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For hundreds of years the Zulu, Basuto, Xhosa and Mfengi cultures have used Pelargonium 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.

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.

The name Umckaloabo as it is most commonly known in Europe and USA, originates from the Zulu language meaning "heavy cough" but it is not used or associated in its traditional range. “Umckaloabo“ was given to Pelargonium sidoides by Europeans.

Extracts of the root (Umckaloabo) have been available in German pharmacies since 1983 without prescription and have found widespread usage against infections of the sinus, throat and respiratory tract.


Pelargonium sidoides occurs throughout the eastern Cape, Lesotho, Free State and southern and southwestern Gauteng in the Republic of South Africa.

Medicinal uses:

Pelargonium sidoides is used as an alternative to conventional antibiotics or/and as a supplement with antibiotic medication. Traditionally it is also used for acute and chronic ear, nose and throat infections, bronchitis, colds and flu, coughs, gastrointestinal complains, fatigue, fevers, pneumonia, respiratory infections, rhinopharyngitis, sinusitis, sore throats, tonsillitis and weakness.

How it works:

Works differently. While most other cough, cold and sinus medications simply mask outward symptoms, the mechanisms and actions of Pelargonium sidoides actually support faster recovery.

Among the Zulu, the word "umKhulkane' denotes to respiratory infection and 'uHlabo' roughly means chest pain, an indication that it is used for thiese idications. 

Shortens Duration and Reduces Severity:

Clinical trials show that Pelargonium sidoides shortens the duration and reduces the severity of upper respiratory irritations.

High Satisfaction:

In a physician assessment of adults and children suffering from common cold, chest and throat irritations, was rated effective in nearly 90% of cases!

How a Zulu remedy became a best-selling new medicine:

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. Its 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.


Chemistry & Pharmacology and active ingredients:

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. Pelargonium 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 activity.

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 Pelargonium sidoides.

The traditional use of Pelargonium sidoides for coughs and chest troubles may be explained by the presence of essential oils.


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.


Double-blind, placebo-controlled studies on patients with acute bronchitis confirmed that extracts of Pelargonium sidoides were effective in treating acute bronchitis. Similar studies have also shown the effectiveness of Pelargonium 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 Pelargonium sidoides extract prevents bacteria from attaching to cells in the mucous membranes.

2.) Antiviral effect: Similarly, Pelargonium sidoides 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 and viruses.

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 and immune-modulating characteristics Pelargonium sidoides appears to be a good alternative to the conventional therapy of treating respiratory illnesses with antibiotics.

The results of a study conducted at the Institut fur Pharmazie,Pharmazeutische Biologie, Germany, on the immunomodulatory principles of Pelargonium sidoides, provide a rational basis for both the traditional and the present utilization of Pelargonium sidoides in the claimed conditions.



Common names: Kalwerbossie, Rabassam (Afr), Umckaloabo (Europe, USA), umKhulkane, uHlabo (Zulu).

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