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Pelargonium: benefits and uses

Dr Simon Mills
Article written by Dr Simon Mills

Date published 11 October 2023

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This immune-boosting plant can help to banish coughs, colds and catarrh.

🕒 2 min read

Perhaps best known as the pot plant relatives of the geranium, ornamental and aromatic pelargoniums are a familiar sight in many a garden.

But what you may not know is that extracts from the root of pelargonium sidoides are used in herbal medicine; pelargonium is registered in the UK for helping to treat the common cold and other respiratory tract infections.

Where does it come from?

Native to South Africa, and traditionally known as 'umckaloabo' – meaning 'bad cough' – pelargonium has long been used to treat a variety of ills, including coughs and upper-respiratory infections.

It was introduced to the UK in the days when tuberculosis was a serious threat to respiratory health. Today, modern research supports its use in less serious conditions, such as the common cold.

How does it work?

Dubbed as a natural antibiotic, pelargonium is thought to work by preventing bacteria and viruses responsible for respiratory infections from attaching themselves to the cells of the nose's mucus membrane.

It helps ease nasal symptoms by loosening the mucus, which helps clear airways and makes breathing easier. It may also boost the immune system, helping the body to fight off bugs and prevent bacteria and viruses from multiplying.

Several studies now confirm that pelargonium improves our defences against viruses and bacteria at a cellular level and also at the mucosal sites where infections take hold.

What can it help?

Cold symptoms

Pelargonium has outdone placebo in several double-blind controlled clinical trials in helping to relieve and shorten cold symptoms, as well as alleviating coughs.


A study involving more than 100 sufferers found pelargonium to be better than placebo in managing symptoms of sinus pressure and pain, blocked nose and headache.


According to another study, asthma sufferers who took pelargonium for five days noticed they coughed less and didn't suffer as much with a blocked nose. They also suffered fewer asthma attacks in general.

Are there any side effects?

Pelargonium has been widely used in Germany for many years with few side effects. In Germany, regulations require all adverse events to be reported. Data shows that, over a 12-year period, only one in 190,000 experienced any discomfort or negative effects, making it exceptionally safe.

The facts

Good for

Common cold, blocked nose, runny nose, sore throat, coughs.


At the first sign of a sniffle or sneeze take one tablet three times daily (morning, midday and evening) to relieve symptoms, and then continue for two to three days to prevent a relapse.


Treatment should not exceed two weeks.

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Dr Simon Mills

About Dr Simon Mills

Dr Mills is a Cambridge medical sciences graduate and a herbal practitioner. He was the first Chair of the Council for complementary and Alternative Medicine, and founder trustee of the Research Council for Complementary Medicine.