Indian tobacco

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Indian tobacco,

name for several plants, among them lobelialobelia
, any plant of the genus Lobelia, annual and perennial herbs of tropical and temperate woodlands and moist places. Most lobelias have blue or purple flowers on a long (1–4 ft/30–122 cm), leafy stem.
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Use sparingly, this plant is powerful. Whole plant is edible. Seeds have most powerful effect. Light purplish blue or white flowers with pointy oval leaves that are hairy underneath, and golden papery bag-like seed pods. Lobelia is a healing sedative that relaxes bronchials, making it good for asthma, bronchitis, coughs and epilepsy. If too much is taken, it causes vomiting, making it a very strong expectorant and clearing mucus etc. Lobelia increases the effect of other herbs, so if for example you are sick and take echinacea, lobelia will make it even more powerful. Be careful if taking medication. Leaves taste like tobacco and contains a non-addictive nicotine-like substance called Lobeline, so chewing them helps people quit smoking since. Used to treat epilepsy, convulsions, hysteria, trauma, tetanus. It is said Indians gave this to arguing couples so they would get along again. Very strong, so take in small doses.
Edible Plant Guide © 2012 Markus Rothkranz
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Indian Tobacco


(Nicotiana rustica), also makhorka, a species of herbaceous plants of the genus Nicotiana of the family Solanaceae. It seems to have been developed by crossbreeding the two wild species Nicotiana paniculata and N. undulata. Indian tobacco is an annual, with a ribbed or rounded stem that measures up to 1.2 m tall. The rodlike root extends as deep as 1.5 m into the soil (the principal mass of the root is 0.3-0.5 m deep). The petiolate, wrinkled leaves (12-20 on each stem) range in color from light to dark green, with a blue tint. In their axils are lateral shoots. The bisexual flowers, which are yellow-green or cream, are in a branched racemose inflorescence. The above-ground parts are covered with glandular hairs and emit a distinctive odor. The fruit is a polyspermous capsule. The oval seeds are usually brown; 1,000 seeds weigh 0.2-0.35 g. The vegetative period of Indian tobacco from sowing to technical maturity is 80-130 days, and from transplanting to technical maturity 60-100 days. The plant requires moisture and warmth. The best soils are chernozems and fertile sod-podzols.

The dry leaves of Indian tobacco contain 1-10 percent nicotine and 15-20 percent organic acids, including more than 10 percent citric acid. From the leaves are produced a coarse smoking tobacco, snuff, and decoctions for washing sheep; nicotinic acid (vitamin PP) is also extracted from the leaves. The seeds of Indian tobacco contain 35-40 percent fatty oil, which is used in the paint and varnish industry and in the production of soap.

Indian tobacco is native to northern South America. It was imported to Europe in the early 16th century. It was first cultivated in what is now the USSR (Ukraine) at the beginning of the 17th century. It is cultivated on small areas in Poland, Hungary, Algiers, and other places. In 1940 in the USSR plantings occupied 110,000 hectares (ha); by 1972 plantings were reduced to 16,000-20,000 ha. The average yield is 18.5 centners per ha (on the best farms 30-35 centners per ha). The best varieties include Malopasynkovyi pekhlets 4, AS-18/7, and Khmelovka 125s. In 1972, 14 varieties of Indian tobacco were regionalized.

Indian tobacco is grown in special crop rotations; the best predecessors are grasses, cereal-legumes, and root crops. Mineral fertilizers and manure are applied in the fall. Cultivation includes transplanting seedlings (area of nutrition, 60 X 20-30 sq cm) or planting seeds in open ground (interrow spacing, 60 cm; rate of sowing, 3-3.5 kg/ha). Care includes thinning (after sowing), topdressing, hoeing, topping, and removal of lateral shoots. Three or four days before harvest the stems of Indian tobacco are split with a knife. The cut plants are dried out a little in the field and then are stacked, dried (in wreaths or strung on twigs), and cured. Insect pests of Indian tobacco include the turnip moth (Agrotis segetum), the beet webworm, elaterids, and thrips. Diseases include wildfire and apical chlorosis.


Psarev, G. M. Kul’tura makhorki. Moscow, 1974.
Shmuk, A. A. Khimiia tabaka i makhorki, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1948.
Spravochnik po proizvodstvu makhorki. Moscow, 1969.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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