Lobelia, also known as Indian tobacco, is a flowering herb with a long history of medicinal benefits. As its alias suggests, this herb was once used as a substance to help an individual stop smoking, but strangely enough, Native Americans smoked the leaves as tobacco to help clear asthma and other respiratory issues.
Lobelia has been used for centuries for a plethora of benefits ranging from being used as a respiratory stimulant to treating rheumatism.
Botanical Name and Family of Lobelia
The botanical name of lobelia is Lobelia cardinalis. It belongs to the Campanulaceae or Bellflower family and has been referred to as Asthma weed or Indian tobacco.
What Is Lobelia?
Lobelia is a beautiful biennial herb named after Matthias de l’Obel, a Belgian botanist. Several species of Lobelia are found all over the world; of these, the cardinalis species is native to Canada, U.S., Mexico and Central America.
This herb was first introduced into New England medicinal practices during the 18th century to cause vomiting and treat colic, fevers and asthma. During the 19th century, lobelia was considered an essential medicinal plant that was used for many conditions such as insomnia, tetanus and shock.
Lobelia species have been used in traditional American medicine. Now, they are also cultivated in gardens as ornamental plants.
Active Ingredients Found in Lobelia
Lobelia contains alkaloids such as lobeline, lobelanidine and lobelanine, derivatives of ursolic acid, oleanoic or oleanic acid and compounds such as sitosterol and daucosterol.
Lobelia also includes the following components:
- Vitamin C
Lobelia contains unique antioxidants like lobeline and lobelanine, which contribute to the herb’s health benefits.
Health Benefits of Lobelia
Lobelia was used in North American medicine to treat intestinal problems, bronchial disorders, syphilis, swelling of the joints and rheumatism.
Lobelia is also used for the following health benefits:
- Alleviating depression
- Removing toxins
- Improving respiratory health
- Quitting smoking
- Muscle relaxant
- Expectorant properties
It has also been used for whooping cough, as a sedative and to increase sweating. It may be applied externally for muscle and joint pains, insect bites, ringworm and skin bruises.
How to Use Lobelia
Lobelia leaves can be brewed into a tea. It can also be applied externally to help relax and soothe muscles because of its antispasmodic properties. It can also be added to your bathwater for its soothing benefits as well.
For the best-desired results, it is recommended to speak to an herbal practitioner to determine the appropriate dosage for you, so you can reap its full benefits.
Side Effects of Lobelia
Although this herb can propose a variety of benefits, it is also accompanied by certain side effects if it’s not consumed properly.
Lobelia has been known to cause the following side effects:
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Nausea and dizziness
It must not be taken by persons with stomach and intestinal problems or heart disease. High doses of the leaf are said to be toxic. This herb must not be used by pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Speak to your doctor first to ensure that using this herb would be right for you.
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Yu LI, Ping SY, Edwards OE. Studies on chemical constituents of Lobelia cardinalis L. Chemical Journal of Chinese Universities. 1993: 14(10); 1391-1393.
Vodopivec BM, Wang J, Møller AL, Krake J, Lund T, Hansen PE, Nielsen SL. Differences in the structure of anthocyanins from the two amphibious plants, Lobelia cardinalis and Nesaea crassicaulis. Nat Prod Res. 2013 Apr;27(7):654-64.doi: 10.1080/14786419.2012.688046. Epub 2012 Jun 13. PubMed PMID: 22694738.