The Purported Health Benefits of Pelargonium

Can pelargonium offer all-natural cold relief?

Pelargonium sidiodes (black geranium)
Joshua McCullough/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Pelargonium (Pelargonium sidoides) is an herb long used in South African traditional medicine. Also known as black geranium, "umckaloabo" or "umcka," pelargonium is sometimes used as an ingredient in herbal cough and cold syrups.

Why It's Used

In alternative medicine, pelargonium is thought to fight upper respiratory tract infections (including the common cold) and dysentery-related diarrhea. Some proponents suggest that pelargonium can also help treat bronchitis and inflammation of the sinuses.

What Studies Claim

In test-tube research, pelargonium has been found to fight bacteria and viruses, as well as stimulate the immune system. In addition, a few clinical trials have examined the cold-fighting effects of pelargonium. Here's a look at some key study findings:


Pelargonium may help relieve the common cold, suggests a 2007 study published in Explore. For a period of up to 10 days, 103 adults experiencing cold symptoms received either a liquid preparation of pelargonium or a placebo treatment.

Results revealed that pelargonium helped reduce the severity of cold symptoms, as well as shorten the duration of sickness.


Pelargonium may help soothe acute bronchitis, according to a 2008 report published in Phytomedicine.

In their analysis of six clinical trials testing pelargonium's efficacy as an acute bronchitis treatment, the report's authors found that pelargonium significantly improved symptoms of acute bronchitis without causing any serious side effects.

Strep Throat

In a 2003 study from Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, researchers found that pelargonium may help treat a strain of strep throat called "non-group A beta-hemolytic strep" (or "non-GABHS"). Unlike group A beta-hemolytic strep throat, non-GABHS is typically treated without the use of antibiotics.

For the study, 143 children with non-GABHS were given either pelargonium or a placebo for six days. In addition to easing strep throat symptoms more effectively than the placebo, pelargonium was found to shorten the duration of illness by at least two days.

Possible Side Effects

Use of pelargonium may trigger a number of adverse effects, such as stomach upset, nausea, heartburn, allergic reactions, or worsening respiratory symptoms. A couple of case reports have suggested that pelargonium products may have more serious side effects, such as liver damage.

There's also some concern that use of pelargonium may increase the risk of bleeding. Therefore, people with bleeding disorders and those using blood-thinning medications should consult their physician before using pelargonium.

It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. 

Where to Find It

Widely available for purchase online, syrups containing pelargonium are also sold in many natural-food stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Using It for Health

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend pelargonium as a treatment for any health condition.

If you're experiencing symptoms of chronic bronchitis (such as a cough that persists, disrupts your sleep, and/or produces blood) or any symptoms that concern you, it's important to consult your physician. Self-treating any condition with pelargonium and avoiding standard care may have serious consequences.

View Article Sources
  • Agbabiaka TB, Guo R, Ernst E. "Pelargonium sidoides for acute bronchitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis." Phytomedicine. 2008 May;15(5):378-85.
  • Bereznoy VV, Riley DS, Wassmer G, Heger M. "Efficacy of extract of Pelargonium sidoides in children with acute non-group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus tonsillopharyngitis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial." Altern Ther Health Med. 2003 Sep-Oct;9(5):68-79.
  • Kayser O, Kolodziej H, Kiderlen AF. "Immunomodulatory principles of Pelargonium sidoides." Phytother Res. 2001 Mar;15(2):122-6.
  • Kolodziej H, Kiderlen AF. "In vitro evaluation of antibacterial and immunomodulatory activities of Pelargonium reniforme, Pelargonium sidoides and the related herbal drug preparation EPs 7630." Phytomedicine. 2007;14 Suppl 6:18-26.
  • Lizogub VG, Riley DS, Heger M. "Efficacy of a pelargonium sidoides preparation in patients with the common cold: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial." Explore (NY). 2007 Nov-Dec;3(6):573-84.
  • Matthys H, Eisebitt R, Seith B, Heger M. "Efficacy and safety of an extract of Pelargonium sidoides (EPs 7630) in adults with acute bronchitis. A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial." Phytomedicine. 2003;10 Suppl 4:7-17.