Throat and Chest Relief

An African flower that eases congestion and coughing

• WHAT IT IS Pelargonium sidoides is native to South Africa. Known there as umckaloabo, which in Zulu roughly means chest cold and pain, this member of the geranium family has deep burgundy flowers and heart-shaped leaves.

• WHAT TRADITIONAL MEDICINE SAYS South African tribes have long used it to treat coughs and congestion. A century ago, it was an ingredient in a popular European tuberculosis treatment called Stevens' Consumption Cure, developed after an African tribal healer used the herb to ease the symptoms of TB in English traveler Charles Henry Stevens.

• WHAT WE KNOW Nine studies conducted on a total of 1,477 patients (680 of them children ages 6 to 12) demonstrate that pelargonium shortens the severity and duration of sore throats and acute bronchitis. In a Ukrainian study of 143 children with sore throats, those treated with the herb recovered at least 2 days faster than kids taking a placebo. Pelargonium contains polyphenol compounds known to stimulate the immune system, helping it to target viruses and bacteria.

• WHAT NEW RESEARCH SHOWS In a study conducted by US, Russian, and German researchers, 124 people diagnosed with bronchitis took an extract of pelargonium or a placebo. Investigators monitored symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, rhonchi (the dry rattling sounds in the chest that indicate lung congestion), and chest pain. Within 2 days, 25% of those in the herb group started feeling better, compared with 10% of those on the placebo. By days 3 and 4, 69% in the herb group had begun to feel better, compared with 33% in the placebo group. After a week, 85% of the herb takers were almost or completely symptom free; just 30% of the placebo group were.

• WHAT TO TAKE Umcka ColdCare by Nature's Way. About $14 for a 4-ounce bottle, available at health food stores and via Dose Follow label directions.



By Sara Altshul

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