If you’ve seen lobelia plants, you’ll agree with me that they are indeed beautiful ornamental plants. There are many varieties of this species, most of them very pretty and colorful. When kept as a decorative plant, its pretty violet-blue, pink, and yellow flowers add a dash of color to your living room and to your life. But, we’re not talking about its aesthetic appeal today. We will look at the health benefits and side-effects of lobelia.
Lobelia, also called Indian tobacco, contains many curative benefits and have been used by the Native Americans for hundreds of years to treat ailments. It is a well-known ingredient in some traditional healing systems. Though it contains various medicinal properties, it has toxic properties and can be poisonous when consumed in substantial quantities. Besides covering the uses and adverse effects of lobelia, the people who must avoid lobelia and the precautions that must be taken are also specified here.
1. Decongests Lungs
Lobelia has been used as a herbal remedy for respiratory problems like bronchitis and congestion. It is a powerful expectorant that helps decongest the mucus from the lungs. As it is toxic, it can interact when mixed with other medications that contain lithium. 1 The Cherokee tribe crushed the root and the dried leaves and smoked the plant to reduce coughing and chest pains. 2
Aqueous extract of the plant has been used in some traditional medicines to treat respiratory problems like asthma, bronchitis and dry cough.3 Again, its expectorant qualities help clear mucus from the lungs, aiding faster recovery. 4
3. Effective Stimulant
The stimulant properties of lobelia have been well-documented and used commonly. Samuel Thomson, a botanist and healer popularized this plant and extensively used it as a medicine to induce sweat and as a diffusive stimulant to treat fever, rheumatism, and many respiratory disorders.5
4. Puke Weed
Owing to its emetic effect, lobelia has been used as a medicine that induces nausea and vomiting. In the case of a drug overdose or poisoning, it induces nausea which helps remove the toxins from the body. 6 American physicians prescribed lobelia to induce vomiting to remove toxins from the body, because of which it was nicknamed as ‘puke weed’. 7
5. Eases Muscular Tension
Many traditional medicine systems have used the antispasmodic qualities of lobelia to help reduce muscle spasms. In Ayurveda, the leaves and flowers are used in many medications. It has been know to treat a jaw disorder, where the movement of the jaw muscles become stiff. It is used only as an external application. oral consumption or application on the broken skin can cause adverse effects.8
Profuse sweating flushes out toxins and can also reduce fever by cooling the body. In such cases, inducing perspiration helps cleanse the body. It was again the botanist, healer, and staunch proponent of lobelia usage, Samuel Thomson, who used this plant as a sweat inducer (diaphoretic) in the early 1800s.
7. Improves Urination
Lobelia is a diuretic commonly used to promote healthy urination. Healthy urination removes toxin build-up, purifies blood and prevents kidney stones. The whole plant of the Lobelia chinensis variety has the diuresis-inducing properties. 9
8. Relaxes The Nerves
The plant can also be used as a nerve tonic, which is a medicine that has a therapeutic effect on the nerves. It is given specifically as a sedative that serves to calm agitated nerves. This effect eases tension and induces a sense of relaxation.
9. Nicotine De-Addiction
Lobeline, the alkaloid in lobelia, has been used in commercial preparations of anti-smoking products. When chewed, it tastes like tobacco and produces effects similar to nicotine. It has been used in some smoking cessation rehabilitation programs that help quit tobacco and its products.10 For many years, it was used as a nicotine substitute in some preparations meant to overcome the habit of smoking. But, it was banned due to the lack scientific studies to support these claims.
Side-effects Of Lobelia
- Dry mouth, vomiting, and nausea
- Weakness, difficulty breathing
- Profuse sweating, mental confusion, convulsions
- Tremors, rapid heartbeat
- Convulsions, hypothermia, dizziness
- Heartburn and weak pulse (signs of poisoning)
Who Should Avoid Lobelia?
People with heart disease, tobacco sensitivity, seizure disorder, liver disease, kidney disease, paralysis, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, avoid this herb. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers must not use lobelia. People suffering from ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or intestinal infections must avoid lobelia, as can irritate the gastrointestinal tract.
|↑1||Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. University Of Maryland Medical Center. 2015.|
|↑2, ↑3, ↑5||Lobelia Inflata. The Medicinal Herb Gardens at ONU.|
|↑4, ↑6||Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. Horticulture and Landscape Architecture – Purdue University.|
|↑7, ↑10||Lobelia. University Of Maryland Medical Center. 2015.|
|↑8||Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction. University Of Maryland Medical Center. 2014.|
|↑9||Han, S., X. Lv, Y. Wang, Hai Gong, Cong Zhang, A. Tong, and Ning Yan. “A study on the effect of aqueous extract of Lobelia chinensis on colon precancerous lesions in rats.” African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines 10, no. 6 (2013): 422-425.|