Reviewed on 6/11/2021
Other Name(s):

Asthma Weed, Bladderpod, Emetic Herb, Gagroot, Herbe à Asthme, Indian Tobacco, Lobelia inflata, Lobélie, Lobélie Brûlante, Lobélie Enflée, Lobélie Gonflée, Pukeweed, Tabac Indien, Vomit Wort, Wild Tobacco.


Lobelia is a plant. The above ground parts are used to make medicine.

Lobelia is used for breathing problems including asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, and shortness of breath (apnea) in newborn infants. Some people take lobelia as a sedative to help them relax. Other people use it to increase sweating.

Lobelia is applied to the skin for muscle pain, joint lumps associated with rheumatoid arthritis (rheumatic nodules), bruises, sprains, insect bites, poison ivy, and ringworm.

In manufacturing, lobelia is used in cough preparations and counterirritant products. Some stop-smoking products around the world include lobelia as an ingredient. But since 1993, manufacturers have not been allowed to include lobelia in stop-smoking products sold in the U.S. That’s when research found that lobelia doesn’t make stop-smoking products any more effective.

How does it work?

Lobelia contains chemicals that might thin mucus (phlegm) to make it easier to cough up (expectorate) and help breathing, especially in people with asthma. One chemical in lobelia has actions similar to nicotine.


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Uses & Effectiveness

Possibly Ineffective for...

  • Smoking cessation. Most research suggests that taking lobeline, a chemical found in lobelia, does not help people quit smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Asthma.
  • Bronchitis.
  • Cough.
  • Use on the skin for muscle soreness, bruises, sprains, insect bites, poison ivy, ringworm, and other conditions.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of lobelia for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

Side Effects

Lobelia is considered LIKELY UNSAFE for most people when taken by mouth. Side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cough, dizziness, tremors, and more serious effects.

Overdose may cause many serious toxic effects including sweating, convulsions, fast heartbeat, very low blood pressure, collapse, coma, and possibly death. Taking 0.6-1 gram of the leaf is said to be toxic, and 4 grams may be fatal.

Not enough is known about the safety of applying lobelia to the skin.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It’s LIKELY UNSAFE for anyone to take lobelia by mouth. The particular concern during pregnancy is that it can cause serious vomiting. Don’t take lobelia if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Stomach or intestinal problems including ulcers, Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, infections, and others: Lobelia can irritate the GI tract.

Heart disease: Lobelia seems to affect the heart. Larger doses cause more of an effect.


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LithiumInteraction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Lobelia might have an effect like a water pill or "diuretic." Taking lobelia might decrease how well the body gets rid of lithium. This could increase how much lithium is in the body and result in serious side effects. Talk with your healthcare provider before using this product if you are taking lithium. Your lithium dose might need to be changed.


The appropriate dose of lobelia depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for lobelia. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

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