However it was not effective against all viral strains.
More research studies in humans are needed but results so far for the use of pelargonium for the reduction of cold symptoms are interesting. There are pelargonium supplements available to buy in the UK, such as this one. You may wish to try taking the supplement at the start of a cold for a short period of time (up to 7 days) to see if it helps. It is always worth checking with your medical doctor prior to taking any new supplement. Please also read my other blog posts on the common cold for some nutritional ways which may help. Having a healthy diet, rich in nutrients, will help to keep the immune system strong and functioning well.
(1)Timmer A et al. 2008. Pelargonium sidoides extract for acute respiratory tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 16;(3):CD006323.
(2)Kamin W et al. 2010. Efficacy and tolerability of EPs 7630 in patients (aged 6-18 years old) with acute bronchitis. Acta Paediatr. 99(4):537-43.
(3)Matthys H et al. 2010. [Pelargonium sidoides in acute bronchitis – Health-related quality of life and patient-reported outcome in adults receiving EPs 7630 treatment]. [Article in German]. Wien Med Wochenschr. 160(21-22):564-70.
(4) Janecki A et al. 2011. Evaluation of an aqueous-ethanolic extract from Pelargonium sidoides (EPs® 7630) for its activity against group A-streptococci adhesion to human HEp-2 epithelial cells. J Ethnopharmacol. 133(1):147-52.
(5) Michaelis M et al. 2011. Investigation of the influence of EPs(®) 7630, a herbal drug preparation from Pelargonium sidoides, on replication of a broad panel of respiratory viruses. Phytomedicine. 18(5):384-6.
Written by Ani Richardson