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By: MTA Bulk Herbs
Lobelia’s official name is lobelia inflata but it is also known as Indian tobacco. It was a very common herb prescribed by early North American doctors. Its main use was in healing respiratory ailments such as asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, and coughs. The plant stem, which has only a few branches, is smooth on top while the lower part is rough and hairy. The lower leaves, about two inches in length, have stalks, while the upper, smaller ones don’t. The leaves are pale green or yellow and have a sharp taste and an uninviting odor. The sparse flowers are pale violet-blue on the outside and pale yellow on the inside.
Lobelia is made up of chelidonic acid, pungent volatile oil (lobelianin), various alkaloids, a bitter glycoside (lobelacrin), a resin, fats, and gum. The alkaloid lobeline is its most important ingredient. Others include lobelanine, lobelidine, lobelanidine, nor-lobelaine, nor-lobelanidine, and isolobenine, and it also contains fourteen pyridine alkaloids. Lobeline is a main ingredient of most all quit smoking treatments. This is because it works much like nicotine in its effect on the central nervous system without being addictive. The herb is used to treat spastic colon and muscle problems because of its relaxant qualities. Lobeline also dilates the bronchioles which helps breathing.
Lobelia’s main use is in treating respiratory problems like bronchitis and pneumonia. It stimulates the adrenal glands to release the hormone epinephrine, which causes the airways to relax. Lobelia is a strong relaxant and clears obstructions. It relaxes the stomach (a common problem in asthmatic children) as it dilates the bronchial passages. In fact, many people have used it to stop asthma attacks in place of inhalants. Other practical uses of lobelia include these. Swallow it to expel mucus, remove congestion from the stomach, and to encourage the flow of oxygen rich blood. Rub lobelia tincture or extract on the shoulders of a restless child to help him go to sleep or on the gums of a teething baby. A poultice of lobelia gets rid of ringworm, bruises, and insect bites. It works similar to veratrum and aconite as a seditive. Catnip and lobelia enemas are great for treating mumps, especially in males. Ellingwood recommended lobelia for the following pathologies: "spasmodic asthma, whooping cough, spasmodic croup, membranous croup, infantile convulsions, puerperal eclampsia, epilepsy, tetanus, hysterical paraxysms, hysterical convulsions, diphtheria, tonsillitis, pneumonia," among others. Add to the list a treatment for laryngitis in children and for treating barking coughs. Externally, lobelia is available in ointments, lotions, suppositories, and plasters. Internally, purchase a bulk herb, a liquid extract form, or tinctures. If you can stand the bad taste, you can make a tea by mixing ¼ to ½ teaspoon of the dried herb with eight ounces of water, then letting it steep for 30 to 40 minutes. Two ounces of this four times a day is sufficient. The tincture dose is .6 to 2 ml each day. These figures are based on a 150 pound adult. Decrease the quantity proportionately by weight for a child. Lobelia is considered a potentially toxic herb. Special care is advised when using it. Signs of lobelia poisoning may include weakness, heartburn, weak pulse, difficulty breathing, and collapse. People with high blood pressure, heart disease, tobacco sensitivity, paralysis, and seizure disorder should not take lobelia. Lobelia is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Lobelia can be an aggressive emetic, even in relatively small doses if the system is highly toxic. The resulting nausea and vomiting, though unpleasant, will be beneficial to the patient.