Pelargonium Sidoides: Benefits, Side Effects, and More

Zoomi Singh

October 12, 2022

Pelargonium sidoides, known by common names like the South African geranium, cape pelargonium and black geranium, are herbs used as traditional medicine in South Africa. Its plant roots are distilled into an extract. They are used to treat gastrointestinal ailments, cold and flu remedies, respiratory tract infections, etc., to treat symptoms and alleviate the illness duration. In addition, it might be beneficial for individuals suffering from certain lung disorders.

Scientists claim that Pelargonium Sidoides can help fight upper respiratory tract infections like bronchitis, sinusitis, and the common cold. That is because it naturally increases the body’s healing ability. For example, individuals with acute bronchitis ultimately can resolve the symptoms within a week of its consumption.

The rising demand for Pelargonium sidoides around the globe has resulted in localised over-exploitation of its natural populations in regions of southern Africa. Nowadays, brands like Umckaloabo and Kaloban popularly sell it as a plant-derived pharmaceutical.

Benefits of Pelargonium Sidoides

1. Helps Treat Respiratory Diseases

One of the primary benefits of pelargonium sidoides is their effectiveness in treating acute bronchitis. That is because it enhances the body’s natural healing ability.  According to research, almost 50% of people with acute bronchitis who supplemented it entirely recovered their symptoms within a week. Some individuals experienced benefits within two to three days.

At the same time, individuals who it did not cure within a week still experienced benefits from its supplementation. In addition, it helps treat symptoms linked to bronchitis, which include fever, headache, cough, sputum in the lungs, fatigue, rhonchi, nasal dripping and chest pain while coughing.

2. Antibacterial Properties

Pelargonium sidoides have antibacterial properties. It helps ward off bacteria holding on to the cells, aids in fighting against viruses and helps stimulate the immune system to track down any foreign invaders. In addition, it also helps fight Helicobacter pylori, a stomach bacteria known to cause stomach ulcers. Furthermore, it might also lower herpes simplex virus replication.

Local groups use the plant extensively as a traditional medication to treat different ailments. For example, it helps treat tuberculosis, gastritis, diarrhoea, colic, gonorrhoea, menstrual complaints, cough and hepatic disorders.

3. Good for Skin Health

Pelargonium sidoides are known to exhibit antimicrobial properties. People apply its powdered plant material, soaked in water, as a face cream to treat skin acne. Pelargonium sidoides oils have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which naturally boost skin health and provide a healthy glow. In addition, they help condition the skin, soothe irritated skin and help fight against harsh weather conditions.

4. Helps Treat Stomach Ailments

People use pelargonium sidoides roots as the main ingredient in a local remedy used to cure a stomach ailment in infants called Instila.

5. Helps Treat Various Diseases

One of the most captivating herbal aid of Pelargonium sidoides has been curing tuberculosis,  which eventually led to its foundation in the late 1890s in Europe.

6. Used in Ethnoveterinary Applications

Pelargonium sidoides also has traditional ethnoveterinary applications. For example, people use its root decoctions as an anthelmintic remedy in calves. In addition, people use remedies prepared with boiled leaves to keep the wounds safe from maggots and prevent purging in horses. Finally, pharma companies use it in deworming medicines like ivermectin, interrupting the bacterial cycle and killing the currently established bacteria.

The roots of Pelargonium sidoides are soaked in water to obtain an extract for oral administration that is used as a cure for dysentery in cattle.

7. Pelargonium Sidoides Contains Healthy Metabolites

Pelargonium sidoides DC and Pelargonium reniforme is linked with the origin of herbal medicine called Umckaloabo, which exhibits remarkable diversity and complexity. It consists of various phenolic and polyphenolic compounds. In addition, it has reasonable amounts of simple oxygenated coumarins. As a result, it is an excellent source of secondary metabolites.

Pelargonium Sidoides: Possible Side Effects and Precautions

The safety of this plant remedy is still not thoroughly tested. Generally, known side effects of Pelargonium sidoides include heartburn, nausea,  worsening respiratory symptoms and stomach upset.

Drug Interaction

It holds a coumarin compound that acts as a blood thinner, an anticoagulant. Therefore, you should refrain from taking it if you are on prescription anticoagulants like warfarin, etc. It may result in excessive bleeding. For the same reason, you should stop consuming pelargonium sidoides at least two weeks before a dental procedure or surgery.

Individuals with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, autoimmune hepatitis, and psoriasis should also use Pelargonium sidoides with caution as they may activate the antibodies that trigger autoimmune symptoms.

Liver Damage

Subsequent or excessive intake of pelargonium sidoides might lead to liver injury. According to a surveillance study from Germany in 2016, pelargonium sidoides was among the five herbs suspected to be the cause of liver toxicity when used for medicinal purposes. The other four herbs included were peppermint (Mentha piperita), valerian (Valeriana), Tasmanian blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) and St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum). Therefore, it’s best to avoid these herbs if you’re suffering from liver disease, are on medication mobilised by the liver or are an alcohol addict.

Always consult your healthcare provider before using Pelargonium sidoides or any herbal supplements. Call for immediate help if you experience any signs or symptoms of liver toxicity like stomach pain, yellow skin and eyes, light stools, dark coloured urine or fatigue on the consumption of highly concentrated extracts. In addition, due to the lack of safety research, pregnant women, lactating mothers and children should not use its remedies. 

Preparation and Doses

There is no particular guideline for the approximate intake of pelargonium sidoides supplements. However, the safe dosage may vary according to the severity of the disease. In addition, factors like general health, weight, sex, age and ongoing medication can influence it.

Pharmacies sell Pelargonium sidoides remedies in different forms like gel caps, oral suspensions, tinctures, extracts or syrups. As a generic rule of thumb, always read the labels for guidelines and never use more than what is mentioned on the product label. Moreover, it is still unclear how much pelargonium sidoides supplements get toxic. Therefore, it is best to consult a doctor before using it.

Pelargonium sidoides are generally meant for short-term use, which is no longer than five to seven days at most. The supplements and remedies are readily available online and at many local health-food stores.

The Bottom Line

Pelargonium sidoides is commonly called the South African geranium, cape pelargonium and black geranium. South Africans use the plant herb in making traditional medicines. In addition, people distil and use its roots and other parts as an extract to treat various ailments like lung disorders, cold and flu, gastrointestinal infections, etc.

Various studies and pharmacological data on Pelargonium sidoides suggest that they also help treat various respiratory tract infections. These include bronchitis, tuberculosis, stomach ailments, etc. Furthermore, they also possess antimicrobial and antibacterial properties that support gut health. However, more supporting evidence is required to study the mechanism of its active compounds to treat these health conditions caused by a microbial attack.

Moreover, the pharmacological uses of Pelargonium sidoides must take notice of the vast context involving the need for conservation-friendly approaches in its applications. In this consideration, plant biotechnology implementations can play a significant role in an integrated preservation strategy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What are the common brands for Pelargonium sidoides?

A. Pelargonium sidoides are popularly sold under Umckaloabo, Umcka cold care and Kaloban as a plant-derived pharmaceutical. However, you can easily find it at any local health store or pharmacy.

Q. What are the possible side effects of Pelargonium sidoides?

A. Fever, diarrhoea, restlessness, dark coloured urine, fatigue and stomach disturbances are some common side effects. However,  due to insufficient research, some individuals like pregnant mothers, lactating mothers and even children should refrain from its consumption. 

Q. How can you use geranium oil?

A. In the case of geranium essential oil, you can dilute it with a carrier oil like sesame oil and apply it to the skin. It works well for spot treatments, itchy skins, acne. In addition, you can use it as a massage oil. However, some carrier oils cause an allergic reaction. Therefore, you should ensure that the carrier oil you’re using suits your skin.

Q. Do Pelargonium sidoides help in treating common colds?

A. Yes. South Africans have used this herbal plant in traditional medicines since ancient times. Europeans believe that it helps reduce symptoms and cure common colds and conditions like bronchitis. In addition, its antibacterial properties kill harmful microbes and stimulate the immune system. 

Q. What are the uses of Pelargonium sidoides?

A. Pelargonium sidoides offer several health benefits. They possess antibacterial and antimicrobial properties and aid in treating bronchitis and stomach ailments like diarrhoea and tuberculosis. It is also used in various ethnoveterinary applications. For example, it helps cure dysentery in cattle and anthelmintic remedies in calves. 

Q. What is Kaloba syrup?

A. It is a colourless, sugar-free syrup that helps provide relief against cough and cold in adults. In addition, it provides support to the body’s immune system against viruses. Moreover, it is non-drowsy, so it doesn’t make you feel sleepy all the time.

Q. What is the scientific name for Pelargonium sidoides?

A. The scientific name of this herb is Pelargonium sidoides itself. Although, it is known by other common, local names like the South African geranium, cape pelargonium, umckaloabo and black geranium.

Q. Are leaves of pelargonium sidoides medicinal?

A. The leaves and other parts of the pelargonium sidoides herb have been traditionally used for medicinal purposes for a very long time. They have proven beneficial in many health conditions like tuberculosis, respiratory tract infections, diarrhoea, etc. In addition, its leaves also possess antifungal properties.

Q. What is a pelargonium root?

A. It is a common name for the roots of the herb pelargonium sidoides and pelargonium reniforme curt. The preparations of this herb root are obtained by putting them in a solvent like ethanol and then dissolving compounds to form a liquid extract for utilisation. 

Q. How do you prepare geranium tea?

A. Geranium tea is also known as pelargonium sidoides tea. You can prepare it using dried or fresh leaves of the herb pelargonium sidoides. 

  • Simply pour a cup of boiling water on the leaves and let it sit for 5-7 minutes with a closed lid. 
  • Then, strain the leaves out and consume fresh. 
  • For fresh leaves, use one-fourth cup and for dried leaves one teaspoon. 

Q. Do Pelargonium sidoides make you drowsy?

A. Its syrup is non-drowsy and has been used to treat several respiratory infections; cough and cold are the most common ones. It does not make you sleepy or drowsy. 

Q. How do you grow pelargonium sidoides?

A. Pelargonium sidoides are best grown under full sun. The soils should be preferably neutral, moderately fertile, and well-drained. In hot climates, they require shades during the afternoon. Once established, they can tolerate droughts well. Irrigate them daily for better springs throughout summer.

Q. What is Pelargonium sidoides extract?

A. It is an extract obtained from the roots of the herb Pelargonium sidoides. It is known to have several health benefits. People have been using it for years to cure conditions like sore throat, congestion, cough and cold, diarrhoea, tuberculosis, etc. However, several studies are still underway on Pelargonium sidoides to find its exact mode of action, side effects, etc.

Q. What is Umckaloabo?

A. Umckaloabo is the common name for Pelargonium sidoides or black geranium, a traditional medicinal herb native to South Africa. The root extracts of this ancient plant help treat various conditions. These conditions most commonly include upper respiratory infections like cough and cold etc. Umckaloabo comes from the Zulu language, which means ‘heavy cough’.

Q. Is geranium good for skin?

A. Pelargonium sidoides oils have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which naturally boost skin health. It also helps provide a healthy glow. Pelargonium sidoides gels are traditionally used as creams to apply on acne-prone skins.

About the Author

Zoomi, holds Masters degree in Nutritional Sciences from University of Allahabad, qualified CBSE-UGC-NET in Home Science and pursuing PhD in Nutritional Sciences, University of Allahabad, Prayagraj. A Strong research professional focused in Nutritional Sciences where she have more than 8 yrs of work experience in the field of Nutrition and Research, had work experience as a Dietician at Super-specialty hospitals. Skilled in Weight Management, Hypertension, Diabetes and Micronutrient related deficiencies. Additionally, she is well-versed in biostatistics and proficient in statistical tools such as SPSS and STATA. She is endowed with strong writing abilities and has authored her own book, more than six research papers, and six book chapters. Holder of various awards like Excellent Dietician, 2019 and 2020 by Saksham Society, Jaipur, Rajasthan, Academic Excellence at National Conference by Jayoti Vidyapeeth Women’s University, Jaipur (Rajasthan), India and Research Achievement Award-2020 for Research & Innovation by ACAIRS Global Network Pvt. Ltd. Life Member of Nutrition Society of India, NIN, Hyderabad and participated and presented papers in four International and six National conferences. Zoomi believes the right habits play the most crucial role in one’s health and wellness journey. The key to fit body is a fit mind and mental state.

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