Medically reviewed on Oct 12, 2018
What is Lobelia?
Lobelia is a perennial herb found in the eastern half of the United States and parts of Canada. The base of the violet-pinkish flowers "inflates" to form the seed capsule, which is the source of the name "inflata."
Lobelia is also known as Indian tobacco, Indian weed, pukeweed, asthma weed, gagroot, vomitwort, bladderpod, and eyebright.
What is it used for?
American Indians smoked the leaves as tobacco and used them medicinally for respiratory illnesses. Lobelia was introduced into New England medical practice in the 18th century to produce vomiting. It was also used in treating colic, rheumatism, fever, and asthma. By the 19th century, lobelia was considered an important medicinal plant used in many conditions (eg, abscess, insomnia, tetanus, shock); however, deaths were recorded due to dosing inconsistencies. In 1993, the sale of lobelia over-the-counter (OTC) products for smoking cessation was prohibited by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Lobelia inflata has been used in smoking cessation programs and has been proposed for treatment of other drug dependencies; however, clinical evidence is limited.
What is the recommended dosage?
There is no recent clinical evidence to support the use of lobelia.
Traditional use of the leaf (eg, to clear the lungs) suggests 100 mg of dry herb up to 3 times a day. However, there are no clinical trials to support this use. Doses of 0.6 to 1 g leaf are considered toxic, while 4 g of leaf is considered to be fatal.
The sale of lobelia OTC products for smoking cessation is prohibited by the FDA due to a lack of effectiveness and safety evidence.
Avoid use. Documented side effects.
None well documented.
Lobelia can cause nausea, vomiting, tremors, and dizziness at high doses. Parts of the plant affect the heart, and heart problems, including low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and convulsion, have been reported. Skin reactions have also been reported.
Toxic dosages of the plant have been described: 1 g of leaf is toxic, while 4 g of leaf is considered to be a fatal dose.
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