Updated: Mar 22
At Afraceuticals, we have the utmost respect for the plant powerhouse behind our potent extracts. In line with this, we feel that Pelargonium sidoides should be placed in the limelight as the focus of this week’s post. This incredible shrub is an excellent example of nature’s immune boosting and pathogen fighting power. P. sidoides is honoured and celebrated as our flagship botanical.
A Delicate yet Robust Wonder
Pelargonium sidoides is a small, evergreen shrub with velvety, fragrant, grey-green foliage; dark magenta to black petals; and a twisted, red, tuberous root. It is endemic to the grasslands of South Africa and the foothills of Lesotho. P. sidoides is able to withstand the cold, dry winter seasons by remaining dormant during these months and shooting up again from the roots once the rains return. The butterfly-shaped blooms occur throughout most of the year. Afraceuticals sustainably harvests this root from the foothills of the majestic Maluti mountains of Lesotho and the grasslands of South Africa.
A Telling Name
The name Pelargonium is derived from the Greek word Pelargos, which means stork. This refers to the plant’s seed pod that resembles the bill of a stork. The plant has been known as “Umckaloabo”, a term believed to be derived from two isiZulu words denoting symptoms that are successfully treated by the plant:
“umKhulane” - illnesses with symptoms like fever & cough; and
“uHlabo” - stabbing chest pain.
The Koi San, Zulu, Basotho and Xhosa have used Pelargonium sidoides for centuries to treat coughs and gastrointestinal problems. In fact, herdsmen named the plant “kalwerbossie” (“calf bush”) as they used the root to treat stomach complaints in their animals too.
A Healer’s Brew
In 1897, Charles Henry Stevens, a young British explorer from Birmingham, travelled to South Africa on the recommendation of his physician, who hoped the climate would cure Stevens’ pulmonary tuberculosis. Once in South Africa, Stevens met Mike Kijiste, a local healer, who prepared him a brewed tea of the roots of a small shrub. Within just three months, Stevens felt fully restored and proceeded to successfully test this herbal brew on several other tuberculosis patients in South Africa. Once he returned home, he was pronounced completely cured of the illness by his doctor. Stevens went on to import the root and develop “Stevens’ Consumption Cure”. He marketed it firstly in England, and then across Europe. It wasn’t until the 1970’s, however, that the plant ingredient of his remedy was identified as Pelargonium sidoides. With the arrival of modern medicines, including antibiotics, Stevens′ remedy and the plant itself were largely forgotten. It was only in the 1990’s that a resurgence of interest occurred when the herb found its way into European laboratories. Schwabe Pharmaceuticals (a German drug manufacturer) invested over €30 million in the development of a highly popular herbal cough syrup called “Umckaloabo” with its Pelargonium sidoides-derived liquid extract EPs 7630. Schwabe’s withdrawal of the patents for this medicine in 2010 has allowed other companies to explore the potential of this natural remedy.
A Plant Powerhouse
Pelargonium sidoides contains a treasure trove of medicinal compounds and has been part of local healing practices for centuries. Extracts of Pelargonium sidoides are used in the prevention and treatment of viral colds, influenza, and respiratory tract infections. The dried rhizomes of P. sidoides contain a host of chemical compounds. Among these are powerful polyphenols, including gallic acids. Polyphenols are a group of plant chemicals which represent potent plant defence and act as powerful antioxidants, attributing to the antibacterial and antiviral effects. The root extracts are rich in coumarins, including a unique phytochemical called “umckalin”, responsible for the immunomodulatory activity. This plant also contains powerful flavonoids, including quercetin, catechin and gallocatechin, providing anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties.
A Natural Inspiration
We are inspired by nature and its problem-solving capabilities when faced with challenges to its survival. Plants have been around for millennia, continually adapting to combat innumerable viruses and bacteria. Our team focuses on how nature solves these problems from a physical, chemical, and medicinal perspective. Our scientific experts follow a process of biomimicry, which involves studying nature’s solutions and then imitating these designs and processes in our product development. In this way, we can transpose these solutions to the human environment. Our innovation within product development can thus be largely attributed to PLANT INTELLIGENCE™. Pelargonium sidoides’ miraculous combination of in-built immune functions, used to deal with the onslaught of pathogens in the harsh African environment, has been one such inspiration. This phenomenal plant also forms a whole system of thickened, underground, bulbous, root-like branches, developed as a special adaptation to enable it to survive grass fires and extended periods of drought. It is interesting to note that the tuberous root of P. sidoides, which represents the plant’s most powerful defence mechanism, is also the part of the plant containing the most potent phytoactive compounds that can be harnessed for human health.
Find out more about our Pelargonium sidoides powder extract for final product applications -