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Lobelia

Medically reviewed on June 7, 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."

Scientific Name(s)

Lobelia inflate

Common Name(s)

Lobelia is also known as Indian tobacco, Indian weed, pukeweed, asthma weed, gagroot, vomitwort, bladderpod, and eyebright.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

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).

General uses

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.

Contraindications

The sale of lobelia OTC products for smoking cessation is prohibited by the FDA due to a lack of effectiveness and safety evidence.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Avoid use. Documented side effects.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

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.

Toxicology

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.

References

1. Lobelia. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons eAnswers. St. Louis, MO: Clinical Drug Information LLC; May 2015. http://online.factsandcomparisons.com. Accessed October 2015.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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