Common Name: Lobelia, Indian Tobacco

Botanical NameLobelia inflata

Family:  Campanulaceae (Bluebell family)

Description:  Slightly hairy stems may be simple or branched and have several tiny lavender or blue-violet flowers in terminal, leafy, elongated clusters.  Flowers ¼” long, 2-lipped, lower lip bearded.  After flowering, calyx surrounding fruit becomes distinctly inflated and balloon-like, up to 1/3” across.  Leaves 1 – 2 ½” long, thin, light green, alternate, ovate, wavy-toothed.  Fruit is a ribbed capsule enclosed in swollen calyx.  Height 1 – 3’.

Habitat and Range:  Found in fields, open woods, and roadsides.  It ranges from across southern Canada; south to Georgia; west to Arkansas and eastern Kansas.

Parts Used:  Aerial parts

Collection:  Collect the whole plant above ground at the end of flowering, between August and September.  The seed pods should be collected as well.

Historical Notes:  American Indians used Lobelia as a cure for syphilis, to expel intestinal worms, and as a diaphoretic.

Flower Essence:  To help heal shame-based issues, sexual/moral/psychological:  denigration, sexual molestation, family-of-origin issues regarding self-worth, empowerment.  Brings appreciation of self and lessons learned.

Constituents:  Alkaloids including lobeline, lobelidine, lobelanine, isolobelanine; bitter glycosides; bloatile oil; resin; gum.

Actions:  Respiratory stimulant, anti-asthmatic, ant-spasmodic, expectorant, emetic, relaxant.

Taste:  Bitter

Tissue State:  Wind / Chill / Constriction

Organ Affinities:  Respiratory system, digestive system, nerves.

Applications and Indications:  One of the most useful systemic relaxants available to us.  Has a general depressant action on the central and autonomic nervous system and on nervo-muscular action.  Its primary, specific use is in bronchitic asthma and bronchitis.  Action of the alkaloids:  Lobeline is a powerful respiratory stimulant, while isolobinine is an emetic and respiratory relaxant, which will stimulate catarrhal secretion and expectoration while relaxing the muscles of the respiratory system.  It is used for chronic bronchitis and spasmodic asthma, as well as to discourage the tobacco habit.

Preparations and Dosage:  Infusion:  Pour one cup boiling water over ¼ to ½ tsp. dried leaves; infuse 10 – 15 minutes.  Drink 3x/day.  Tincture:  ½ – 1 ml, 3x/day.

Contraindications and Side Effects:  Large doses are toxic and can cause a variety of problems, including excessive vomiting and, in large enough quantity, could be fatal.


National Audubon Society, Inc.  The Audubon Society, Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, Easter Region, 2nd Printing, New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1979

Rose, Jeanne.  Herbs & Things, San Francisco, CA:  Last Gasp of San Francisco, 1972, 2001

Hoffmann, David.  The Herbal Handbook, A User’s Guide to Medicinal Herbalism, Rochester, Vermont:  Healing Arts Press, 1987, 1988

Sturdivant, Lee and Tim Blakley.  Medicinal Herbs in the Garden, Field and Marketplace, Friday Harbor, WA:  San Juan Naturals, 1999

Ody, Penelope.  The Complete Medicinal Herbal, New York, NY:  Dorling Kindersley, Inc., 1993

Wood, Matthew.  The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism, Berkeley, CA:  North Atlantic Books, 2004


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s