Lobelia inflata L.

Last updated: 26 September 2016

Scientific Name

Lobelia inflata L.


Dortmanna inflate (L.) Kuntze, Lobelia michauxii Nutt, Rapuntium inflatum (L.) Mill. Rapuntium michauxii (Nutt.) C.Presl, Lobelia inflata f. albiflora Moldenke, Lobelia inflata var. simplex Millsp. [1]

Vernacular Name

English Indian-tobacco, pukeweed, asthma weed, gagroot, vomitwort, bladderpod, eyebright. [2]

Geographical Distributions

Lobelia inflata is found in dry places in the northern United States, Canada and Kamchatka. Also, reported to grow in English gardens. [2]

Botanical Description

L. inflata is a member of the Campanulaceae family. [1] Lobelia is an attractive annual or sometimes biennial (reseeding every year or 2) herb that grows to a height of 3 feet. The stem is upright, hairy and angular, branching at the top, usually green with a tinge of violet. The leaves are pale green or yellowish have a sharp taste and a slightly irritating odor. The flowers are sparse and pale violet blue outside and pale yellow inside. [3]


No documentation

Chemical Constituent

L. inflata has been reported to contain l-lobeline, lobelanine, norlobelanine, isolobinine, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, calcium, chelidonic acid, iron, magnesium, niacin, potassium, pyridine-alkaloids. [4][5][6][7]

Plant Part Used

Dried flower, leaves and seeds. [2][3]

Traditional Use

L. inflata has been commonly used in Native American medicine as a respiratory aid. [8] An infusion of the plant taken internally, or smoking the leaves has been found to be very effective in treating asthma, tuberculosis and other ailments affecting the respiratory system. [9] In addition to being used to treat respiratory disorders, the leaves of L. inflata are also smoked to relieve addiction to tobacco, potentially due to its similarities in smell while burning, as well as its primary chemical constituent, lobeline, being similar in effect to nicotine. [3]

In larger doses, L. inflata has been used as an emetic. Typically, an infusion is administered in order to induce vomiting, which makes L. inflata very useful in cases of poisoning or ingestion of toxic materials. [10] However, dosages that are too large can be fatal.

The poultices and infusions made of L. inflata have been used externally as both an analgesic [10] and a dermatological aide. [9] The external uses of L. inflata range from being applied to abrasions and sores, to being applied to external symptoms of some venereal diseases. [9]

Preclinical Data


The alkaloid lobeline has been found to affect dopamine metabolism by inhibiting dopamine uptake and promoting its release. Further exploration of this action led researchers to determine that use of lobeline in an animal model reduced the amphetamine induced dopamine release in animals dosed with amphetamine and methamphetamine. No symptoms of addiction were noted. [11] Further examination of this action has been demonstrated with lobelane, a synthetic version of the alkaloid. [5]

The traditional use of L. inflata as a tobacco product has been examined in several studies investigating the potential role of the herb in smoking cessation. [12] Original thought was that the active, Lobeline, was a nicotine agonist. However further investigation has revealed that it is the chemical’s role in dopamine metabolism that is the mechanism that warrants further investigation. [13]

L. inflata has also been studied for its antidepressant activity in several animal models. [7][14] The active determined to be responsible for this actions is beta-amyrin palmitate, isolated from the leaf of the plant. [13]

Clinical Data

No documentation


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Side effects

The potential side effects and possible interactions with other drugs are significant with this herb. L. inflata has been known to cause tachycardia. [15] Therefore it should only be used under supervision of a trained professional. [3]

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also avoid this herb. [3]

Age limitation

There are no studies evaluating whether it is safe to give lobelia to a child. Avoid use in children unless under the supervision of your child's health care provider. [3]

Adverse reaction

Large doses of the pyridine alkaloid, lobeline, can cause vomiting, paralysis, coma and death. [8]

Interaction & Depletion

Interaction with drug

Based on pharmacology, L. inflata should not to be used in combination with medications for hypertension, cardiovascular disease, or lung disorders. L. inflata is considered to have psychoactive properties and should be avoided without careful guidance by a licensed practitioner. [10] Should be avoided by anyone taking medication for schizophrenia or related mental disorder. Not to be used in combination with any prescription drug therapy. [3]

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation


Dosage Range

Begin with low dosages and increase gradually, depending on response. Remember that even moderate doses can be toxic; L. inflata should only be taken under the guidance of a knowledgeable herbal prescriber. [3]

Most Common Dosage

No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing

No documentation


  1. The plant list. Ver1.1. Lobelia inflata L. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2016 Sept 27]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-353345
  2. Botanical.com. A modern herbal. Lobelia [homepage on the Internet]. c1995-2016 [cited 2016 Sept 27]. Available from: http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/l/lobeli38.html
  3. University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). Lobelia. [homepage on the Internet]. c2016 [updated 2015 Feb 1; cited 2016 Sept 27]. Available from: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/lobelia
  4. Duke JA. Handbook of phytochemical constituents of GRAS herbs and other economic plants. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press; 1992.
  5. Neugebauer NM. Lobelane decreases methamphetamine self-administration in rats. Eur J Pharmacol. 2007;571(1):33-38.
  6. Felpin FX. History, chemistry and biology of alkaloids from Lobelia inflate. Tetrahedron. 2004;60(45):10127-10153.
  7. Subarnas A. An antidepressant principle of Lobelia inflata L. (Campanulaceae). J Pharm Sci. 1992;81(7):620-621.
  8. Lewis WH, Elvin-Lewis MPF. Medical botany: Plants affecting man’s health. New York: Wiley-Interscience; 1977.
  9. Moerman DE.  Native American Ethnobotany. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press; 2009.
  10. Hutchens A.  Indian herbalogy of North America. Boston, Massachusetts: Shambala; 1991.
  11. Dwoskin LP. A novel mechanism of action and potential use for lobeline as a treatment for psychostimulant abuse. Biochem Pharmacol. 2002;63(2):89-98.
  12. Lim DY. Influence of lobeline on catecholamine release from the isolated perfused rat adrenal gland. Auton Neurosci. 2004;110(1):27-35.
  13. Subarnas A. Pharmacological properties of beta-amyrin palmitate, a novel centrally acting compound, isolated from Lobelia inflata leaves. J Pharm Pharmacol. 1993;45(6):545-550.
  14. Teng L. Lobeline displaces [3H]dihydrotetrabenazine binding and releases [3H]dopamine from rat striatal synaptic vesicles: comparison with d-amphetamine. J Neurochem. 1998;71(1):258-265.
  15. Miller LG, Murray WJ. Herbal medicinals: A clinician’s guide. New York: Pharmaceutical Products Press; 1998.