Lobelia inflata

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Indian tobacco
Lobelia inflata - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-218.jpg
Lobelia inflata[1]
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Campanulaceae
Genus: Lobelia
L. inflata
Binomial name
Lobelia inflata

Lobelia inflata, also known as Indian tobacco or 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. They are alternately arranged. It has violet flowers that are tinted yellow on the inside, and usually appear in mid-summer and continue to bloom into fall.[3] The seedcases are small, brown, dehiscent, and papery.[4]


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 and adverse effects[edit]

Lobelia inflata has a long use as a medicinal plant as an entheogenic, emetic, and skin or respiratory aid.[5][6] Native Americans used it for respiratory and muscle disorders, as a purgative, and as a ceremonial medicine.[5][6] The leaves were chewed and smoked.[7] The plant was used as a traditional medicinal plant by the Cherokee, Iroquois, Penobscot, and other indigenous peoples.[6] The foliage was burned by the Cherokee as a natural insecticide, to smoke out gnats.[6]

Although it may be used medicinally,[8] consuming lobelia causes adverse effects, which may include sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, rapid heartbeat, mental confusion, convulsions, hypothermia, coma, or possibly death.[5][9] The root is toxic and can be fatal if eaten.[5][7]

Chemical constituents[edit]

Lobelia inflata contains multiple alkaloid compounds, including lobeline, norlobelanine, lobelanidine, and radicamine, among other compounds, such as flavonoids, terpenes, alkynes, and coumarins.[5][10][11] Lobeline concentration is highest in the seeds.[5]


  1. ^ Franz Eugen Köhler, 1897, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen
  2. ^ "Lobelia inflata". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2009-04-09.
  3. ^ Caldecott, T. Western Materia Medica: Lobelia inflata (pdf file)[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ "Some Call Them Weeds". 2016-01-02.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Lobelia". Drugs.com. 21 April 2021. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d University of Michigan at Dearborn: Native American Ethnobotany of Lobelia inflata
  7. ^ a b Niering, William A.; Olmstead, Nancy C. (1985) [1979]. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, Eastern Region. Knopf. p. 441. ISBN 0-394-50432-1.
  8. ^ "Lobelia". EBSCO Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Review Board. January 2006. Retrieved 2007-09-12.
  9. ^ "Lobelia". University of Maryland Medical Center. Archived from the original on 2017-06-29. It can cause serious side effects, such as profuse sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, rapid heartbeat, mental confusion, convulsions, hypothermia, coma, and possibly even death.
  10. ^ Kursinszki, László; Szőke, Éva (2015). "HPLC-ESI-MS/MS of brain neurotransmitter modulator lobeline and related piperidine alkaloids in Lobelia inflataL". Journal of Mass Spectrometry. 50 (5): 727–33. Bibcode:2015JMSp...50..727K. doi:10.1002/jms.3581. PMID 26259655.
  11. ^ "Taxon: Lobelia inflata L." National Plant Germplasm System.

External links[edit]