"Natural Healing with Herbs for a Healthier You"

by Rosanna King
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Oh, No, now I have to give you all the negative news on lobelia. And believe me there sure is a lot of it out there. I hope you don’t forget all the wonderful qualities of lobelia that we already discussed. Remember that what some consider proof that the plant is poisonous simply shows those who understand lobelia, how powerful it is in assisting the human body to throw off disease.


The use of lobelia is contraindicated in the following situations; Decompensation (failure of compensation – the counterbalancing of defect of structure or function); Hydrothorax (effused fluid in pleural cavity (pleura – the serous membrane investing lungs and lining the thorax); Hypertension (abnormally high tension; especially high blood-pressure) due to the alpha adrenergic hypertensive effect of lobeline. People with nicotine sensitivity and pregnant or nursing women are also warned against using lobelia due to the similarity of lobeline to nicotine.[1]


It should not be used in “nervous prostration”, shock, paralysis, or poisoning with a depressing substance due to lobeline’s (an alkaloid in lobelia) depressant effect on preganaglionic nicotine receptors.[2] Large doses of lobelia can temporarily affect the heart muscle, so those with a history of irregular heartbeat should avoid “lobelia puke” therapy.[3] Specific contraindications relating to lobeline’s effect on cardiac neural conductivity are; Asthma secondary to cardiac disease, ‘hypertension’ sinus arrhythmia or bundle branch block; hydropericardium (dropsy of pericardium); dyspnea from enlarged or fatty heart; and valvular incompetence of the heart.[4] Furthermore it should not be employed as an emetic especially in the very young or elderly due to the depressant effect of lobeline.[5]


Lobelia is considered toxic because of its strong emetic, expectorant, and sedative effects and too dangerous for use by laymen. Common folks, those who are not doctors, are advised to avoid the plant and to only take professionally prepared preparations under the guidance of a qualified practitioner i.e. medical herbalist or doctor.[6] The editors of Jethro Kloss’s great herbal “Back to Eden” had the audacity to insert this caution “Lobelia may have some toxic effects and should not be taken internally without proper consultation. It is safe if used externally.[7]


If those who don’t know what they are doing, use lobelia, watch out. The naysayers’ list of side effects and overdose symptoms is pretty scary. Lobeline, like nicotine, acts as a stimulant in small dosages, but as a nerve depressant and powerful acro-narcotic poison in excessive doses, hence the danger of experimentation.[8] Overdose symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, dizziness, disturbed hearing and vision, mental confusion, weakness, shivering, profuse sweating, tachycardia, convulsions, hypothermia, hypotension, pinpoint pupils, paralysis, respiratory depression, low blood pressure, salivation, stupor, tachypnea (very rapid respiration), tremors, coma and in extreme cases death due to respiratory paralysis.[9] After that long list of scary side effects I found some good news as well. Excessive ingestion is rare because vomiting normally occurs first, forestalling and/or lessening the toxic results.[10]


Lobelia is definitely contra-indicated in cases where there is no hope of recovery. Even though lobelia can work “miracles” it has its limits and cannot “raise the dead”. Benjamin Colby said “. . . lobelia cannot go beyond these bounds, and save life where nature, in her omnipotence has declared that life should no longer be . . .” If lobelia is given in a hopeless case, lobelia goes down on record as having killed them, even if they have been given up by the best doctors in town.[11]

[1] http://www.naturalopinion.com/report/HtmlPages/Lobelia.htm, www.farmacopia.net/nutrient_herbs.html; http:metagenics.com/resources/imc/OneMedicineProf/ProfHerbs/Lobelia.html

[2] www.farmacopia.net/nutrient_herbs.html;  http://www.naturalopinion.com/report/HtmlPages/Lobelia.htm.

[3] Cech, Making Plant Medicine, part 2, p. 166; Page, How to be Your Own Herbal Pharmacist, p. 198.

[4] http://www.naturalopinion.com/report/HtmlPages/Lobelia.htm, www.farmacopia.net/nutrient_herbs.html

[5] www.farmacopia.net/nutrient_herbs.html

[6] Meyers, The Herbalist, p. 74; Chevallier, The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants; p. 108; Lust, The Herb Book, p. 259;  Foster and Duke, Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, p. 208.

[7] Kloss, Back to Eden, section 2, p. 142.

[8] Hylton, The Rodale Herb Book, Appendix A, p. 496; Grieve, A Modern Herbal, p. 495.

[9]http://www.naturalopinion.com/report/HtmlPages/Lobelia.htm; http:metagenics.com/resources/imc/OneMedicineProf/ProfHerbs/Lobelia.html

Grieve, A Modern Herbal, p. 495; Elpel, Botany in a Day, part 2, p. 156.

[10] http://www.naturalopinion.com/report/HtmlPages/Lobelia.htm, Chevallier, The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants, Key Medicinal Plants, p. 108

[11] Colby, A Guide to Health, 1846, Relaxants, Lobelia inflata;  King, King’s American Dispensatory, www.henriettesherbal.com/eclectic/kings/lobelia.html; Lloyd, Bulletin of the Lloyd Library, No. 11, series 7, 1909, Life and Medical Discoveries of Samuel Thomson, p. 40.

[Table of Contents] [History] [Location] [Chemical Constituents] [Medicinal Qualities]
[Contra-Indications] [Known Herbal Formulas] [Dosages & Applications] [Personal Experience] [Bibliography]