Pelargonium sidiodes – natural respiratory remedy for lungs

Description and distribution

Pelargonium sidiodes is also commonly known as the black geranium or Cape pelargonium. In traditional medicine it is also called Umckaloabo, Uvendle, Kalwerbossie or Khoaara e nyenyane.

Pelargonium sidoides is found widely throughout South Africa. It occurs throughout the eastern Cape, Lesotho, Free State and southern and south-western. It usually grows in short grassland and sometimes with occasional shrubs and trees on stony soil and can be found at altitudes ranging from near sea level up to 2300 m in Lesotho.

The plant is evergreen although it does die back in during droughts and in the winter months from May to August. The system of thickened underground root-like branches is a special adaptation which enables the plant to survive grass fires.

The plant of the Pelargonium sidiodes looks like a rosette with crowded leaves. The long-stalked leaves are mildly aromatic, heart-shaped and velvety with distinctive dark, reddish-purple (almost black) flowers, which are present almost throughout the year.

Traditional Uses

Whilst Pelargonium sidiodes is widely used by local communities as a traditional medicine for curing various ailments, including diarrhoea, colic, gastritis, tuberculosis, cough, hepatic disorders and menstrual complaints, it has been recognised for its ability to fight upper respiratory tract infections, including the common cold, bronchitis, and sinusitis.

The root of the plant is typically distilled into an extract and used in cough and cold remedies to alleviate symptoms and reduce the duration of illness.

The roots are also the main ingredient in a remedy used to treat a stomach ailment known as instila in infants.

Pelargonium remedies are typically sold as extracts, tinctures, oral suspensions, syrups, or gel caps. Short-term usage is advised – ideally or no longer than five to seven days.

Did you know?

Most types of geranium including the African geranium are edible. The flowers have a fragrant, slightly peppery flavour, while the leaves have a pleasantly sour, grassy taste.

Fresh geranium can also be made into tea by steeping ¼ cup of finely chopped flowers and leaves with one cup of boiling hot water. However, you should avoid consuming too much fresh geranium as the oxalic acid in the plant (which imparts the flavourful tang) may cause indigestion, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

When it comes to medicinal use, it is the root of the South African geranium that is believed to be beneficial rather than the stems, leaves, or blossoms.

Sustainability and sourcing

The majority of the tubers harvested are for the growing export market, which includes the United Kingdom, United States, Europe and Australia.

There is an increasing demand on wild growing populations which has resulted in a depletion of the wild growing species, raising concern amongst conservationists and highlighting the need for the development and implementation of sustainable harvesting practices for wild populations.

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