Umckaloabo is a herbal extract derived from the plant Pelargonium sidoides (P. sidoides) and is available in both tablet and liquid forms. The extract is used for the treatment of acute respiratory tract infections (ARIs) where antibiotic use is unnecessary. In the light of inappropriate antibiotic use and increasing drug resistance rates worldwide, the need for an alternative, effective remedy for these medical conditions is crucial. On the other hand, there are concerns as to the safety of Umckaloabo.
We reviewed 10 randomized clinical trials of which eight were of sufficient quality for inclusion into the analyses. Three trials dealt with acute bronchitis in adults and showed inconsistent but overall positive results for resolution of symptoms (all symptoms, cough and sputum production). For acute bronchitis in children, there were also three studies showing an inconsistent but overall positive combined effect. The available data indicate that the tablet form may be less effective compared to the alcoholic extract. However, the number of trials is not sufficient to prove this. One study each was available for the treatment of acute sinusitis and the common cold in adults. Both showed that the drug was effective in resolving all symptoms including headaches and nasal discharge when taken for an extended time period. Adverse events were more common with P. sidoides, but none were severe.
Overall we considered the quality of the evidence low or very low for all major outcomes as there were few studies per disease entity, and all were from the same investigator (the manufacturer) and performed in the same region (Ukraine and Russia). Thus, in summary, there is limited evidence for the effectiveness of P. sidoides in the treatment of ARIs. The evidence is up to date as of April 2013.