Geraniumroot extract (Pelargonium sidoides) in bronchitis and flu
A Geranium species, Pelargonium (Pelargonium sidoides) is used in South Africa as a natural antibiotic. Its name is ‘Umckaloabo’, and it has been used for centuries by the Zulu, Basuto, Xhosa and Mfenfi tribes. It seems to be especially valued for its action on upper respiratory tract infections, coughs and ear, nose and throat infections as well for its ability to support rapid recovery from bronchitis, colds and flu.
In 1897 Charles Stevens, an Englishman, was treated with this geranium to cure him from tuberculosis. Fully recovered, he took this remedy to Europe and the herb gained in popularity since than.
To date an impressive number of studies of Geraniumroot extract (Pelargonium sidoides) have been published so far. One, from Bulgaria, tested Geranium extract in the laboratory and documented its anti-viral activity. Another study, from Germany, published in the Journal of Family Practice in March 2004, found that Geranium reduced the severity as well as the duration of acute bronchitis. That study compared Geranium against placebo The evaluation was done in 476 men and women. The symptoms of bronchitis were evaluated on a scale used to measure the severity of that disease. After seven days of treatment, the patients who received the extract had better scores on the rating scale than did the patients who took the placebo. The efficacy and safety of the Geranium Pelergonium is sufficiently documented. One of the remaining questions is, would it be of use against the flu?
Geranium against the Flu
Given that flu and bronchitis are both common wintertime problems, a remedy that reliably relieves the symptoms and shortens the length of both illnesses would certainly be welcome. Acute bronchitis most often is caused by viral infections. And the flu is a viral disease. In order to get an idea whether the biological compounds of Geranium are helpful combating flu, the flu was induced in mice and the recovery as well as the mortality of these infected mice was studied.
Geranium protects against flu
In a study, published in 2007, an expirimental influenza infection could be treated with succes using a preparation from a Geanium in mice-models of the flu.  The authors refered to the many papers supporting the medicinal properties of several compounds in plants such as Geranium and Pelargonium:
There is abundant evidence that a great number of aromatic, spicy, medicinal and other plants contain chemical compounds exhibiting antioxidant properties. With this respect a particular interest has been given to plant polyphenols. With this remark the authors start their paper.
These so called polyphenol molecules have an optimal molecular structure for capturing of free radicals and their antioxidant activity is far better than the effect of known antioxidants, such as the vitamins A and E.
The authors refer to older work of their group on Geranium as an anti-flu agent:
Earlier investigations have proved that a semi-standardized polyphenol extract, obtained from the medicinal plant Geranium sanguineum L., designated as polyphenolic complex (PC), exhibited a pronounced anti-influenza virus effect in cell cultures and protected mice from mortality in the experimental influenza virus infection (Serkedjieva and Manolova, 1992).
The virus-inhibitory activity of the plant extract was related to the presence of large quantities of polyphenol compounds. Phytochemical analysis of PC showed that it contained tannins (11.02%) flavonoids (0.14%), catechins and proanthocyanidines (2.1 mg/kg) (Ivancheva et al., 1992, 1996).
The study descibed here investigated the in vitro antioxidant and radical scavenging effects of Geranium and its active compounds by applying in so called vitro assays as well as in vivo. Furthermore the study was aimed to provide evidence for the possible relation between the antiviral and antioxidant capacities of Geranium.
The results showed a clear anti-viral effect in the living mice, even greater then the anti-viral properties in vitro (in simpel biological test systems). The polyphenols administered intranasally reduced mortality and prolonged the survival time of infected mice. The results were described as follows:
The investigations on the selectivity and specificity of the virus-inhibitory effect in vitro showed that it was fairly modest (Serkedjieva and Hay, 1998) and this was in contrast with its significant protective effect in vivo.
Thus the therapeutic effect of PC remained to be explained. We presumed that the protection may possibly be attributed to a combination of more than one biological activities – selective antiviral action, non-selective immunomodulating activity and some non-specific biological and pharmacological interactions, known for natural polyphenols, such as protein-binding, radical-scavenging and antioxidant activities.
Multiple biological actions of Geranium
The authors followed up, stating that:
In fact we demonstrated in model systems that the extract possessed multiple biological and pharmacological activities.
In addition to inhibiting the reproduction of influenza viruses type A and B in vitro and in ovo and protecting mice from mortality in the experimental influenza A virus infection, the preparation suppressed the growth of a series of pathogenic bacteria and fungi (Ivancheva et al., 1992), demonstrated a stimulating effect in vitro on the phagocytic activity of murine blood polymorphous nuclear leucocytes (PMNs) and peritoneal macrophages, showed a beneficial effect on the spontaneous NO production by the macrophages (Toshkova et al., 2004), inhibited the proteolytic activity of trypsin (Antonova-Nikolova et al., 2004).
In normal language, Geranium polyphenols (the biological active molecules):
- slowed down the growth of the influenza virus,
- protected living mice from dying,
- suppressed the growth of different bad germs, such as bacteria and moulds,
- stimulated the white blood cells to gobble up the bacteria, and
- activated the white blood cells to be vigilant and attack virusses immediatly.
 Serkedjieva J, Toshkova R, Antonova-Nikolova S, Stefanova T, Teodosieva A, Ivanova I. | Effect of a plant polyphenol-rich extract on the lung protease activities of influenza-virus-infected mice. | Antivir Chem Chemother. | 2007;18(2):75-82.