Lobelia inflata


Common name: Pukeweed, Indian tobacco.

Habitat: Eastern USA, cultivated elsewhere.

Part used: Aerial parts.

Collection: The entire plant above ground should be collected at the end of the flowering time, between August and September. The seed pods should be collected as well.


  • Piperidine alkaloids, mainly lobeline, withlobelanidine, lobelanine, and minor amounts of norlobelanine(=isolobelanine), lelobanidine, lovinine, isolobinine, lobinanidine andothers

  • Chelidonic acid

Actions: Anti-asthmatic, anti-spasmodic, expectorant, emetic, nervine.

Indications: Lobelia is one of the most useful systemic relaxants available to us. It has a general depressant action on the central and autonomic nervous system and on neuro-muscular action. It may be used in many conditions in combination with other herbs to further their effectiveness if relaxation is needed. Its primary specific use is in bronchitic asthma and bronchitis. An analysis of the action of the alkaloids present reveal apparently paradoxical effects. Lobeline is a powerful respiratory stimulant, whilst isolobelanine is an emetic and respiratory relaxant, which will stimulate catarrhal secretion and expectoration whilst relaxing the muscles of the respiratory system. The overall action is a truly holistic combination of stimulation and relaxation!

Priest & Priest tell us that it is a “general systemic relaxant with diffusive stimulation – best where arterial action is strong. Equalizes circulation and relieves vascular tension. Vaso-motor stimulant -increases the activity of vegetative processes. Influences glandular system and respiratory tubuli. Contra-indicated in nervous prostration, shock and paralysis. Of brief continuance in asthenic conditions.” They give the following specific indications: Dislocations, trauma and hernias. Spasmodic and membranous coup, pertussis, bronchial asthma, bronchitis and pleurisy. Hepatitis, jaundice, nausea and hepatic congestion. High blood pressure, intestinal obstruction and neurasthenia.

Ellingwood considered it specific for “irritable, spasmodic and oppressed breathing, and in respiratory from exalted nerve force and nerve irritation. It is contra-indicated in general relaxation and in dyspnoea from enlarged or fatty heart, or from hydropericardium, or enfeebled heart, with valvular incompetence. It is specific in threatened spasm with exalted nerve action – a high degree of nerve tension with great restlessness and excitability, flushed face and contracted pupils. It is a prompt emetic in full doses.” The high regard that the eclectics held Lobelia in is reflected by his recommendation for the following pathologies: spasmodic asthma, whooping cough, spasmodic croup, membranous croup, infantile convulsions, puerperal eclampsia, epilepsy, tetanus, hysterical paroxysms, hysterical convulsions, rigid os uteri, diptheria, tonsillitis, pneumonia.

For a more detailed discussion of this important plant please refer to pg. 235- pg. 242 of Ellingwood’s American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy, and pg. 1199 – 1205 of King’s American Dispensatory.

Combinations: It will combine well with Cayenne, Grindelia, Pill-bearing Spurge, Sundew and Ephedra in the treatment of asthma.

Preparation and dosage: Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto l/4 to l/2 teaspoonful of the dried leaves and let infuse for l0-l5 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day. Tincture: take l/2 ml of the tincture three times a day.

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Written by David L. Hoffmann BSc Hons MNIMH

Explore Wellness in 2021