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Lobelia inflata, also known as Indian tobacco or puke weed, is a species of Lobelia native to eastern North America, from southeastern Canada (Nova Scotia to southeast Ontario) south through the eastern United States to Alabama and west to Kansas.[2]

Indian tobacco
Lobelia inflata - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-218.jpg
Lobelia inflata[1]
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Campanulaceae
Genus: Lobelia
L. inflata
Binomial name
Lobelia inflata



Lobelia inflata. Flower

Lobelia inflata is an annual or biennial herbaceous plant growing to 15–100 cm (5.9–39.4 in) tall, with stems covered in tiny hairs. Its leaves are usually about 8 cm (3.1 in) long, and are ovate and toothed. they are alternately arranged. It has violet flowers that are tinted yellow on the inside, and usually appear in mid-summer and continue to bloom into fall.[3] The seedcases are small, brown, dehiscent, and papery.[4]


Propagation is usually accomplished by cuttings or seed. Seeds are sown in containers in mid spring or mid fall. The seeds take about 2 weeks to germinate.

Traditional usesEdit

Lobelia inflata has a long use as a medicinal plant, as an entheogenic, emetic, and a dermatological and respiratory aid.[5] Native Americans used it for respiratory and muscle disorders, as a purgative, and as a ceremonial medicine.[5] The plant was used as a traditional medicinal plant by the Cherokee, Iroquois, Penobscot, and other indigenous peoples. The foliage was burned by the Cherokee as a natural insecticide, to smoke out gnats.[5] It was widely used in the pre-Columbian New England region, long before the time of Samuel Thomson, who was erroneously credited as discovering it.

It is still used medicinally in the present day;[6] however, there are adverse effects that limit its use.[7] Side effects can include sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, rapid heartbeat, mental confusion, convulsions, hypothermia, coma, and possibly death.[8]

Chemical constituentsEdit

Lobelia inflata has been shown to contain 52 different alkaloid compounds,[9] the most studied and medically pertinent being lobeline.[10]


  1. ^ Franz Eugen Köhler, 1897, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen
  2. ^ "Lobelia inflata". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2009-04-09.
  3. ^ Caldecott, T. Western Materia Medica: Lobelia inflata (pdf file)[permanent dead link]
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c University of Michigan at Dearborn: Native American Ethnobotany of Lobelia inflata
  6. ^ "Lobelia". EBSCO Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Review Board. January 2006. Retrieved 2007-09-12.
  7. ^ "Risky pills: Supplements to avoid". Consumer reports. 73 (1): 46–7. 2008. PMID 18488285.
  8. ^ "Lobelia". University of Maryland Medical Center. It can cause serious side effects, such as profuse sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, rapid heartbeat, mental confusion, convulsions, hypothermia, coma, and possibly even death.
  9. ^ Kursinszki, László; Szőke, Éva (2015). "HPLC-ESI-MS/MS of brain neurotransmitter modulator lobeline and related piperidine alkaloids in Lobelia inflataL". Journal of Mass Spectrometry. 50 (5): 727. doi:10.1002/jms.3581. PMID 26259655.
  10. ^ "Taxon: Lobelia inflata L." National Plant Germplasm System.

External linksEdit