Native Americans used native lobelia (Indian Tobacco) to treat respiratory and muscle disorders, and as a purgative. Today it is used by herbalists to treat asthma and food poisoning, and is often used as part of smoking cessation programs. It is a physical relaxant, and can serve as a nerve depressant, easing tension and panic. The species used most commonly in modern herbalism is Lobelia inflata (Indian Tobacco).
As used in North America, lobelia’s medicinal properties include the following: emetic (induces vomiting), stimulant, antispasmodic, expectorant, diaphoretic, relaxant, nauseant, sedative, diuretic, and nervine. Because of its similarity to nicotine, the internal use of lobelia may be dangerous to susceptible populations, including children, pregnant women, and individuals with cardiac disease. Excessive use will cause nausea and vomiting. It is not recommended for use by pregnant women and is best administered by a practitioner qualified in its use.
Herbalist Samuel Thompson popularized medicinal use of lobelia in the United States in the early 19th century, as well as other medicinal plants like goldenseal. One species, L. chinensis is used as one of the fifty fundamental herbs in traditional Chinese medicine.
In the Victorian language of flowers, the lobelia symbolizes malevolence and ill will.
[photo © Nancy Bond, most content from Wiki]