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.
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.
Lobelia inflata has a long use as a medicinal plant, as an entheogenic, emetic, and a dermatological and respiratory aid. Native Americans used it to treat respiratory and muscle disorders, as a purgative, and as a ceremonial medicine. 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. 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, however there are adverse effects that limit its use. Side effects can include sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, rapid heartbeat, mental confusion, convulsions, hypothermia, coma, and death.
L. inflata contains lobeline.
- Franz Eugen Köhler, 1897, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen
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- Caldecott, T. Western Materia Medica: Lobelia inflata (pdf file)
- University of Michigan at Dearborn: Native American Ethnobotany of Lobelia inflata
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