What is Umckaloabo?

Sara Schmidt

A home herbal remedy from South Africa, umckaloabo is a plant that is often used in over-the-counter cold and flu medicines. A syrup made from it can be used for sore throat, cough, and other ailments. The plant is also used for general respiratory health.

Umckaloabo leaves.
Umckaloabo leaves.

Acute bronchitis, upper respiratory tract infections, the common cold, and tonsillopharyngitis may all be treated by umckaloabo. Known more commonly as Pelargonium sidoides or umcka, it may also be a viable remedy for acute rhinosinusitus. An antibacterial agent, the plant impedes bacteria from adhering to the mucus membranes.

Umckaloabo can be used to help ease sore throats.
Umckaloabo can be used to help ease sore throats.

Umckaloabo is available as a syrup as well as a cough drop or tablet for most of these uses. Its primary purpose when used as a home herbal remedy is to shorten the period of sickness, as well as to relieve the affected person's symptoms. The remedy also helps break up mucus, fights bacteria, and works as an antiviral agent.

Umckaloabo syrup is often used to soothe coughs and sore throats.
Umckaloabo syrup is often used to soothe coughs and sore throats.

Known to stimulate the immune system, pelargonium sidoides also helps prevent the spread and growth of infection. Some people use the herbal remedy as an alternative to traditional antibiotics for this reason. Tuberculosis has also been successfully treated by the plant. A mainstream treatment in South Africa and surrounding areas, it is also used in Germany, England, and other countries.

Umckaloabo can be used to treat acute bronchitis.
Umckaloabo can be used to treat acute bronchitis.

Many ingredients present within the plant account for its success in treating illnesses. Gallic acid, gallic cid methyl ester, and the flavanoids contained within the medicine provide it with its healing properties. Calcium and silica are also found within umckaloabo.

Children under the age of one should not use this treatment. If symptoms do not improve after using it for a few days, a more serious condition may exist. If this occurs, a physician should be consulted. Though umcka is generally considered a safe home herbal remedy, if the patient is experiencing kidney, liver, or bleeding problems, he or she should not take the herb. People taking warfarin and women who are pregnant or nursing should also refrain from using the product.

Belonging to the geranium family, umckaloabo has long, crowded, heart-shaped leaves that are stalked, velvety, and lightly scented. Its petals are a dark red-purple, almost black, color and are present nearly year-round. The plant has an intricate grouping of thick, root-like branches underground. This allows the plant to withstand the frequent grass fires in its habitat. The herbal remedies provided by the plant are extracted from this root system.

Using a plastic spoon is a good way to administer liquid medicine to small children.
Using a plastic spoon is a good way to administer liquid medicine to small children.

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Discussion Comments


@ddljohn-- If you watch Dr. Oz on TV, he mentioned this in one of his programs and talked about its benefits.

I purchased umckaloabo online after that and used it the last time I got a cold. It doesn't work as fast as over-the-counter cold medications, but it definitely helps. I think umckaloabo is a great alternative to antibiotics.

Antibiotics are terrible because they strengthen viruses and bacteria while weakening our immune system. As a society, we need to stop reaching for antibiotics every time we're sick and instead use natural remedies like umckaloabo that strengthen our immune system.


@ddljohn-- No. People in Africa have been using this plant to treat illnesses for a very long time. It was discovered by the West at the end of the 1800s and taken to Europe.

It's not well known in the United States but it's very popular in European countries, especially Germany. When I was in Germany, they had umkaloabo syrup at all pharmacies and they were selling really fast during the winter months.

You will probably have to get this from an online store. Maybe some health stores that sell European products might have it.


Has this herb been discovered more recently?

I'm familiar with a lot of herbal remedies but I have never heard of umckaloabo before. I've never seen it at pharmacies either. Where is this sold?


I tried umckaloabo out of desperation. I could not get rid of my cough, and I could not afford to see a doctor.

I took the syrup form. It came in cherry, lemon, and peppermint, but I associated cherry flavor with all the horrible colds and flu I suffered as a child, so I got the peppermint flavor. It actually did not taste all that bad.

Within an hour of taking the syrup, I noticed my cough had subsided a bit. By the following day, I had improved a lot. I will be taking umckaloabo from now on to speed up my recovery.


I took umckaloabo when I had a stubborn cough and way too much mucus. It seemed to help.

I read on the package that very few bad effects have been reported. A skin rash that itches and irritation of the gastrointestinal tract had been reported. Extreme adverse effects included swelling under the skin, airway tightening, trouble breathing, fast heartbeat, diarrhea, and circulatory failure. However, since I am not one of the at-risk people who should not take umckaloabo, I figured I should be safe.

I did have a bit of trouble breathing, but I’m guessing this is because I was busy hacking up the mucus. I think that I recovered more quickly because I took this.

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