Lobelia herb treats respiratory problems and more

Lobelia herb treats respiratory problems and more

Lobelia (officially lobelia inflata), alias Indian Tobacco, was a common herb prescribed by early North American physicians. Its main use is for the treatment of respiratory diseases, such as asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia and cough. The stem of the plant, which has only a few branches, is smooth on top, while the underside is rough and mossy. The lower leaves, which are about two inches long, have petioles, while the upper, smaller ones do not. The pale green or yellowish leaves have a sharp taste and a slightly irritating smell. Rare colors are pale violet-blue on the outside and pale yellow on the inside.

Lobelia consists of various alkaloids, a bitter glycoside (lobellacrine), a hot volatile oil (lobelianine), resin, gum, chelidonic acid and fat. The lobeline alkaloid is its main ingredient and namesake. Others include lobellidine, lobelanine, nor-lobelaine, lobelanidine, nor-lobellanidine, and isolobenine, as well as fourteen pyridine alkaloids.

Lobeline acts much like nicotine in terms of its effect on the central nervous system, but without addictive properties. In fact, it is a key ingredient in many smoking cessation treatments. Lobeline acts as a general relaxant and is used to treat spastic problems of the colon and muscles. It also dilates the bronchioles, thereby speeding up breathing and helping the lungs.

The main use of lobelia is in the treatment of respiratory problems such as bronchitis and pneumonia. It stimulates the adrenal glands to release the hormone epinephrine, which causes the airways to relax. Lobelia is a strong relaxant and removes obstructions. It relaxes the stomach (a common problem in children with asthma) as it widens the bronchial passages. In fact, many people have used it to stop asthma attacks instead of inhalers.

Other practical ways to use lobelia’s qualities include these. Rub lobelia tincture or extract on the shoulders of a restless child; this is an excellent way to help him fall asleep. Rub the extract on the gums of a baby’s teething teeth. Take it internally to expel mucus, clear stomach congestion and promote the flow of oxygenated blood. Poultry can be applied to ringworm, bruises and insect bites. Catnip and lobelia enemas are good for treating mumps in men. As a sedative, it is thought to rank somewhere between veratrum and aconite.

Use lobelia to treat laryngitis in children and for barking cough. Ellingwood recommended lobelia for the following pathologies: “spasmodic asthma, spasmodic croup, membranous croup, infantile convulsions, whooping cough, puerperal eclampsia, epilepsy, tetanus, hysterical paroxysms, diphtheria, hysterical convulsions, tonsillitis, pneumonia,” among others.

Lobelia is available for internal use as a dried herb, in liquid extract form, and as tinctures. Externally, it is available in the form of ointments, lotions, suppositories and patches. You can make a tea by mixing 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of the dried herb with eight ounces of water. Then let it simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Take two ounces of this four times a day, but be warned, many think it tastes awful! Take 6 to 2 ml of the tincture daily. This is based on a 150 pound adult. Adjust the dose for children proportionately.

Lobelia is considered a potentially toxic herb. Special care is recommended when using it. Signs of lobelia poisoning may include weakness, heartburn, weak pulse, difficulty breathing, and collapse. People with high blood pressure, heart disease, tobacco sensitivity, paralysis and seizures should not take lobelia. Lobelia is not recommended for pregnant and lactating women. Lobelia can be an aggressive emetic, even in relatively small doses, if the system is highly toxic. The resulting nausea and vomiting, although unpleasant, will benefit the patient.

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