Lobelia, also known as Indian tobacco, is a flowering herb with a long history of medicinal use. The Drugs.com website reports that Native Americans used the plant during spiritual ceremonies and smoked it to help clear asthma and other respiratory diseases. It has also been prescribed to help those seeking to quit smoking. For medicinal purposes, lobelia extract is available as a liquid, in alcohol-based solutions such as tinctures and dried in capsule form. Lobelia is a potentially toxic herb and should be taken in moderation. Consult your doctor before taking lobelia.
The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that lobelia may be used to help aid in respiratory illness. Herbalists have suggested it to help aid with conditions such as bronchitis, asthma, whooping cough and pneumonia. Lobelia is an herbal expectorant, which means it can help clear mucus from the lungs and respiratory tract -- though few studies have shown whether it has been truly effective in healing such conditions.
Lobelia contains the active ingredient lobeline, whose effects on the body appear to be similar to those of nicotine. Research has also shown that lobeline effects dopamine, a brain chemical that influences addiction. For these reasons, lobelia has long been prescribed to help with quitting smoking. At time of publication, however, studies have not proven lobelia to be effective in helping addictive patterns.
Lobelia has also been called "puke weed." The University of Maryland Medical Center explains that, during the 19th century, American doctors gave lobelia to patients to induce vomiting and remove toxins from the body. In homeopathy, however, the herb has been used to help reduce nausea and vomiting. Too much lobelia can cause nausea, dizziness or sweating, so use caution. Pregnant or nursing women should not take lobelia.
The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center suggests that lobelia has been used to help aid with depression, though it has not been proved. Homeopathic medicine also suggests lobelia as a muscle relaxant. There can be possible interactions with certain anti-depressant or anti-anxiety drugs, so check with your doctor. It is best to start taking lobelia in lower dosages, combined with other herbs, then build up if you experience no adverse reactions. Drugs.com suggests taking lobelia extract in two to four grams daily in a tea. You can also add a few drops to warm water or, if you don't mind the taste, directly in the mouth.