Lobelia (Lobelia Inflata) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Lobelia (Lobelia Inflata) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Lobelia (Lobelia Inflata) Overview

Lobelia (Lobelia Inflata) other names: Asthma Weed, Bladderpod, Emetic Herb, Gagroot, Herbe à Asthme, Indian Tobacco, Lobelia inflata, Lobélie, Lobélie Brûlante, Lobélie Enflée, Lobélie Gonflée, Pukeweed, Tabac Indien, Vomit Wort, Wild Tobacco.

The herb known as the lobelia - botanical name, lobelia inflata - can reach from one to two feet in height and is commonly called Indian tobacco. The herb grows as an annual or as a biennial. Lobelia is characterized by being covered by hair, bearing distinct angled and branched stem with yellowish or light green colored leaves. When in season, the plant will bear pale violet blue colored spiky flowers and oval shaped fruit with small brown seeds within.

Lobelia (Lobelia Inflata) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Lobelia (Lobelia Inflata) flower

The native peoples in the American continent were the first to use the lobelia, it was traditionally smoked - hence its common name, Indian tobacco - mainly to bring relief from the symptoms of asthma and various disorders of the lung. 

On chemical analysis, an alkaloid, named lobeline, and other substances believed to relax muscles have been isolated from extracts of the lobelia. Most of these chemical compounds found in the herb can account for its traditional uses in the traditional herbal medicine of Native Americans.

The lobelia is an indigenous North American plant species. In the eastern United States, the lobelia is frequently found growing along the roadsides; the plant is also seen in Canada, and in the Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula aside from the US.

The habitats preferred by the herb include fallow lands as well as dry grasslands; lobelia is often seen growing on clearings, in poor pastureland, and inhabiting the edges of forests and growing as a weed around ditches or mashes.

The lobelia plant can successfully grow at sites with good exposure to sunlight as well as at site with light shade, such as the under storey of woodlands. The optimal growth of lobelia is seen on heavy clay soils. The plant prefers a slight acidity in the soil and grows best on such soil types. The lobelia can grow as a biennial but usually grows as an annual. The lobelia is cultivated commercially as a medicinal plant in some places.

The lobelia is normally propagated using the stocked seeds. The seeds are normally sown in the spring or autumn at the permanent sites on prepared seed beds. It normally takes two weeks for the seeds to germinate at a site.

The lobelia has gained popularity as a herbal remedy in recent years, mainly being used as an euphoriant herb among members of the counterculture in cities - these new age experimenters smoke it or brewed it into a herbal tea. It is advisable to avoid using this plant for whatever purpose, an overdose of the herb can induce paralysis resulting in coma, and even result in the death of the person.

Lobelia (Lobelia Inflata) Health Benefits

Lobelia is used for breathing problems including asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, and shortness of breath (apnea) in newborn infants. Some people take lobelia as a sedative to help them relax. Other people use it to increase sweating.

Lobelia is applied to the skin for muscle pain, joint lumps associated with rheumatoid arthritis (rheumatic nodules), bruises, sprains, insect bites, poison ivy, and ringworm.

The lobelia was used extensively by Native American peoples in their ceremonies in the same way as they used tobacco - the belief was that the smoking of the herb could ward off storms, it was also placed on graves, and employed in the rain dances. Native Americans also used the lobelia to prepare love potions and employed the herb as an antidote to such love charms. The lobelia also had practical uses; it was often burnt to smoke away gnats from a place.

The lobelia was used in treating dozens of ailments by native American peoples, these disorders ranged from all kinds of fevers to different venereal diseases, as well as stiff necks and earaches. 

Lobelia (Lobelia Inflata) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Lobelia (Lobelia Inflata) image

The lobelia possesses relatively high amounts of the essential nutrients such as manganese, as well as the vitamin A, and the vitamin C. These days, herbalist use the lobelia as a blood cleansing remedy as well as a respiratory stimulant for the treatment of bronchial and spasmodic asthma as well as to deal with chronic cases of bronchitis in patients. The main constituent in lobelia is the alkaloid called lobeline; this compound stimulates deeper breathing and increases rates of respiration in the body of a person. The lobelia acts as a relaxant on tense muscles when it is applied externally; it is useful in the treatment of chronic sprains and certain types of problems affecting the spinal region.

Lobelia is a valuable remedy for the treatment of asthma patients as it is a strong anti-spasmodic and respiratory stimulant. The herb is particularly beneficial in the treatment of bronchial asthma, as well as in dealing with chronic bronchitis in affected patients. The herbal remedy stimulates breathing and relaxes the muscles working the smaller bronchial tubes; this effectively opens up the airways and promotes the coughing up of accumulated phlegm. 

In the herbal lore and in Anglo-American herbal tradition, the lobelia has almost always been used in a combination with the cayenne herb - the hot stimulant effect of this herb helps in inducing blood flow into areas of the body that have been relaxed as a result of the action of lobelia.

As a topical remedy, the lobelia is at its most effective when the infusion or diluted tincture is applied on the skin. The herbal remedy helps to relax flagging muscles, especially smooth muscles in the body; this property of the herb makes it useful for the treatment of various sprains, as well as back problems especially when muscle tension is a key causative factor in the disorder. The lobelia remedy has also been used as a chest and sinus rub when combined with cayenne, this herbal remedy is very effective in dealing with such problems.

The treatment of tobacco addiction, as the lobeline in lobelia is chemically similar to nicotine in tobacco, the lobelia is often used by herbalists to help their patients give up smoking permanently. Most research suggests that taking lobeline, a chemical found in lobelia, does not help people quit smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco.

Lobelia (Lobelia Inflata) Side effects

Lobelia is considered likely unsafe for most people when taken by mouth. Side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cough, dizziness, tremors, and more serious effects.

Overdose may cause many serious toxic effects including sweating, convulsions, fast heartbeat, very low blood pressure, collapse, coma, and possibly death. Taking 0.6-1 gram of the leaf is said to be toxic, and 4 grams may be fatal.

Not enough is known about the safety of applying lobelia to the skin.

Lobelia (Lobelia Inflata) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Lobelia (Lobelia Inflata) plant

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It’s likely unsafe for anyone to take lobelia by mouth. The particular concern during pregnancy is that it can cause serious vomiting. Don’t take lobelia if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Stomach or intestinal problems including ulcers, Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, infections, and others: Lobelia can irritate the GI tract.

Heart disease: Lobelia seems to affect the heart. Larger doses cause more of an effect.