Also known as Lobelia Inflata, Lobelia Cardinalis (Cardinal Flower), Lobelia Laxiflora (pictured, image from Wikipedia), Indian Tobacco, Puke weed and Asthma root, this is a powerful herb. The AMA has officially condemned it and lobbied the FDA to ban it’s “manufacture and marketing” in the US. All substances that have the power to heal also have the power to hurt, and vice versa. All herbs should be treated with respect and used with awareness and proper caution. Lobelia, when approached from this vantage, can become your best friend. Lobelia has been called Indian Tobacco for it’s repudiated effects on the respiratory system, especially in opening and relaxing deep congestion. Dried lobelia has been smoked or prepared as a strong infusion or tincture. Ingesting large quantities of Lobelia (no known definition of how ‘large’) will cause emesis or vomiting, which is useful in conditions where expelling the stomach contents is desirable (from Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs Peterson Field Guide by Stephen Foster and Christopher Hobbs, 2002). Moderate amounts are also effective in acute cases of asthma or spasmodic cough. Lobelia is primary as a bronchiodilator, antiasthmatic and antitussive as it has an overall relaxing effect. The Energetics of Western Herbs by Peter Holmes ( third edition, 1998) classifies Lobelia under “herbs to circulate Lung Qi, Open the Chest and Relieve Wheezing” (p. 505).
Herbalists universally agree Lobelia augments the overall efficacy of any herbal formula in which it is included.