Indian Tobacco, Lobelia

Image of Indian Tobacco, Lobelia retrieved from Herbal Fire on June 15, 2013.

The species of Lobelia which is used medicinally belongs to the flora of northeast America, where it is also cultivated. The indians used it as a medicinal herb, and because of it's acrid taste it was called Indian tobacco. The Indians used decoctions of the root to treat syphilis and smoked the leaves to cure asthmatic complaints. Other species of Lobelia grow in northern Europe. These are not used medicinally. The angular, roughly hairy stem of this annual is about 50cm high green or with a tinge of violet. The leaves are 4-7 cm long and a somewhat pale green; they are narrow, lance-shaped and pointed, short-stemmed and have irregularly toothed margins. The tips of the teeth bear small whitish warts (water stomata). The leaf is hairy, particularly along the veins. The sparse, pale blue flowers are 2-lipped and grow in a terminal spike. The seed capsule inflated and contains numerous small seeds. The leaves have an acrid, burning taste. Lobelia contains a number of interesting alkaloids as active principles. These include lobeline, which has an action like that of nicotine.

Excerpt from page 78 of Medicines From the Earth edited by William A.R. Thomson, M.D.

Indian Tobacco, Lobelia, herb, plant, flower,