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 sidoides3 times daily for a week.2The 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 Pelargoniumperformed 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 theStrep Throat article for more information.

Finally, a double-blind study of 133 adults who had just come down with the common coldfound 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 sidoidesmight work, but its action is hypothesized to involve both direct antibacterial effects and immune function modification.4-6