Pelargonium sidoides is a plant in the geranium family that grows in South Africa. It has heart-shaped leaves and narrow flowers of deep, saturated red. It has a long history of traditional use in southern Africa for treatment of respiratory problems. The root is the part used medicinally.
An alcohol extract made from Pelargonium sidoides has become popular in Germany as a treatment for various respiratory problems, including acute bronchitis, the common cold, sinusitis, pharyngitis (sore throat), and tonsillitis.1 Fairly large studies have been performed to substantiate some of these uses.
For example, in one double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 468 adults with recent onset of acute bronchitis were given either placebo or a standard alcohol extract of Pelargonium sidoides 3 times daily for a week.2 The results showed a significantly greater improvement in symptoms in the treatment group as compared to the placebo group. On average, participants who received the real treatment were able to return to work 2 days earlier than those given placebo. Benefits were also seen in 2 other double-blind, placebo-controlled studies enrolling a total of almost 350 people with acute bronchitis.7-8,11 When researchers pooled the results of four well-designed, placebo-controlled trials, they found that a standardized extract of Pelargonium performed significantly better than placebo at reducing the symptoms of bronchitis by the seventh day of treatment.10 Given this evidence, Pelargonium appears to be effective for acute bronchitis.
Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study enrolled 143 children aged 6-10 years with a nondangerous form of strep throat (technically, non-group A beta hemolytic strep tonsillopharyngitis).3 On average, the total duration of the illness was reduced by 2 days in the treatment group as compared to the placebo group.
Note: Only a medical test can distinguish between the relatively nondangerous form of strep throat studied in this trial (non-group A strep) and strep throat of the potentially very dangerous A form (group A strep). For this reason, physician supervision is essential. See the Strep Throat article for more information.
Finally, a double-blind study of 133 adults who had just come down with the common cold found that use of a standardized pelargonium extract at a dose of 30 ml three times daily significantly reduced the severity and duration of symptoms as compared to placebo.9
It is not known how Pelargonium sidoides might work, but its action is hypothesized to involve both direct antibacterial effects and immune function modification.4-6
A typical adult dose of the tested standardized root extract is 30 drops three times daily. For children 6-11, this dose is typically reduced to 20 drops three times daily. However, other products beside the tested formulation may vary in strength. Therefore, we recommend that you follow the label instructions.
In clinical trials enrolling a total of over 2,500 adults and children, use of the tested, standardized extract produced few side effects, other than the usual occasional allergic reactions or digestive upset.1 However, comprehensive safety testing has not been completed. There is no reliable evidence regarding safety in children under the age of 6, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease.
1. Kolodziej H, Schulz V. Umckaloabo: from traditional application to modern phytodrug. Deutsche Apotheker Zeitung. 2003;143:55-64.
2. Matthys H, et al. 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.
3. 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;9:68-79.
4. Kolodziej H, Kayser O, Radtke OA, et al. Pharmacological profile of extracts of Pelargonium sidoides and their constituents. Phytomedicine. 2003;10(suppl 4):18-24.
5. Kayser O, Kolodziej H, Kiderlen AF, et al. Immunomodulatory principles of Pelargonium sidoides. Phytother Res. 2001;15:122-126.
6. Kayser O, Kolodziej H. Antibacterial activity of extracts and constituents of Pelargonium sidoides and Pelargonium reniforme. Planta Med. 1998;63:508-510.
7. Chuchalin AG, Berman B, Lehmacher W. Treatment of acute bronchitis in adults with a pelargonium sidoides preparation (EPs 7630): a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Explore (NY). 2006;1:437-445.
8. Matthys H, Heger M. Treatment of acute bronchitis with a liquid herbal drug preparation from Pelargonium sidoides (EPs 7630): a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicentre study. Curr Med Res Opin. 2007;23:323-331.
9. 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;3:573-584.
10. Agbabiaka TB, Guo R, Ernst E. Pelargonium sidoides for acute bronchitis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Phytomedicine. 2008 Jan 25.
11. Matthys H, Funk P. EPs 7630 improves acute bronchitic symptoms and shortens time to remission. results of a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicentre trial. Planta Med. 2008 Apr 30.
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board Last Updated: 12/15/2015