Pelargonium sidoides (Umckaloabo)
For hundreds of years the Zulu, Basuto, Xhosa and Mfengi cultures have
sidoides as a curative for coughs, upper respiratory
tract irritations and gastrointestinal concerns. Today, with the advantages
of modern science and clinical research, we are able to better understand
what makes this traditional remedy work so effectively.
Pelargonium sidoides has been successfully
used for the treatment of:
infections like bronchitis, sinusitis, and pneumonia, tonsillitis
- It is often
used as an alternative to antibiotics
and chronic ear, nose and throat infections
- Rapid improvement
in the symptoms associated with colds and flu
(absence of pain) effects
occurs throughout the eastern Cape, Lesotho, Free State and southern and
south-western Gauteng in the Republic of South Africa.
is called by Kalwerbossie or Rabassamin South Africa. However, the name
Umckaloabo is most commonly known and originates from the Zulu language
The Englishman Charles Stevens already acknowledged the successful treatment
of tuberculosis with umckaloabo in the early 1920’s.
Extracts of the root have been available in German pharmacies since 1983
without prescription and have found widespread usage against infections
of the sinus, throat and respiratory tract.
The traditional use of Pelargonium
sidoides for coughs and chest troubles may
be explained by the presence of essential
oils. It has not yet been established which ingredients
contribute to its antibacterial properties.
Extracts of Pelargonium
sidoides have clear antibacterial
characteristics against Streptococci, Staphylococci and Bacillus cereus.
Pelargonium sidoides is also rich in phytochemicals,
vitamins, minerals and amino acids that enhance the body’s
functioning and protects it against diseases. Treatment with Pelargonium
sidoides rapidly improves the typical symptoms
associated with infections such as cough, fever, sore throat, fatigue
How a Zulu remedy became a best-selling
With phenomenal growth, it's gone from being an obscure herbal remedy
to become one of Germany's top new medicines. In the past two years sales
have jumped over 700%--growing faster than any other brand. It's success
is attributed to impressive clinical results, high consumer satisfaction
and a fascinating history.
A Fascinating Story:
In 1897, an Englishman named Charles Stevens went to South Africa hoping
to cure himself of tuberculosis. He consulted with a Basuto tribal healer
who gave him a decoction of a local medicinal plant. Fully recovered,
Charles Stevens returned to England with his mysterious remedy--which
became popular throughout Europe as "Steven's Consumption Cure".
In 1920, a former missionary doctor, Adrien Sechehaye, learned of Steven's
cure. During the next nine years he treated over 800 patients in Switzerland
with a homeopathic preparation of the medicine. In 1929 he published the
medical case studies.
But with the introduction of synthetic tuberculosis drugs, Steven’s
remedy became largely forgotten in Western medicine--until its recent
"rediscovery" by European researchers.
What the Basuto healer gave Charles Stevens was a traditional remedy made
from the roots of Pelargonium
sidoides - a species of geranium unique to
South Africa. Among the Zulu, the medicine was described as "umKhulkane'
(denoting respiratory infection) + 'uHlabo' (roughly meaning chest pain).
While most other cough, cold and sinus medications simply mask outward
symptoms, the mechanisms and actions of Pelargonium
sidoides actually support faster recovery.
Shortens Duration and Reduces Severity:
Clinical trials show that Pelargonium
sidoides shortens the duration and reduces
the severity of upper respiratory irritations.
In a physician assessment of adults and children suffering from common
cold, chest and throat irritations, was rated effective in nearly 90%
Its success is attributed to impressive clinical results, high consumer
satisfaction and a fascinating history that has its roots in South African
heritage and culture.
Chemistry & Pharmacology:
The bioactive ingredients in P.sidoides
are the tri- and tetra-oxygenated coumarins,
gallic acid and gallic acid methyl ester (polyphenols),
various flavonoids, as well
as significant levels of calcium
and silica. P.sidoides
contains two distinct coumarins: umckalin
and its 7-O-methyl ester, together with four other methoxycoumarins
and three unique coumarin sulphates.
Scopoletin and 6,7,8-trihydroxycoumarin
are also found. Most of the coumarins contain a methoxy
function at the C7 position and an OH group at either the C6 or C8 positions;
functionality that is responsible for their antibacterial
Gallic acid and its
methyl ester are present in large amounts. These
were identified as the prominent immunomodulatory
principle for this herbal medicine. Macrophage
activation was confirmed by an in vitro study based on
Leishmania parasites (Phytother Res 2001 Mar; 15(2): 122-6). The same
authors, Kayser, O. and Kolodziej, H. (Planta Medica 63, 508-510) also
studied the antibacterial performance of the various coumarins and gallic
acid compounds found in Pelargonium
sidoides and found that with the exception
of the ineffective (+)-catechin, all the potentially active compounds
exhibited antibacterial activities with minimum inhibitory concentrations
(MICs) of 200-1000 micrograms/ml. These results provide for a rational
basis of the traditional use of umckaloabo.
studies on patients with acute bronchitis
confirmed that extracts of p.sidoides were effective in treating this
ailment. Similar studies have also shown the effectiveness of p.sidoides
extracts for treating tonsillopharyngitis
in children in the age group 6-10 years (Phytopharmaka VII, October 2001).
Encouraging results have also been achieved with children, especially
those who have not responded well to repeated treatment with antibiotics.
The alcoholic extract of the root has been shown to have a three-way effect:
1.) Anti-bacterial: The
extract prevents bacteria from attaching to cells in the mucous membranes.
2.) Antiviral effect: Similarly,
prevents viruses from attaching to the mucous membrane cells and stimulates
the body’s immune system in such a way that both bacteria and viruses
are prevented from multiplying.
3.) Expectorant: the extract
acts as an expectorant, allowing the body to expel contaminated mucous
making conditions less suitable for the multiplication of the bacteria
The three-way effect attacks the acute infection at its root, the
stabilization of the immune system prevents a
re-infection and the vicious circle of infection, short recovery phase
and new infection is broken. Due to its bacteriostatic
appears to be a good alternative to the conventional therapy of treating
respiratory illnesses with antibiotics.
Efficacy of extract of
Pelargonium sidoides in
children with acute non-group A beta-haemolytic streptococcus tonsillopharyngitis:
a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
Bereznoy VV, Riley DS, Wassmer G, Heger M.
Paediatric Department II, Academy for Continuing Medical Education, Kiev,
Background: Clinical trial
data suggest that antibiotics are not indicated for the treatment of acute
non-group A beta haemolytic strep (non-GABHS) tonsillopharyngitis. Nevertheless
patients are symptomatic and effective alternatives for its treatment
are needed that have been evaluated in clinical trials.
Objective: To confirm that
treatment with an extract of Pelargonium
7630) is superior to placebo for the treatment of non-GABHS tonsillopharyngitis
Design: Randomised, double-blind,
Setting: Six study sites
in 4 paediatric and ENT primary care outpatient clinics.
Patients: One hundred forty-three
children aged 6-10 years with non-GABHS tonsillopharyngitis present <
or = 48 h, a negative rapid strep screen, a Tonsillopharyngitis Severity
Score (TSS) > or = 8 points, and informed consent.
Intervention: EPs 7630 or
placebo (20 drops tid) for 6 days.
Measurement: The primary
outcome criterion was the decrease of the TSS from baseline (day 0) to
day 4. RESULTS: The decrease of the TSS from baseline (day 0) to day 4
was 7.1 +/- 2.1 points under EPs 7630 (n = 73), and 2.5 +/- 3.6 points
under placebo (n = 70). The covariate adjusted decrease was 7.0 +/- 2.4
points under EPs 7630, and 2.9 +/- 2.4 points under placebo. The 95% RCI
for the difference between the groups was [2.7; 4.9] demonstrating a significant
difference in efficacy of EPs 7630 compared to placebo (P < 0.0001).
Adverse events (AEs) occurred in 15/143 patients (EPs 7630: 4/73 patient,
placebo: 44/70) and were not related to the investigational medication.
Conclusions: EPs 7630 was
superior compared to placebo for the treatment of acute non-GABHS tonsillopharyngitis
in children. Treatment with EPs 7630 reduced the severity of symptoms
and shortened the duration of illness by at least 2 days.
Immunomodulatory principles of Pelargonium
Kayser O, Kolodziej H, Kiderlen AF.
Institut fur Pharmazie,Pharmazeutische Biologie, Freie Universität
Extracts and isolated constituents (coumarins and phenols) of Pelargonium
sidoides DC, a plant species used in folk
medicine by the Southern African native population, were evaluated for
their effects on nonspecific immune functions.
Although this herbal medicine is also successfully employed in modern
phytotherapy in Europe to cure infectious diseases of the respiratory
tract, the scientific basis of its remedial effects is still unclear.
Thus, functional bioassays including an in vitro model for intracellular
infection with Leishmania parasites, an extracellular Leishmania growth
assay, a fibroblast-virus protection assay (IFN activity), a fibroblast-lysis
assay (TNF activity) and a biochemical assay for inorganic nitric oxides
(iNO) were employed.
None of the test samples revealed significant activity against extracellular,
promastigote Leishmania donovani, the causative agent of human visceral
In contrast, apart from the coumarin samples, all the Pelargonium
extracts (EC(50) <0.1-3.3 microg/mL), gallic acid (EC(50) 4.4 microg/mL)
and its methyl ester (EC(50) 12.5 microg/mL) significantly reduced the
intracellular survival of L. donovani amastigotes within murine macrophages.
These data indicate that the samples acted indirectly on Leishmania parasites,
possibly by activating leishmanicidal macrophage functions. Macrophage
activation was confirmed by detection of tumour necrosis factor (TNF-alpha)
and inorganic nitric oxides (iNO) in supernatants of sample-treated macrophage
cultures. Synthesis of iNO is a well-known effector mechanism of macrophages
against microorganisms such as Leishmania. Interestingly, blocking iNO-synthase
with L-NMMA had no substantial effect on sample-induced intracellular
From bioassay-guided fractionation, gallic acid and its methyl ester present
in large amounts in P.
sidoides and in its active extracts, were
identified as the prominent immunomodulatory principle for this herbal
The results, when taken
together with recent reported antibacterial activity, provide
a rational basis for both the traditional and the present utilization
of P. sidoides in the claimed conditions.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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