A species of South African geranium used for centuries in Zulu medicine has become the newest remedy for the common cold. The scientific name is Pelargonium sidoides; the Zulu name for the herb is Umckaloabo (call it “Umcka” for short).
Several recent controlled studies from Europe have shown that Umcka reduced the severity and duration of both acute bronchitis and the common cold. In one study total cold symptom severity was reduced to half that of the placebo group after 5 days. This degree of improvement is superior to that of other common over-the-counter cold treatments including natural remedies like vitamin C, Echinacea and zinc.
Umcka works in three ways: it has antiviral, antibacterial and expectorant properties. It prevents bacteria and viruses from attaching to the mucous membranes. It also stimulates the body’s immune system and prevents bacteria and viruses from multiplying. Finally it loosens mucous making it easier to cough up contaminated phlegm.
Umcka appears to be a very safe herb. No significant adverse effects were noted in any of the studies I reviewed, and few have been reported in Europe despite the increasing popularity of the herb. Like most cold remedies, results improve significantly if the treatment is started within 2 days of cold onset. For more information see the Herbal Africa website. Here is the abstract on one of the studies done at the National Medical University in Kiev.
Umcka has been widely used in Germany since the 1980s (one formula is an approved drug for the treatment of acute bronchitis) and is now available in North America. That’s what I plan to use next time I start to come down with a cold.
This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.