Pelargonium reniforme Effective in Treating Bronchitis, a South African plant

COMMON NAMES: Kidney-leaved Crane's-bill GENUS: Pelargonium
SPECIES: Pelargonium reniforme
CLASS: Monadelphia
ORDER: Heptandria

The Pelargonium reniforme is a medicinal plant known to generations of Khoi/San descendants and Xhosa traditional healers for its health-giving properties in curing stomach ailments, dysentery, blood in stools and the like. This species of pelargonium is indigenous to the Eastern Cape and grows wild, sending out long bulbous roots deep into the ground. The medicinally active ingredients are found in the bitter tasting root of the plant. . Also known as 'Umckaloabo', it is traditionally used for a range of therapeutic functions and is well known for its beneficial effect on liver functioning and as a digestive tonic. This species of pelargonium is indigenous to the Eastern Cape of South Africa and grows wild, sending out long bulbous roots deep into the ground. The medicinally active ingredients are found in the bitter tasting root of the plant.

The range of natural ellagitannins is extended by identification of five new metabolites with 1C4 glucose core, designated as pelargoniins A-D and isocorilagin, and the new phyllanthusiin E methyl ester. They are accompanied in the aerial parts of Pelargonium reniforme by two known structurally related metabolites, corilagin and phyllanthusiin C, two phenolcarboxylic acids, brevifolincarboxylic acid and phyllanthusiin E, the gallotannin 1-O-galloyl-beta-D-glucopyranose, and the ellagitannins strictinin and isostrictinin having a 4C1-glucose core. The structures of these compounds were established from spectroscopic studies. This is the first example of the co-occurrence of ellagitannins with 4C1 and 1C4 glucopyranose core demonstrated for a member of the Geraniaceae (Phytochemistry. 2000 Aug;54(7):701-8.).

Now a drug is sold in Germany named "Umckaloabo" under patent name:

Nach Europa kam diese Pflanze schon 1897, nachdem ein Engländer namens Charles Henry Stevens an Lungentuberkulose (Tbc) erkrankte und von einem Zulu-Medizinmann mit dem Wurzelextrakt dieser Pflanze behandelt und geheilt wurde. Stevens führte das Wurzelpulver zur Behandlung der Tbc in England ein und ganz Europa folgte seinem Beispiel.
UMCKALOABO® ist das moderne Therapiekonzept: 3fach wirksam - natürlich pflanzlich. Es hemmt die Bakterienvermehrung, verstärkt die Virenabwehr und löst zähen Schleim. UMCKALOABO® ist die ideale Therapie für die ganze Familie, da es von Kindern und Erwachsenen gleichermaßen gut vertragen wird. Umckaloabo-Tropfen und deren Wirkstoff Pelargonie wirken bakterientötend. Deswegen ist Umckaloabo sehr beliebt zur Erhöhung der körpereigenen Abwehrkräfte im Hals-Nasen-Ohren-Bereich.
Umckaloabo bedeutet in der Zulu-Sprache "schwerer Husten". Das Medikament hilft aber nicht nur bei Husten, sondern bei allen Atemwegs- und Hals-Nasen-Ohreninfektionen. Das Bemerkenswerte an dieser Arznei ist die dreifache Heilwirkung: 1.) Antibakterielle Wirkung 2.) Antivirale Wirkung 3.) Schleimlösende Wirkung Umckaloabo

Unsustainable and Indiscriminate Removal of Indigenous Plants and the Export of Traditional Knowledge

Dr Janice Limson describes in Science in Africa (The Rape of the Pelargoniums ), June, 2002:

As the sun beats down on Africa, a woman in a veld in the Eastern Cape of South Africa is hunched over her task - uprooting a species of flowering plant, the Pelargonium reniforme. With a spade she digs right down to the roots, until she has unearthed the whole tuber which she breaks off, dumping the head and adding the tuber to the rest in a bag she carries with her.

She and her friends working quietly in a row alongside know that tonight they will be eating - a man will be paying her between ZAR3 and ZAR15 per kilogram for the roots they collect. As the story goes, the local man transports truckloads of the roots to agents in Hermanus in the Western Cape from where they are exported to Europe. According to nature conservation official Quintus Hahndiek a conservative estimate is that at least twenty tons of the root have vanished from the Eastern Cape.

There are two issues at stake - the unsustainable and indiscriminate removal of indigenous plants and the export of traditional knowledge. This mass removal of these plants will only enrich a few to the detriment of sustainability for future generations of Africans. Unlike species such as cycads, which are strictly controlled, the pelargoniums are not endangered (yet) and not protected under any regulations.

To abuse a pun: nature conservation officials find their hands effectively tied with red tape - hands that should be out there catching plant poachers. According to Eastern Cape Nature Conservation officials legislation to protect a range of species including the pelargoniums have been 6 years in the pipeline and are still doing time on someone's desk waiting for the promulgation of the new environmental bill. In the meantime, plant poachers and bio-prospectors have free reign. In a year or two when strong legislation comes into effect to protect indigenous plants - it may be way too late.

Africa is home to a veritable wealth of plant species, many of which contain active ingredients with as yet untold social and economic benefits for humankind. Traditional knowledge holds the secret and key to many of the potentially economically viable species of health-giving plants. The case with the pelargoniums is a harbinger of things to come. Africa must harness its biodiversity for Africa. We have the scientists, the tools and the know-how. Laws should be in place to protect both indigenous knowledge and indigenous plants - but they are not.

According to Hahndiek the pelargoniums are not at any risk now of becoming extinct, but in a worst case scenario if this were to continue, land and insects would be paying the price with loss of ground cover, endangerment of the species and ripple effects to insects, such as pollinators feeding from the plant.

But there are many other species out there that have caught the attention of bioprospectors such as the threatened African potato. According to Hahndiek nature conservation faces a similar threat from theover-collection of rare and endangered species by traditional healers. The issue says Hahndiek is that of sustainability. The time has come and gone for us to stop paying lip service to the protection of Africa's biodiversity and its traditional knowledge.

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