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Lobelia

Lobelia

Uses

Common names:
Indian Tobacco
Botanical names:
Lobelia inflata

Parts Used & Where Grown

Lobelia grows throughout North America. The leaves are primarily used in herbal medicine.

What Are Star Ratings?

Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.

2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.

1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:

Used for Why
1 Star
Asthma
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Eclectic physicians—doctors in turn-of-the-century North America who used herbs as their main medicine—considered lobelia to be one of the most important plant medicines.3 Traditionally, it was used by Eclectics to treat coughs and spasms in the lungs from all sorts of causes.4 A plant that originates in Africa, khella, is also considered an anti-spasmodic like lobelia. Though it is not strong enough to stop acute asthma attacks, khella has been recommended by German physicians practicing herbal medicine as possibly helpful for chronic asthma symptoms.5

1 Star
Bronchitis
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Lobelia contains many active alkaloids, of which lobeline is considered the most active. Very small amounts of this herb are considered helpful as an antispasmodic and antitussive agent (a substance that helps suppress or ease coughs). Anti-inflammatory properties of the herb have been demonstrated, which may be useful, since bronchitis is associated with inflammation in the bronchi.6 Lobelia should be used cautiously, as it may cause nausea and vomiting.

1 Star
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
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Mullein is classified in the herbal literature as both an expectorant, to promote the discharge of mucus, and a demulcent, to soothe and protect mucous membranes. Historically, mullein has been used as a remedy for the respiratory tract, particularly in cases of irritating coughs with bronchial congestion.7 Other herbs commonly used as expectorants in traditional medicine include elecampane , lobelia , yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum), wild cherry bark, gumweed (Grindelia robusta), anise (Pimpinella anisum), and eucalyptus . Animal studies have suggested that some of these herbs increase discharge of mucus.8 However, none have been studied for efficacy in humans.

1 Star
Cough
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The mucilage of slippery elm gives it a soothing effect for coughs. Usnea also contains mucilage, which may be helpful in easing irritating coughs. There is a long tradition of using wild cherry syrups to treat coughs. Other traditional remedies to relieve coughs include bloodroot , catnip , comfrey (the above-ground parts, not the root), horehound , elecampane , mullein , lobelia , hyssop , licorice , mallow , (Malvia sylvestris), red clover , ivy leaf , pennyroyal  (Hedeoma pulegioides, Mentha pulegium), onion , (Allium cepa), and plantain (Plantago lanceolata, P. major). None of these has been investigated in human trials, so their true efficacy for relieving coughs is unknown.

1 Star
Smoking Cessation
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Lobelia (Lobelia inflata), also known as Indian tobacco, contains a substance (lobeline) that has some effects on the nervous system that are similar to the effects of nicotine,9 and preliminary reports suggested that pure lobeline or lobelia herb could be used to support smoking cessation.10 , 11However, results in preliminary human trials with lobeline have been mixed and generally negative and no long-term controlled studies of lobeline or lobelia for smoking cessation have been done.12 , 13

Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)

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.

How It Works

Common names:
Indian Tobacco
Botanical names:
Lobelia inflata

How It Works

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. Results of human trials using lobeline for smoking cessation have been mixed and generally negative.14 Preliminary trials suggest lobeline may improve lung function, perhaps by its abilities to reduce bronchial constriction and to thin mucus so that it can be coughed out.15

How to Use It

Eclectic physicians generally recommended using a tincture of lobelia made partially or entirely with vinegar instead of alcohol.16 A vinegar extract is known as an acetract. At most, 1 ml was given three times per day. The absolute maximum amount to take should be that which causes no, or minimal, nausea. Lobelia ointment has also been used topically on the chest to relieve asthma and bronchitis . People should apply such ointments liberally several times per day.

Interactions

Common names:
Indian Tobacco
Botanical names:
Lobelia inflata

Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds

At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.

Interactions with Medicines

As of the last update, we found no reported interactions between this supplement and medicines. It is possible that unknown interactions exist. If you take medication, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.

Side Effects

Common names:
Indian Tobacco
Botanical names:
Lobelia inflata

Side Effects

Lobelia frequently causes nausea and vomiting when the amount used is too high. Generally, more than 1 ml of tincture or acetract taken at one time will cause nausea and possibly vomiting and should be avoided.17 Although lobelia has a reputation for being toxic, a thorough review of the medical literature was unable to find any well-documented case of serious problems or death due to lobelia.18 This may be because a toxic amount cannot be ingested without first causing vomiting. Signs of lobelia poisoning may include weakness, heartburn, weak pulse, difficulty breathing, and collapse.19 Nevertheless, lobelia should not be used for more than one month consecutively and should be avoided during pregnancy and breast-feeding.20 Due to its emetic (vomit-inducing) actions, lobelia should be used cautiously with children under the age of six years.

References

1. Felter HW, Lloyd JU. King’s American Dispensatory, 18th ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1898, 1983, 1199–205.

2. Ellingwood F. American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy, 11th ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1919, 1998, 235–42.

3. Felter HW, Lloyd JU. King’s American Dispensatory, 18th ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1898, 1983, 1199–205.

4. Ellingwood F. American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy, 11th ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1919, 1998, 235–42.

5. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenberg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, 1985:221–2 [trans. Meuss AR].

6. Philipov S, Istatkova R, Ivanovska N, et al. Phytochemical study and antiinflammatory properties of Lobelia laxiflora L. Z Naturforsch (C) 1998;53:311–7.

7. Hoffman D. The Herbal Handbook: A User’s Guide to Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1988, 67.

8. Boyd EM. Expectorants and respiratory tract fluid. Pharmacol Rev 1954;6:521–42 [review].

9. Dwoskin LP, Crooks PA. A novel mechanism of action and potential use for lobeline as a treatment for psychostimulant abuse. Biochem Pharmacol 2002;63:89–98 [review].

10. Wren RC, Ed. Potter’s Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations. Saffron Walden, Essex, England: C.W. Daniel Company, 1988:175–6 [review].

11. Fagerstrom K. New perspectives in the treatment of tobacco dependence. Monaldi Arch Chest Dis 2003;60:179–83 [review].

12. Davison GC, Rosen RC. Lobeline and reduction of cigarette smoking. Psychol Rep 1972;31:443–56.

13. Stead LF, Hughes JR. Lobeline for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2000;(2):CD000124 [review].

14. Davison GC, Rosen RC. Lobeline and reduction of cigarette smoking. Psychol Reports 1972;31:443–56.

15. Pocta J. Therapeutic use of lobeline Spofa. Cas Lek Cesk 1970;109:865 [in Czech].

16. Felter HW, Lloyd JU. King’s American Dispensatory, 18th ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1898, 1983, 1199–205.

17. Felter HW, Lloyd JU. King’s American Dispensatory, 18th ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1898, 1983, 1199–205.

18. Bergner P. Is lobelia toxic? Medical Herbalism 1998;10:1,15–32 [review].

19. Ellingwood F. American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy, 11th ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1919, 1998, 235–42.

20. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A. American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, 71.

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