Lobelia

While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • Alpha-lobeline, asthma weed, beta-amyrin palmitate, bladderpod, Campanulaceae (family), cardinal flower, DIPSTOPTM, gagroot, Indian tobacco, L. cardinalis, Lobelia cardinalis, Lobelia chinensis Lour., Lobelia dortmanna spp., Lobelia erinus, Lobelia giberroa, Lobelia inflata spp., Lobelia laxiflora L., Lobelia nicotinifolia, Lobelia polyphylla, Lobelia portoricensis Urban, Lobelia radicans Thumb., Lobelia sessilifolia, Lobelia siphilitica spp., Lobelia spicata, Lobelia suavibracteata, Lobelia tupa, Lobelia urens L., lobeline, lobeline sulphate, Lobelioideae, lophilacrin, lophilin, lurenine, moradilla, norlobelanidine, pukeweed, radicamine A, radicamine B, syphilobin, tupa, vomitwort.

Background

  • Lobelia, also known as Indian tobacco, is a genus in the plant family Campanulaceae. Lobeline, a chemical in lobelia, has been used to induce emesis (vomiting) and improve lung conditions like asthma and bronchitis. Lobelia has been nicknamed “pukeweed” for its vomit-inducing effects.

  • According to some research, lobeline has similar effects to nicotine, and it has been added to smoking cessation aids. It is unclear whether lobeline is effective for this use.

  • All parts of the lobelia plant are potentially toxic. Eating lobelia has caused death in cattle and horses. It is not listed on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list, due to possible adverse effects, including respiratory stimulation (increased breathing), low blood pressure, and even death.

Scientific Evidence

Uses

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Smoking cessation

Early studies investigated the use of lobeline for smoking cessation. Additional research is needed before a conclusion can be made.

*Key to grades:

Tradition

The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.

  • Antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, asthma, bronchitis, cardiovascular disease, cough, deficiency (chromium), drug abuse (methamphetamine), emetic (causes vomiting), muscle relaxation, pneumonia, respiratory disorders, sedative, snake venom antidote.

Dosing

The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

Adults (18 years and older)

  • Lobelia has been taken by mouth as a dried herb infusion, decoction, liquid extract, lozenge, and tincture, and as lobeline.

  • For smoking cessation, five milligrams of lobeline, a constituent of lobelia, has been taken by mouth twice daily; 0.5 milligram lozenges may also be used.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for lobelia in children.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid with known allergy or hypersensitivity to lobelia (Lobelia inflata), its constituents, or other plants in the Campanulaceae family.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • All parts of the lobelia plant are potentially toxic and considered poisonous, particularly at high doses. Lobelia may cause autonomic nervous system stimulation, respiratory depression, or sweating. Lobeline, a constituent of lobelia, can cause adverse effects, including rapid heartbeat, sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, and death.

  • Use with caution in patients with asthma, as lobelia may cause increased breathing rate.

  • Lobelia may cause low blood pressure or increased heart rate. Caution is advised in patients with heart disease and those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that lower blood pressure.

  • Use with caution in patients taking medications that work on the central nervous system, as lobelia may cause drowsiness or sedation.

  • Avoid in patients who smoke or use other nicotine-containing products.

  • Avoid during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Lobelia may cause vomiting and loss of uterine tone.

  • Avoid with known allergy or hypersensitivity to lobelia (Lobelia inflata), its constituents, or other plants in the Campanulaceae family.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Lobelia is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding, due to lack of sufficient data. Lobelia may cause vomiting and loss of uterine tone when used in pregnancy.

Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

Interactions with Drugs

  • Lobelia may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking drugs, herbs or supplements that lower blood pressure.

  • Lobelia may cause drowsiness. Caution is advised when using lobelia in combination with drugs that work on the central nervous system, including CNS depressants, and those that cause sedation. Examples of these drugs include benzodiazepines such as lorazepam (Ativan®) and diazepam (Valium®), barbiturates such as phenobarbital, narcotics such as codeine, some antidepressants (such as mianserin and imipramine), and alcohol. Caution is advised while driving or operating machinery.

  • Lobelia may also interact with antiasthma drugs, anti-inflammatory agents, diuretics, or nicotine.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Lobelia may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking herbs or supplements that lower blood pressure.

  • Lobelia may increase the amount of drowsiness caused by some herbs or supplements, such as some antidepressants and sedatives.

  • Lobelia may also interact with antiasthma herbs and supplements, anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements, chromium (and chromium-containing herbs, such as sand immortelle, foxglove, Alexandrian laurel, Greek valerian, marsh cudweed, and Adenostyles), diuretics, teas, or tobacco.

Author Information

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  1. Brown NM, Trizna Z, Pathak S. Clastogenic interactions between lobeline sulfate and ethyl alcohol: a cytogenetic study. Anticancer Res 1992;12(5):1467-1469. View Abstract
  2. Davison GC, Rosen RC. Lobeline and reduction of cigarette smoking. Psychol Rep 1972;31(2):443-456. View Abstract
  3. Dwoskin LP, Crooks PA. A novel mechanism of action and potential use for lobeline as a treatment for psychostimulant abuse. Biochem Pharmacol 2002;63(2):89-98. View Abstract
  4. Grewal RS, Lufc, Allmark MG. The release of posterior pituitary hormone in the rat by nicotine and lobeline. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 1962;135:84-88. View Abstract
  5. Ikeda K, Takahashi M, Nishida M, et al. Homonojirimycin analogues and their glucosides from Lobelia sessilifolia and Adenophora spp. (Campanulaceae). Carbohydr Res 2000;323(1-4):73-80. View Abstract
  6. Mazur LJ, De Ybarrondo L, Miller J, et al. Use of alternative and complementary therapies for pediatric asthma. Tex Med 2001;97(6):64-68. View Abstract
  7. McChargue DE, Collins FL, Jr., Cohen LM. Effect of non-nicotinic moist snuff replacement and lobeline on withdrawal symptoms during 48-h smokeless tobacco deprivation. Nicotine Tob Res 2002;4(2):195-200. View Abstract
  8. Miller DK, Crooks PA, Dwoskin LP. Lobeline inhibits nicotine-evoked [(3)H]dopamine overflow from rat striatal slices and nicotine-evoked (86)Rb(+) efflux from thalamic synaptosomes. Neuropharmacology 2000;39(13):2654-2662. View Abstract
  9. Plakun AL, Ambrus J, Bross I, et al. Clinical factors in smoking withdrawal: preliminary report. Am J Public Health Nations Health 1966;56(3):434-441. View Abstract
  10. Stead LF, Hughes JR. Lobeline for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2000;(2):CD000124. View Abstract
  11. Subarnas A, Oshima Y, Sidik, et al. An antidepressant principle of Lobelia inflata L. (Campanulaceae). J Pharm.Sci. 1992;81(7):620-621. View Abstract
  12. Subarnas A, Tadano T, Nakahata N, et al. A possible mechanism of antidepressant activity of beta-amyrin palmitate isolated from Lobelia inflata leaves in the forced swimming test. Life Sci 1993;52(3):289-296. View Abstract
  13. Subarnas A, Tadano T, Oshima Y, et al. Pharmacological properties of beta-amyrin palmitate, a novel centrally acting compound, isolated from Lobelia inflata leaves. J Pharm Pharmacol 1993;45(6):545-550. View Abstract
  14. Teng L, Crooks PA, Dwoskin LP. 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. View Abstract
  15. Tian Q, Zhao D, Zhang J, et al. Investigation on inhibition of biological effects of endothelin. Sci China C Life Sci 1996;39(2):207-216. View Abstract

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.