Lobelia inflata

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Indian tobacco
Lobelia inflata - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-218.jpg
Lobelia inflata[1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Campanulaceae
Subfamily: Lobelioideae
Genus: Lobelia
Species: L. inflata
Binomial name
Lobelia inflata

Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco, puke weed) is a species of Lobelia native to eastern North America, from southeastern Canada (Nova Scotia to southeast Ontario) south through the eastern United States to Alabama and west to Kansas.[2]


Lobelia inflata. Flower

Lobelia inflata is an annual or biennial herbaceous plant growing to 15–100 cm (5.9–39.4 in) tall, with stems covered in tiny hairs. Its leaves are usually about 8 cm (3.1 in) long, and are ovate and toothed. It has violet flowers that are tinted yellow on the inside, and usually appear in mid-summer and continue to bloom into fall.[3]


Propagation is usually accomplished by cuttings or seed. Seeds are sown in containers in mid spring or mid fall. The seeds take about 2 weeks to germinate.

Traditional uses[edit]

Lobelia inflata has a long use as a medicinal plant, as an entheogenic, emetic, and a dermatological and respiratory aid.[4] Native Americans used it to treat respiratory and muscle disorders, as a purgative, and as a ceremonial medicine.[4] The plant was used as a traditional medicinal plant by the Cherokee, Iroquois, Penobscot, and other indigenous peoples. The foliage was burned by the Cherokee as a natural insecticide, to smoke out gnats.[4] It was widely used in the pre-Columbian New England region, long before the time of Samuel Thomson, who was erroneously credited as discovering it.

It is still used medicinally in the present day,[5] however there are adverse effects that limit its use.[6] Side effects can include sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, rapid heartbeat, mental confusion, convulsions, hypothermia, coma, and death.[7]

Chemical constituents[edit]

L. inflata contains lobeline.


  1. ^ Franz Eugen Köhler, 1897, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen
  2. ^ "Lobelia inflata L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 1994-08-23. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  3. ^ Caldecott, T. Western Materia Medica: Lobelia inflata (pdf file)
  4. ^ a b c University of Michigan at Dearborn: Native American Ethnobotany of Lobelia inflata
  5. ^ "Lobelia". EBSCO Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Review Board. January 2006. Retrieved 2007-09-12. 
  6. ^ "Risky pills: Supplements to avoid". Consumer reports 73 (1): 46–7. 2008. PMID 18488285. 
  7. ^ "Lobelia". University of Maryland Medical Center. 

External links[edit]