Lobelia (Lobelia inflata), or Indian tobacco, is a flowering herb that is named after the Belgian botanist, Matthias de l’Obel.1 It was formerly used as a substance during smoking cessation, but has since been discontinued because of mixed results.
In a broader sense, lobelia can refer to a wide variety of flowering plants, with some botanists claiming that these varieties belong to a separate family, Lobeliaceae.2 One of the most common and popular variety of lobelias is the Lobelia inflata variety.
Other varieties of lobelia plants include both Lobelia siphilitica and Lobelia cardinalis. These varieties can normally be distinguished from the Lobelia inflata through the differences in the color of their flowers.
Lobelia siphilitica is the most cultivated variety of this plant and is often called the “great blue lobelia” because of its vivid blue flowers, as opposed to the pale color of Lobelia inflata.3 Lobelia cardinalis is also much easier to differentiate because of the distinct bright red color of its flowers.4
Because of its dainty flowers, lobelia plants are usually planted in the garden or window boxes to visually improve people’s surroundings. However, because of its beauty, its nutritional components are typically overlooked.
Nutritional Benefits of Lobelia Inflata
Here are some of the benefits that you’ll likely receive when you start using lobelia therapeutically:5
• Respiratory stimulant and antispasmodic. Lobelia functions as a bronchodilator, meaning it stimulates the respiratory system and may even help in alleviating the effects of asthma. It may also help relax the lungs when they’re tense or overworked.
• Expectorant. It triggers the secretion of sputum through the air passages, which is why lobelia is commonly used to ease asthma and bronchitis.
• Diaphoretic. As a diaphoretic, lobelia promotes perspiration, which helps in cooling the skin during the onset of fever.
It also aids in eliminating toxins from the body and promoting healthy blood circulation.6 Diaphoretics are often used to relieve diarrhea, kidney and liver conditions.7
• Muscle relaxant. Lobelia has a depressant property, which helps the autonomic nervous system and muscular system relax.
How Do You Use Lobelia?
There are various ways in which lobelia can be used. The tincture of the herb can be usedto help alleviate sprains, bruises and various skin conditions. A poultice can also be used topically and may help relax your muscles, especially smooth ones.8
Listed below are the various forms that lobelia is available in along with the recommended intake dosages:9
• Powdered bark: 5 to 60 grains
• Fluid extract: 10 to 20 drops
• Acid tincture: 4 to 15 milliliters
• Tincture: 4 to 15 milliliters
• Syrup: 4 to 15 milliliters
• Solid extract: 4 to 15 milliliters
It should be noted that these are only recommended doses and an individual’s tolerance level for this herb may vary. Consult your physician to determine the appropriate dosage for you, so that you can avoid ingesting too little or too much of this herb.
Here’s How You Can Grow Your Own Lobelia
Lobelia is commonly planted in regions with low temperatures. But while they thrive well in cold climates, they are actually very sensitive to frost. Listed below is a step-by-step guide on how to successfully plant lobelia in your backyard either for ornamental or medicinal purposes:10
1. Start indoors roughly 10 to 12 weeks prior to the last frost in your region. Spread the tiny seeds just on top of the soil and water thoroughly. Place them in a warm, well-lit area.
2. The seedlings should pop up within a week or two, at which time you can begin thinning them out.
3. After the danger of frost is gone and the plants are at least 2 to 3 inches tall, transplant them to your garden — spacing them about 4 to 6 inches apart.
4. During hot and dry periods, water the plants frequently, especially if they are planted in containers.
Try This Recipe for This Muscle Relaxer Tea
Because of the strong effects of lobelia when taken in its pure form, some people choose to incorporate it into their various tea recipes. One such example is a recipe from Living Herbal Tea that combines lobelia with other tea leaves:11
Muscle Relaxer Herbal Tea Recipe
- 2 tablespoons of sage
- 2 tablespoons of chamomile
- 1 tablespoons of peppermint
- 1 pinch of lobelia
1. Combine herbs. Steep 1 tablespoon of the herb blend in 8 ounces (approx. 1 standard mug full) of boiled water for 5 to 7 minutes. Steeping too long or too hot will cause bitterness in the blend.
2. Keep your cup covered while the tea steeps to make sure you don’t lose any of the amazing flavor or healing properties.
3. Allow the tea to cool to a safe and comfortable temperature. Sip and enjoy.
Watch Out For These Contraindications and Possible Side Effects of This Herb
Lobelia, even though it has a variety of health benefits when taken in moderation, may actually be poisonous when ingested in large quantities. It’s also poisonous for pets and other animals, and should be removed from the vicinity where these pets reside to avoid them from being harmed.12 Some of the side effects that you may experience when you ingest lobelia include the following:13
• Profuse sweating
• Nausea and vomiting
• Heart palpitations
Lobelia should also be avoided if you suffer from the following conditions and diseases:
• High blood pressure and heart disease. Lobelia is a vasomotor stimulant and may cause an increase in blood pressure. This may worsen the symptoms of high blood pressure and may cause irreversible damage.14
• Tobacco sensitivity. Lobelia contains lobeline, a substance that has the same effect of nicotine in the human body. This may mimic the negative effect of nicotine on people with tobacco sensitivity.15
Lobelia should also be avoided by people who suffer from liver or kidney disease, seizures and shortness of breath. Like other herbs and medications, the use of lobelia should also be avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women, as it may cause adverse effects.16