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"Lobelia" Commonly called “Indian Tobacco"

Lobelia inflate. Lobeliaceae                                                                      

This is a field plant found mainly in North America where it is commonly called “Indian Tobacco”. Its leaves are pointed and yellowish-green, its flowers hooded and of a brilliant blue (one of its common names being “blue cardinal flower”). Some varieties have red or purple flowers. This is one of the most important herbs of the American Indians, and they have chosen well, for it belongs to a small group of herbs which are virtually cure-alls, being beneficial to the whole body and healing in all ailments. One species of lobelia, Lobelia syphilitica was used by the Canadian Indians in the treatment of all types of venereal diseases. One would hesitate, of course, to claim that this would be nowadays and everywhere be a chosen remedy; but nevertheless the well-attested evidence of its effectiveness use over a long period is worth taking into account. The whole plant, including the seed, is used.   

Use, internal:

It is especially good for quelling spasms, including heart spasms, convulsions, whooping cough, chorea and other nervous twitching; will relieve vomiting of a spasmodic kind. For epilepsy, cramps, obstructions, stomach, liver and bladder disorders. For all fevers, especially typhus, scarlet fever and erysipelas. Lobelia is sometimes called “vomit weed,” and its emetic properties make it valuable in treatment of rabies, when no other help is near. Use, external: Used as a lotion or ointment for treatment of congested chest, skin ailments, many types of sores, non-malignant, swellings.


A small teaspoon of crushed leaves, either green or dried. When green use a large teaspoon instead of a small one, pour over this a cupful of hot water (just off the boil), steep and sweeten, and take fasting night and morning. As an emetic, take a half-teaspoon of dried powdered herb and pods, add a pinch of cayenne pepper, taken in a cup of warm water. Take the whole dose every half-hour until the stomach is thoroughly cleansed. There are several mid-nineteenth-century references to lobelia’s emetic properties. Lobelia should not be too lavishly used.

Lobelia Lotion:

Steep for one week, one ounce of powdered lobelia in a cup of apple cider vinegar, apply to the affected areas, or make a Standard Brew of lobelia herb and apply as cold compress

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