Lobelia is an annual or biannual herbaceous plant in the Campanulaceae family native to eastern North America, from southeastern Canada south through the eastern United States to Alabama and west to Kansas. Lobelia has smooth green semi-woody stems that are covered in fine white hairs, white roots, bilabiate violet flowers tinged with yellow on the insides, and alternating ovate toothed leaves with arcuate veins. It can tolerate full sun and part shade and will grow from both seeds and cuttings. It doesn’t need much maintenance once it’s established, but be sure to water frequently in hot or dry spells. It should be grown in well drained soils and tends to form creeping clumps, making it ideal for containers and hanging baskets. You can also find other varieties that flower in red or white, and it’s good for attracting pollinators such as butterflies. The leaves, stems, and flowers of the plant are used medicinally and collected at the end of the summer, which is towards the end of the plant’s flowering season.
Lobelia has a relaxing and depressant effect on the nervous and muscular systems. It is also both a strong respiratory relaxant and stimulant; The alkaloids present in lobelia are strong stimulants, useful in treating bronchitis and brochial asthma. At the same time, another of it’s chemical constituents is isolobelanine, which is a respiratory relaxant and in large doses, an emetic (a substance that causes vomiting). This stimulates the catarrhal and expectorates, helping to clear out the lungs at the same time as it relaxes them. This makes it a altogether very effective treatment for lung issues.
The roots were traditionally used by the Iroquios in a decoction to treat syphyllis and diarrhea. The Iroquios also smoked the entheogenic leaves to reach a state of mental clarity and to treat bronchial issues, hence lobelia’s other common name, “Indian Tobacco”. The smoke form the burning leaves is also considered a natural bug repellant.
As an infusion, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon per cup of dried leaves, infused for 10-15 minutes, taken three times daily, or as a tincture of 1/2-1 ml three times daily. It combines well with cayenne, grindelia, sundew, and ephedra for asthmatics.
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