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Lobelia


    Scientific Names

    Lobelia
    Lobelia
    Lobelia
    Lobelia
    • Lobelia inflata L.
    • Lobeliaceae
    • Bluebell family

    Common Names

    ivyAsthma weed
    ivyBladderpod
    ivyEmetic herb
    ivyEmetic weed
    ivyEyebright
    ivyGagroot
    ivyIndian tobacco
    ivyLobelia herb
    ivyPan-pien-lien (Chinese name)
    ivyPokeweed
    ivyPuke weed
    ivyRag root
    ivyVomit root
    ivyVomit wort
    ivyWild tobacco
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    Parts Usually Used

    Seeds, flowers, and leaves
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    Description of Plant(s) and Culture

    Lobelia is an annual or biennial; the erect, angular stem, growing from 6 inches to 3 feet high, is hairy and contains a milky sap. The thin, light green leaves are alternate, hairy, ovate, and bluntly serrate. Numerous small, two-lipped, pale-blue flowers grow in spike-like racemes, to 1/4 inch; from July to November. The fruit is a two-celled capsule filled with small, brown seeds.

    Other varieties: Great lobelia (L. siphilitica) (potentially poisonous); Cardinal flower (L. cardinalis); and Pale-spike lobelia (L. spicata).
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    Where Found

    Found in fields, pastures, meadows, and cultivated fields of the eastern United States, as far west as Arkansas and Nebraska. Related species are found in other parts of the country.
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    Medicinal Properties

    Antispasmodic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic, expectorant, nervine, stimulant, sedative
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    Biochemical Information

    Alkaloids, chelidonic acid, isolobeline, lobelic acid, lobeline, selenium, and sulfur.
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    Legends, Myths and Stories

    Lobelia is used in commercial smoking preparations to counteract the desire for tobacco.

    The Shoshone Indians used lobelia as an emetic and a laxative.
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    Uses

    In the past, lobelia was used particularly for its antispasmodic qualities to treat asthma and whooping cough, and also to induce vomiting. Externally, the plant can be made into a poultice for bruises, insect bites, worms, croup, epilepsy, sprains, felons, ringworm, erysipelas, and poison ivy irritation. Lobelia is a cough suppressant and relaxant that reduces fever and cold symptoms. Beneficial in the treatment of sore throats, laryngitis, colic, bronchitis, pneumonia, meningitis, hepatitis, pleurisy, tetanus, chorea, convulsions, angina pectoris (chest pains), and epilepsy. Aids in hormone production.
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    How Sold

    Lobeline, one of 14 alkaloids in lobelia, is used in commercial “quit-smoking” lozenges and chewing gum. (Said to appease physical need for nicotine without addictive effects.)
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    Warning

    Although some herbal practitioners have sworn by lobelia as a harmless but effective panacea for what ails man, overdoses of homemade medicinal preparations have resulted in poisoning.

    Care should be taken to follow directions in formula or recipe given for medicinal purposes.

    Considered toxic, due to its strong emetic, expectorant, and sedative effects. This plant has been, rightly or wrongly, implicated in deaths from improper use as a home remedy.

    Use professionally prepared medications under medical supervision only.
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    Resource Links

    LiveStrong.com: Lobelia Herb for Women

    University of Maryland Medical Center: Lobelia

    Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Lobelia

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    Bibliography

    Buy It! Back to Eden, by Jethro Kloss; Back to Eden Publishing Co., Loma Linda, CA 92354, Original copyright 1939, revised edition 1994

    Buy It! The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody, Dorling Kindersley, Inc, 232 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, First American Edition, copyright 1993

    Buy It! Chinese Medicinal Herbs, compiled by Shih-Chen Li, Georgetown Press, San Francisco, California, 1973.

    Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

    Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

    Buy It! Indian Uses of Native Plants, by Edith Van Allen Murphey, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1958, print 1990

    Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

    Herbal Gardening, compiled by The Robison York State Herb Garden, Cornell Plantations, Matthaei Botanical Gardens of the University of Michigan, University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley., Pantheon Books, Knopf Publishing Group, New York, 1994, first edition

    Buy It! Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

    Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements, by James F. Balch, M.D. and Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C., Avery Publishing Group, Inc., Garden City Park, NY

    Buy It! Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

    Buy It! The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, Second edition, 1988.

    Buy It! The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature's Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

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