Scientific name: Lobelia inflata (Indian Tobacco)

Common names: Bladderpod, Wild Tobacco, Emetic Herb, Emetic Weed, Puke Weed, Asthma Weed, Rag Root, Eye-Bright, Vomit Wort

Ayurvedic names:

Chinese names: Pan-pien-lien

Bangladesh names:

Arabic names:

Rain Forest names:

Family: Campanulaeceae

Approximate number of species known:

Common parts used: Whole herb

Collection:  Normally collected between early summer, and early fall.

Annual/Perennial: Annual

Height: 1-3 feet

Actions: Respiratory stimulant, anti-asmathaitc, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, emetic, nervine, sedative

Known Constituents: Alkaloids including  lobeline, lobelidine, lobelanine, glycosides

Constituents Explained:


The stem is angular and hairy.  Within is a milky sap. The leaves are alternate (picture) and hariy the leaves are lanceolate (picture) and serrate (picture)   

The tubular flowers (picture) are a pale violet colour.  The flowers have a 2 lipped corolla??? with 2 upper lobes that are erect and 3 lower spreading lobes.

As the flowers mature a pod is formed which contains several brown seeds.  Generally grows in waste areas.

Traditional Use:

A very interesting herb that was Dr. John Christopher’s favorite herb.  In cases where Asthma was life threatening he would give a cup of peppermint tea, then a tablespoon of Lobeila tincture every ten minutes, until vomiting commenced.

Dr Samuel Thompson was credited as being the one to first use it in North America.

It tends to have a different effect in different people.   It is a powerful relaxant.1

Jethro Kloss would give Lobelia herb orally, in conjunction with catnip enema.  Was use often for fevers. He would always give a stimulant first.1  

While it is commonly known as an emetic, in very small doses it is used to stop vomiting.

Once one of the most used and valued herbs for the respiratory system, its subsequent ban in countries like America? And Australia has seen its use halted.  Lobelia for a long time by herbalists was considered the most valuable herb for the lungs.

It was once used to open the air ways, and would see people cough, or vomit large amounts of mucous particulary from the lungs.  Once used in anecdotes for its ability to stop an asthma attack, or even save a life, its use has now been replaced with more commonly available herbs.

Like many plants in nature, its medicinal use covers both sides of the coin.  One alkaloid: lobeline on its own acts as a respiratory stimulant, isolobelanine is a respiratory relaxant.

It was once used by herbalists to curtail the craving for nicotine.  High doses may induce vomiting. 

Clinical Studies:




Herb Name:  Lobelia

Other names:

Rapuntium inflatum,



Asthma Weed 





Latin name: Lobelia inflata

Family: Lobeliaceae

Common part used: 

The dried flowering herb and seeds

The herb is named after the botanist Matthias de Lobel, a native of Lillie, 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 color, tinted pale yellow within. Commercially, it is usually prepared in compressed, oblong packages, by the Shakers of New Lebanon for importation into England. The color is a yellowish green, the odor irritating, the taste, after chewing, very like that of tobacco, burning and acrid, causing a flow of saliva. The powder has a greenish color, but that of the seeds is brown, and stains paper with grease.

Medicinal Uses:  It is expectorant, diaphoretic, anti-asthmatic. 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 
  • Asthma 
  • Bronchitis 
  • Muscle spasms 
  • To induce vomiting