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Cold season can extend from fall well into spring. It is worth spending a moment discussing the best natural additions to our medicine chests for successfully fighting off symptoms such as runny and stuffy noses, sore throats, and coughs.

One of the most exciting new options is a root extract—a member of the geranium family known as Pelargonium sidoides. Traditionally used by the Zulu to treat coughs, upper respiratory tract irritations, and even tuberculosis (TB), the extract has been studied extensively in over 5,000 adults and children, and successfully and safely treats the common cold and shortens the severity and duration of hard-to-treat conditions such as bronchitis, tonsillitis, and sinusitis. The real bonus is the ability of this unique natural medicine to treat the underlying causes of these conditions while keeping the immune system strong—results sorely missing with the use of conventional cold products and antibiotics.


Native to the coastal regions of South Africa, Pelargonium sidoides was described as "umKhulkane" (denoting respiratory infection) and "uHlabo" (roughly meaning chest pain) by the Zulu. The herbal remedy was introduced to Europeans in the late 19th century by the Englishman and TB-sufferer, Charles Stevens. On a trip to South Africa to seek a cure for TB, he consulted a tribal healer who gave him a strong concoction of Pelargonium sidoides root. Fully recovered, he returned to England with this new remedy and popularized it throughout Europe as "Steven's Consumption Cure."

The rediscovery of the root extract occurred in Germany where a standardized product known as Umckaloabo® has been approved for the treatment of bronchitis, tonsillitis, and sinusitis. The overwhelming success of the product has led to its recent introduction to the United States as Umcka Coldcare from Nature's Way Products.


While there are many traditional remedies for the common cold, bronchitis, tonsillitis, and sinusitis, many lack necessary clinical studies to support their effectiveness and safety. Not so with the standardized root extract of Pelargonium sidoides. Specific findings include:

Common Cold: A recent study gave 93 adults suffering the common cold either Pelargonium sidoides root extract (30 drops or 1.5 mL three times per day) or a placebo for 10 days. By the fifth day, the majority of participants taking the herbal extract reported not only feeling better, but were back to almost 75 percent of their normal level of activity. Those taking the placebo didn't feel much better and were at only about 50 percent of normal activity. By day 10, 82 percent of those taking the herbal remedy were back to their normal daily routine compared to only 54 percent of those taking the placebo.

Bronchitis: A clinical study treated 468 adults with bronchitis with either the Pelargonium sidoides root extract (30 drops three times per day) or a placebo. Treated for only seven days, symptoms such as cough, chest pain, sputum production, and shortness of breath, were reduced by almost 50 percent in those persons taking the herbal extract compared to those taking the placebo. Coughing either improved or disappeared in 89 percent of those taking Pelargonium sidoides compared to only 57 percent of those taking the placebo.

Tonsillitis: Sore throats in children are a challenging condition for parents and healthcare professionals to manage. Once the possibility of strep-throat is ruled out, many children can be treated without antibiotics. A study gave 143 children (ages six to 10) with non-strep tonsillitis either Pelargonium sidoides root extract (20 drops or 1 mL three times per day) or a placebo for six days. Notable was the finding that by day 2 of treatment, children taking the herbal extract were already reporting symptom relief. By day 6, these kids were reporting almost complete absence of sore throat and swallowing difficulties. By the end of the study, almost 81 percent of the children taking the herbal remedy were back at school compared to only 21 percent taking the placebo.

Sinusitis: A frustrating and difficult condition to treat, sinusitis is often a recurring problem and resistant to repeated antibiotic use. A new study has shown that using Pelargonium sidoides root extract (60 drops or 3 mL three times per day) for 21 days dramatically reduces not only symptom severity in adults with acute sinusitis, but also improves sinus health. Using x-rays to check for sinus congestion, the study found that almost 98 percent of those taking the herbal extract had normal x-rays by the end of the study compared to only 10 percent of those taking a placebo. Notable is that none of the participants took antibiotics.

As stated above, the researched Pelargonium sidoides root product used in these clinical studies is available in the product Umcka® Coldcare™ from Nature's Way. The safety and effectiveness of this extract for both adults and children makes it a must-have for any natural medicine cabinet.

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