Lobelia ~ Indian Tobacco

Lobelia (Indian Tobacco)

Actions – antispasmodic, emetic, expectorant, nervine, relaxant (Keith, 1984)

Lobelia is one of my most favorite of herbs because of its skill in healing.  It’s so delicate to see in nature, however, the energy it gives off to me is not delicate and not meek at all.  It gives off energy of pure strength and intelligence. This brings me to mind its medicinal use that few know about and that is the application of its intelligence.  Known as the thinking herb, by some herbalists such as the famed Dr. Christopher, Lobelia added to a formula has a way of thinking where healing is needed in the body, and then directing other herb ingredients where they are most needed.

Lobelia is known for its value in respiratory healing in part due to its anti-spasmodic actions and its expectorant effects.  Traditionally it has been used for asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia.  Native Americans relieved these conditions by smoking Lobelia, which is why it’s known as Indian Tobacco.  These beneficial effects on the respiratory system can also be achieved by drinking Lobelia tea, taking an encapsulated form, or tincture drops (Grieve, 1931).

The uses of Lobelia just keep getting better when we take a look at how beneficial it can be for people overcoming addictions.  Lobelia contains an alkaloid called lobeline.  Lobeline is very similar to nicotine.  It works to block the effects of nicotine making it useful in helping to quit smoking.  It also blocks the effects of amphetamine and opioids.  This makes it extremely important in investigating the uses as a treatment for opiate addiction as well as methamphetamine addiction (Miller et al., 2007).  St. John’s Wort is an excellent herb to add to quit addictions such as smoking.  Add Milk Thistle to help detoxify the chemicals from drugs from the liver.

Other traditional uses for Lobelia include external use in a poultice for boils, bruises, bites and stings, poison ivy rash, and other skin irritations (Grieve, 1931).

In combination with mullein, Lobelia is a healer of the glandular system.  Combine three parts mullein and one part Lobelia in a tea, tincture, or capsules.  This can be taken three times per day for issues with glands, such as the tonsils, sweat glands, lymph nodes, and thyroid.

It is important to remember that Lobelia acts as an emetic.  It can induce vomiting.  At times this may be beneficial in helping the body purge toxins.  However, if this effect is not desired, Lobelia can be combined with capsicum or peppermint.  I have found that usually if purging is needed, a moderate amount will be effective.  If purging is not needed, that same amount will not induce this effect.  I have successfully used a small amount of Lobelia to reduce spasms from excessive vomiting. Remembering that it’s known as the thinking herb, maybe Lobelia knows best.

Be well,
Charlotte Test


Grieve, M. (1931). A modern herbal.

Keith, V.J., & Gordon, M. (1984). The how to herb book. (16th ed.)  Pleasant Grove, UT: Mayfield Publications.

Miller, D.K., Lever, J.R., Rodvelt, K.R., Baskett, J.A., Will, M.J., & Kracke, G.R. (2007).  Lobeline, a potential pharmacotherapy for drug addiction, binds to [mu] opioid receptors and diminishes the effects of opioid receptor agonists, Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 89(2-3), 282-291. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2007.02.003.


We have Lobelia and the other herbs mentioned in this article in different forms.  For single loose tea form order from Peace Eagle Herbs (http://www.peaceeagleherbs.com/singleherborderform.html)

For capsules and extract order from www.mynsp.com/herbalhour

1 thought on “Lobelia ~ Indian Tobacco”

Leave a Comment