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lobelia inflata

Lobelia Inflata/ Indian Tobacco

This year, 500,000 people will die from cancer. Learn about an herb, Lobelia Inflata also known as Indian Tobacco, that can help people stop smoking - after the "patch", "gums" and all willpower have failed. Lobelia is one of the great lifesavers, and it can cause people who have tried and failed, and failed again, to quit smoking for good.

* From Merriam Webster's Medical Dictionary: lobeline (noun) : a crystalline alkaloid C22H27NO2 that is obtained from Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata) and is used chiefly as a respiratory stimulant and as a smoking deterrent.

* Doctor Terry Willard, a leading North American clinical herb specialist, author of 6 books on the subject of herbs and director of the Wild Rose College of Natural Healing in Calgary, Alberta said in an interview with the Ottawa Sun Newspaper, "expect a 40% success rate" with the Butt it Out™ capsules.

* To combat the effects of nicotine withdrawal, Michael Murray, N.D., of Bastyr College recommends lobelia due to its similar actions to nicotine but with a longer duration of action. He recommends lobelia as a suitable alternative to nicotine chewing gum or the nicotine patch.

Lobelia Inflata

© David L. Hoffmann B.Sc. (Hons), M.N.I.M.H.

Lobelia inflata


Common name: Pukeweed, Indian tobacco.

Habitat: Eastern USA, cultivated elsewhere.

Part used: Aerial parts.

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


Piperidine alkaloids, mainly lobeline, withlobelanidine, lobelanine, and minor amounts of norlobelanine(=isolobelanine), lelobanidine, lovinine, isolobinine, lobinanidine andothers

Chelidonic acid

Actions: Anti-asthmatic, anti-spasmodic, expectorant, emetic, nervine.

Indications: Lobelia is one of the most useful systemic relaxants available to us. It has a general depressant action on the central and autonomic nervous system and on neuro-muscular action. It may be used in many conditions in combination with other herbs to further their effectiveness if relaxation is needed. Its primary specific use is in bronchitic asthma and bronchitis. An analysis of the action of the alkaloids present reveal apparently paradoxical effects. Lobeline is a powerful respiratory stimulant, whilst isolobelanine is an emetic and respiratory relaxant, which will stimulate catarrhal secretion and expectoration whilst relaxing the muscles of the respiratory system. The overall action is a truly holistic combination of stimulation and relaxation!

Priest & Priest tell us that it is a "general systemic relaxant with diffusive stimulation - best where arterial action is strong. Equalizes circulation and relieves vascular tension. Vaso-motor stimulant -increases the activity of vegetative processes. Influences glandular system and respiratory tubuli. Contra-indicated in nervous prostration, shock and paralysis. Of brief continuance in asthenic conditions." They give the following specific indications: Dislocations, trauma and hernias. Spasmodic and membranous coup, pertussis, bronchial asthma, bronchitis and pleurisy. Hepatitis, jaundice, nausea and hepatic congestion. High blood pressure, intestinal obstruction and neurasthenia.

Ellingwood considered it specific for "irritable, spasmodic and oppressed breathing, and in respiratory from exalted nerve force and nerve irritation. It is contra-indicated in general relaxation and in dyspnoea from enlarged or fatty heart, or from hydropericardium, or enfeebled heart, with valvular incompetence. It is specific in threatened spasm with exalted nerve action - a high degree of nerve tension with great restlessness and excitability, flushed face and contracted pupils. It is a prompt emetic in full doses." The high regard that the eclectics held Lobelia in is reflected by his recommendation for the following pathologies: spasmodic asthma, whooping cough, spasmodic croup, membranous croup, infantile convulsions, puerperal eclampsia, epilepsy, tetanus, hysterical paroxysms, hysterical convulsions, rigid os uteri, diptheria, tonsillitis, pneumonia.

For a more detailed discussion of this important plant please refer to pg. 235- pg. 242 of Ellingwood's American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy, and pg. 1199 - 1205 of King's American Dispensatory.

Combinations: It will combine well with Cayenne, Grindelia, Pill-bearing Spurge, Sundew and Ephedra in the treatment of asthma.

Preparation and dosage: Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto l/4 to l/2 teaspoonful of the dried leaves and let infuse for l0-l5 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day. Tincture: take l/2 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Common name: Indian tobacco

Botanical name: Lobelia inflata

Parts used and where grown: Lobelia grows throughout North America. The leaves are primarily used in herbal medicine.

Health Concerns

Lobelia has been used in connection with the following conditions:Asthma
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Smoking cessation

Traditional Use

Eclectic physicians, early North American doctors who used herbs as their primary medicine, considered lobelia to be one of the most important medicinal plants.1 It was used by Eclectics to treat coughs and spasms in the lungs from varying causes, as well as spasms elsewhere in the body, including the intestines and ureters (passages from the kidney to the bladder).2 Lobelia was also considered a useful pain reliever and in higher amounts was used to induce vomiting in people who had been poisoned.

Active Constituents

The alkaloid lobeline is responsible for most of lobelia's actions. Lobeline has been used as a traditional herbal approach to help people stop smoking.


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