Common names: Kalwerbossie, Rabassamin , Umckaloabo
This gem of a plant is one we have grown in our gardens for more than a decade. It is native to several locations in the South African Republic: throughout the Eastern Cape, Lesotho, Free State and southern and south-western Gauteng. Growing in rocky mountainous areas to the sea shore in Lesotho, it can withstand severe drought, snow, even grass fires which occur frequently in parts of its range. This is due in great part to the fact that they form a system of thickened underground root-like branches. The plants form rosettes of smallish scalloped grey green leaves which are lightly aromatic. An abundance of small flowers appear from May-November,(sometimes year-round), fragrant and of a deep magenta almost black color, which also attract hummingbirds in our area.
For hundreds of years the Zulu, Basuto, Xhosa and Mfengi cultures have used Pelargonium sidoides as a curative for coughs, upper respiratory tract irritations and gastrointestinal concerns. The name Umckaloabo is most commonly known and originates from the Zulu language meaning “heavy cough”. This is perhaps one of the most underrated medicinal plants suitable for year round cultivation in California. Although grown for years as a landscape plant and fairly available in the trade, its medicinal values are little known outside of the herbalist’s realm. The Englishman Charles Stevens utilized P. sidoides for the successful treatment of tuberculosis in the early 1920’s. Extracts of the root have been available in German pharmacies since 1983 without prescription and have found widespread usage against infections of the sinus, throat and respiratory tract in Europe and more recently in the U.S. Additionally Pelargonium sidoides has been successfully used for the treatment of respiratory infections like bronchitis, sinusitis, and pneumonia, tonsillitis and rhinopharyngitis, as an alternative to antibiotics, for acute and chronic ear, nose and throat infections, for symptoms associated with colds and flu, and as an analgesic (absence of pain). Generally a tincture is prepared from the older, deep red, swollen tubers. Fortunately this easy to grow beauty can be harvested for its benefits without the destruction of the plant and will provide for years to come! Whether grown in the ground or in pots, a must for your apothecary garden or simply to enjoy for its beauty.
Disclaimer: We cannot recommend self-medication with plants. We offer medicinal information on our plants for educational purposes based on their historical as well as personal and currently researched uses. Please seek the help of a health professional for medical problems.