Because lobelia has nicotine-like effects, some people have used it to help them stop smoking. Lobelia comes primarily from the dried leaves and tops of Lobelia inflata. The herb is named after the botanist Matthias de Lobel, a native of Lille, who died in London in 1616. It is an erect annual or biennial herb, 1 to 2 feet high; lower leaves and also flower are stalked, the latter being pale violet-blue in colour, tinted pale yellow within. Commercially, it is usually prepared in compressed, oblong packages, by the Shakers of New Lebanon for importation into England. The colour is a yellowish green, the odour irritating, the taste, after chewing, very like that of tobacco, burning and acrid, causing a flow of saliva. The powder has a greenish colour, but that of the seeds is brown, and stains paper with grease.
Common doses of lobelia
Lobelia comes as:
- capsules (395 milligrams)
- tablets (2 milligrams)
- lozenges (1 milligram)
Some experts recommend the following dose:
- As a smoking deterrent, 0.5 to 2 milligrams in tablets or lozenges. The usual dose is 2 milligrams taken orally after each meal with 1/2 glass of water for no more than 6 weeks. Oral doses up to 8 milligrams have been used but caused significant stomach upset. Daily oral doses of beline (an alkaloid in the herb) exceeding 20 milligrams are considered poisonous.
Uses of lobelia
Lobeline, an active constituent in the lobelia plant, is very similar to nicotine in its effect on the central nervous system. Lobeline acts as a relaxant overall while also dilating the bronchioles (air passages), thereby increasing respiration and possibly helping the lungs. Specifically, lobelia may help to :-
- As a smoking cessation aid
- Muscle spasms
- To induce vomiting
Side effects of lobelia
Call your health care practitioner if you experience any of these possible side effects of lobelia:
- fluid retention
- nausea and vomiting (with higher doses)
- severe heartburn
- stomach pain
Lobelia also may cause:
- death (from respiratory depression and respiratory muscle paralysis)
- increased blood pressure
- respiratory slowing (with high doses) or stimulation (with low doses)
- slow pulse
Combining herbs with certain drugs may alter their action or produce unwanted side effects. Don’t use lobelia while taking drugs used for nicotine therapy.
Important points to remember
- Don’t use lobelia if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding.
- Don’t give this herb to children.
- Be aware that an overdose of lobeline (an alkaloid in lobelia) causes such symptoms as an irregular heartbeat, extreme sweating, dizziness (from low blood pressure), muscle twitching, seizures, chills, and coma.
- If you have liver or kidney problems, check with your health care practitioner before using this herb.
- To help stop smoking, medical experts recommend smoking cessation programs, counseling, behavior modification, nicotine replacement, and other drugs instead of Lobelia.
- Don’t use any product containing lobeline for more than 6 weeks because researchers have no information about long-term use.
What the research shows
Because it’s similar to nicotine, lobeline, an alkaloid in lobelia, has been used to help people stop smoking. However, no longterm data are available and no clinical trials have been done. Lobeline can cause more serious side effects than other smoking cessation treatments. Therefore, medical experts don’t recommend it.
Other names for lobelia : –
Other names for lobelia include asthma weed, bladderpod, cardinal flower, eyebright, gagroot, great lobelia, Indian pink, Indian tobacco, pukeweed, rapuntium inflatum, and vomitwort.
Products containing lobelia are sold under such names as Bantron Tablets, Lobelia Capsules, Lobelia Extract, Lobeline Lozenges, and Lobidram Computabs.