Umcka for Colds: Can It Help?

Umcka for colds and respiratory help
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Umcka (Pelargonium sidoides) is a geranium plant native to South Africa. Long used in traditional African medicine, umcka (short for "umckaloabo") has recently become popular in other parts of the world, particularly as a remedy for colds and cough.

Research on Umcka: Can It Help?

To date, few studies have explored umcka's efficacy in treatment of health problems. Existing research suggests that umcka may help manage the following conditions:

1) Colds

For a report published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2013, researchers sized up 10 previously published clinical trials comparing the effects of umcka to those of a placebo in the treatment of acute respiratory tract infections.

In their review, the report's authors concluded that umcka "may be effective in alleviating symptoms of acute rhinosinusitis and the common cold in adults". However, there was some doubt due to the overall low study quality, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions.  

2) Rhinosinusitis

For a study published in 2009, researchers assigned 103 people with acute rhinosinusitis to take either an extract of umcka root or a placebo for a maximum of 22 days. (Usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection, acute rhinosinusitis is marked by inflammation of the mucosa of the nasal passages and at least one of the paranasal sinuses.) Study results showed that umcka was more effective than placebo in treatment of the condition.

More: 8 All-Natural Remedies for a Sore Throat

In a research review published the previous year, scientists concluded that doubt exists as to whether umcka is effective in alleviating symptoms of acute rhinosinusitis.

3) Bronchitis

Umcka appears to be more effective than placebo for patients with acute bronchitis, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2008.

Researchers sized up four placebo-controlled clinical trials, finding that umcka significantly reduced bronchitis symptoms by day 7 of treatment.

A later review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2013 found that umcka "may be effective in relieving symptoms in acute bronchitis in adults and children", but the overall quality of the evidence was considered low.

Possible Side Effects

According to reports, umcka use has been linked to liver injury, although there may have been medications and unrelated health conditions involved.

Umcka may trigger allergic reactions or gastrointestinal upset in some cases. It could theoretically interact with anticoagulant and antiplatelet drugs, such as warfarin and aspirin.

Keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get tips on using supplements here, but if you're considering the use of any form of alternative medicine, talk with your primary care provider first.

 Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Using Umcka

If you're considering trying umcka, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider to weigh the pros and cons and discuss whether it's right for you.


Agbabiaka TB, Guo R, Ernst E. Pelargonium sidoides for acute bronchitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Phytomedicine. 2008 15(5):378-85.

Bachert C, Schapowal A, Funk P, Kieser M. Treatment of acute rhinosinusitis with the preparation from Pelargonium sidoides EPs 7630: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Rhinology. 2009 47(1):51-8.

Teschke R, Frenzel C, Wolff A, et al. Initially purported hepatotoxicity by Pelargonium sidoides: the dilemma of pharmacovigilance and proposals for improvement. Ann Hepatol. 2012 Jul-Aug;11(4):500-12.

Timmer A, Günther J, Rücker G, Motschall E, Antes G, Kern WV. Pelargonium sidoides extract for acute respiratory tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 16;(3):CD006323.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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