Lobelia is a fragile flower described as light bluish to violet in color with a touch of yellow that can grow to a height of about three feet. It is a very popular garden plant that also has pale green or yellowish leaves. It is categorized as an annual or biennial plant meaning that it reseeds every year or two. The stem is smooth towards the top and hairy and rough towards its bottom. The flowers are asymmetrical and bisexual. The main parts used of the Lobelia plant are the flowering parts and the seeds. The seeds are the most potent because they contain lobeline, a piperidine alkaloid.

Named after Matthias de Lobel, a 17th century botanist, Lobelia is known as Indian Tobacco because it contains lobeline. Lobeline is believed to have a chemical make up similar to nicotine and was therefore used as an alternative to tobacco. In the 19th century, Lobelia was also used as a medicinal herb to induce vomiting, thus removing harmful poisons from the body.

The name Indian Tobacco was assigned because the Aboriginal people smoked dried leaves of the plant. Historically, the Aboriginal people were very creative and efficient in using the Lobelia plant for medicinal purposes. The Iroquois used the root to treat leg sores, venereal diseases and ulcers. The Cherokees used a poultice of the root for body aches. They also used the plant for boils, sores, bites and stings. Considered a plant to cure asthma, phthisic (lung disease), croup and a sore throat, it was also used to discourage the presence of gnats. The Crows made use of it in religious ceremonies.


Lobelia is considered to be a toxic herb because of its lobeline affiliation. It is important to begin with lower dosages and increase the dosage over a period of time.It is also imperative that you never surpass a dosage of 20 mg per day. If you consume a dosage higher than 500 mg, it could be fatal. Lobelia can be taken in a few different forms. It can be given as a vinegar tincture or a regular tincture, as a fluid extract, or as a dried herb for teas or in capsules. It is preferred that the dried herb be mixed in eight ounces of water with other herbs but not necessarily recommended as the best way of consuming it due to its pungent taste.

Latin Name

Lobelia inflata

Common Names

Lobelia, pukeweek, Indian Tobacco, gagroot, asthma weed, vomitwort, rapuntium inflatum, bladderpod

Indicated for

bronchitis, whooping cough, congestion, asthma, tobacco withdrawal, allergies, colds, soother for inflamed conditions, pain reliever in elevated amounts and as a sedative.


expectorant, emetic, anti-asthmatic, stimulant antispasmodic, diaphoretic, diuretic, nervine