The Three Lobelias: Making Their Medicines

The Three Lobelias:  Making Their Medicines

Lobelia (Lobelia inflata) is a plant used in herbal and homeopathic medicine. Said to expel mucus from the respiratory tract, it is used to treat respiratory problems. In addition, some individuals use lobelia to help them quit smoking, sooth muscles, support alcoholism recovery, and more.

To date, research on the potential health benefits of lobelia has yielded mixed results. Advocates tout lobelia as a natural remedy for the prevention or treatment of the following health problems:

Alcohol use disorder
Smoking addiction

And when applied topically:

Muscle pain or sprains
Insect bites


In a preliminary mouse study published in Physiology & Behavior, lobeline was found to reduce alcohol preference and lower alcohol consumption. To date, however, there are no human studies to prove that lobeline can help treat alcoholism.

Smoking Cessation

Lobelia has been promoted to help people fight the effects of nicotine withdrawal by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain (which has an effect similar to cigarettes). Analysis of both short- and long-term research, however, determined that lobelia appears to offer no benefit in smoking cessation.

Lobeline was once a common ingredient in over-the-counter products used to alleviate symptoms associated with nicotine withdrawal. However, in 1993, the FDA issued a ban on the sale of anti-smoking products containing lobeline due to a lack of evidence of the ingredient’s effectiveness as a nicotine substitute.


Preliminary mice studies show that lobeline may help alleviate depression by influencing certain brain chemicals involved in regulating mood. There are no sufficient human studies on this.

Respiratory Disorders

Lobelia is often touted for its use in such respiratory conditions as asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia. This is because the herb is said to act as an expectorant, helping to thin mucus (phlegm), cause a more productive cough, and help you to breathe better. Unfortunately, here too, there is not a sufficient amount of research to back up these claims.


A small human study found that lobeline helped to improve working memory in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but few improvements were found in attention.

Since lobelia has been shown to improve the release and uptake of dopamine in the brain, it may play a role in the treatment of ADHD symptoms. To date, however, more human research is needed to determine its effectiveness.


It’s especially important for individuals with epilepsy, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, liver disease, or a gastrointestinal disorder to consult a medical professional prior to using lobelia. Children and pregnant and nursing women should never take lobelia.

Combining Lobelia with other herbs for enhanced results:

For irritable conditions of the nervous system, Lobelia is invaluable combined with a nervine such as Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium pubescens)

As an expectorant, Lobelia may be used to great advantage in small doses for colds along with pulmonary agent Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

For spasmodic croup, Lobelia is invaluable, and has gained a great reputation for asthma along with nervines such as Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) and Skull cap (Scutellaria lateriflora)

Lobelia has successfully been used for lock-jaw. Large doses relax the whole system completely.