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lobelia (lōbēlˈyə), 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. Native North American species, often cultivated as ornamentals, include the only red lobelia, the cardinal flower (L. cardinalis), which is becoming rare; the blue lobelia (L. syphilitica), used by Native Americans for the treatment of syphilis; and Indian tobacco (L. inflata), named for its odor. The dried leaves and stems of Indian tobacco and sometimes of other species furnish medicinal lobelia, the source of lobeline, which is used as a respiratory stimulant but is poisonous in overdose as are the roots. L. erinus, introduced from S Africa, is a common border plant. Most botanists include Lobelia and related genera in the family Campanulaceae (bluebell family); others consider them a separate family, the Lobeliaceae. Lobelia is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Campanulales, family Campanulaceae.
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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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a genus of plants of the family Lobeliaceae (sometimes included in the family Campanulaceae). They are annual and perennial herbs, subshrubs, and shrubs. The leaves are entire and alternate. The flowers are irregular, in bilabiate or monolabiate corollas, and bisexual. The stamens are united into a tube through which the style with the stigma passes. The fruit is a capsule.

There are approximately 350 species of Lobelia, distributed in humid places in the tropics and subtropics of America and Africa. Fewer species are found in Asia, Australia, and Oceania; only two species are encountered in Europe. There are two species in the USSR: water lobelia (Lobelia dortmanna) and L. sessilifolia. Water lobelia grows in bodies of water in the European USSR. L. sessilifolia is found in bogs, along river banks and lake shores, on floodplains, and near hot springs in Eastern Siberia; in the Soviet Far East this species grows as a weed among rice plantings. In the USSR, Indian tobacco (L. inflata), which is a North American species, and less commonly acrid lobelia (L. urens), which is native to Western Europe, are used as medicinal plants. The aboveground parts of these plants contain the alkaloid lobeline. Some lobelias are cultivated as ornamentals. L. erinus is widely used as an edging plant and in flower beds.


Atlas lekarstvennykh rastenii SSSR. Moscow, 1962.


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


traditional symbol of evil. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 175]
See: Evil
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


any plant of the campanulaceous genus Lobelia, having red, blue, white, or yellow five-lobed flowers with the three lower lobes forming a lip
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005