Lobelia - growing as high as one to two feet, this annual or biennial hair-covered herb has an angled, branched stem and yellowish or light green leaves. Lobelia bears pale violet-blue spiky flowers and oval fruit with small brown seeds.
American Indians first used lobelia, smoking its leaves (hence its common name) to relieve asthma and other lung ailments. The American herbalist Samuel Thomson, who thought the herb was a cure-all, brought it into prominence early in the 19th century. He continued to advocate its use even after he was charged with poisoning one of his patients with it. Thomson and his followers administered Indian tobacco not only as a remedy for respiratory disorders but also for the relief of convulsions, to aid childbirth, and as an emetic.
Scientific analysis shows that Lobelia inflata contains an alkaloid, lobeline, and other substances thought to relax muscles: these account for its use in early American medicine.
In recent years lobelia gained popularity as a euphoriant among members of the counterculture who smoked it or brewed it into tea. For whatever intended use, the plant should be avoided by laymen; overdoses can result in paralysis, coma, and even death.
Flower, seed, root.
Carl von Linne, the Swedish botanist known as Linnaeus, the father of modern botany, named this plant family after the Flemish botanist and private physician to King James I, Matthias de Lobel. Native Americans employed it ceremonially as they did tobacco to ward off storms, place on graves, or use in rain dances. Other groups made lobelia part of their love potions or used it as an antidote to such charms. Some burned lobelia to smoke away gnats.
Native Americans treated dozens of ailments with lobelia, ranging from fevers and venereal diseases to earaches and stiff necks. American herbalist Samuel Thomson, whom most Westerners credit with discovering the medicinal uses of lobelia, created a controversial healing system centered around it, which he prescribed to induce vomiting. Containing relatively high levels of manganese, vitamin A, and vitamin C, lobelia is currently employed as a blood cleanser and used as a respiratory stimulant to treat bronchial and spasmodic asthma and chronic bronchitis. Lobeline, its principal alkaloid, stimulates deeper breathing. Applied externally, lobelia works as a muscle relaxant to treat sprains and certain back problems.
Native American remedy - Lobelia was a traditional Native American remedy and its use was later championed by the American herbalist Samuel Thomson (1769-1843), who made the herb the mainstay of his controversial therapeutic system. He mainly used lobelia to induce vomiting.
Respiratory problems - A powerful antispasmodic and respiratory stimulant, lobelia is valuable for asthma, especially bronchial asthma, and chronic bronchitis. Lobelia relaxes the muscles of the smaller bronchial tubes, thus opening the airways, stimulating breathing, and promoting the coughing up of phlegm. In the Anglo-American herbal tradition, lobelia has always been combined with cayenne, its hot stimulant action helping to push blood into areas that lobelia has relaxed.
Relaxant - Lobelia is often most effective when the infusion or diluted tincture is applied externally. It relaxes muscles, particularly smooth muscle, which makes it useful for sprains, and back problems where muscle tension is a key factor. Combined with cayenne, lobelia has been used as a chest and sinus rub.Tobacco - addiction Due to its chemical similarity to nicotine, lobelia is employed by herbalists to help patients give up smoking.
Other medical uses - Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease(COPD).