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

It is an annual or biennial herbaceous plant growing to 15–100 centimetres (5.9–39.4 in) tall, with stems covered in tiny hairs. Its leaves are usually about 8 centimetres (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]

Cultivation and uses[edit]

Lobelia inflata has a long use as an entheogenic and emetic substance. The plant was widely used by the Penobscots and was widely used in the New England even before the time of Samuel Thomson, who was credited as discovering it. Indian tobacco, also known as "pukeweed", is still used today. It can be used fresh, or dry.

It is also said that plant material is burned as a natural bug repellent to keep away insects such as mosquitoes.[citation needed]

It contains lobeline.


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 use[edit]

Native Americans used lobelia to treat respiratory and muscle disorders, and as a purgative. The species used most commonly in modern herbalism is Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco).[4] However, there are adverse effects that limit the use of lobelia.[5]


  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. ^ "Lobelia". EBSCO Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Review Board. January 2006. Retrieved 2007-09-12. 
  5. ^ "Risky pills: Supplements to avoid". Consumer reports 73 (1): 46–7. 2008. PMID 18488285. 

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