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Lobelia, cont'd.

Botanical name:

Continued from this page.

When the syrup or even the acid tincture has been used in the above prescribed form by persons who have been affected with bronchitis, catarrh, coughs, difficult breathing, ordinary coughs, whooping cough, croup, measles, fevers, and inflammations, I have seen the greatest beneficial results follow from its use. In fact, I have seen, when persons (old and young) have been attacked with mucous bronchitis, and the acid tincture or the acid syrup has been given, that they have parted with yards of great, thick, ropy phlegm; and sometimes large hollow lumps of phlegm have come out of persons' mouths that would seem incredible unless it had been seen. I remember one case of a child, only eight weeks old, being attacked with croup in the spring of 1870. Having none of the acid tincture or the acid syrup by me at the time, and as it was a desperate case, I got one half-pint of malt vinegar and one quarter-ounce of Lobelia seed in fine powder, also one quarter-ounce of Lobelia herb in fine powder. I then put the lot on the fire and let them simmer (but not boil) for five minutes, afterwards straining through a fine cloth. After washing the pan clean, I put the liquid back with six ounces of lump sugar and simmered it again for another five minutes—taking off the scum. It was then ready for use. I then got some Hyssop tea ready, and some hot water in a tub. I placed the child into the latter up to the neck and kept it in for thirty minutes, until it perspired very freely. I also had a good fire in the room, and gave the child one table spoonful of Hyssop tea and a teaspoonful of the syrup every five minutes until it vomited freely. I then took it out of the bath, wiped it dry and wrapped it up in a hot, dry blanket and put it to bed. A teaspoonful of the syrup was given every one hour for six hours, and then every three hours for the next 12 hours; and in 24 hours the child had entirely recovered. He is living to-day (April 14th, 1908), a strong, healthy man.

If the herb and seed cannot be got in fine powder, and you have a severe or desperate case to treat, use the same quantity of the crude herb broken up in small pieces and made up as above. My readers, and botanic practitioners, never need be afraid of using the preparations of Lobelia Inflata as laid down and prescribed in these articles, as they will never fail in their action. But there is one preparation of the Lobelia Inflata sold by the chemist and druggist which is very dangerous to use, and which I most strongly warn not only my readers but also the botanic practitioners against—that is, the preparation called the "ethereal tincture of Lobelia." And I must impress again on all my readers with regard to Lobelia that they must be governed in its exhibition, not by the quantity administered but by the effects produced; and, as I have said before, the secret of success is to give enough. The necessities of each particular case will best indicate the manner of employing the Lobelia preparations.

In what I have already written of the various preparations and their uses, I have tried to show their beneficial effects on the human system when attacked with disease. We now come to two other preparations, called pure Lobelia pills and compound Lobelia pills, both of which have certain specific actions on the human body. Pure Lobelia pills are composed as follows:—Take of pure Lobelia seed, in very fine powder, 1 oz.; very best Gum Arabic, in very fine powder,. 1 oz. Mix the two well together, and then add sufficient black treacle to make them into a pill-mass, and roll out into 4-grain pills. For an emetic 6 or 8, or up to 20, may be taken at bedtime, when desirable, giving Composition Tea at the same time. The patient should be wrapped up well in bed and go to sleep. The pills may also be taken in consumption, asthma, coughs, bronchitis, constipation of the bowels, etc. One or two of the pills may be taken every morning and also before and after each meal. When taken before or after each meal, if it be found to produce a little pain, that will be rather a good sign than otherwise, and will subside when their action is worn off.

In the compound Lobelia pills we have one of the finest remedies that man can use, as it assists in bringing about a crisis in disease. They should be made as follows:—Take 1 oz. of pure Lobelia seed in very fine powder, and 1 oz. of pure Lobelia herb in very fine powder, 1 oz. of the very best and pure Natal Cayenne Pepper, and 2 ozs. of the very best Gum Arabic in very fine powder, and 1 oz. of the very best Aniseeds in fine powder. Mix all these ingredients well together in the dry state, then add sufficient black treacle to make into a pill mass, and roll out into 4-gram pills. The above compound Lobelia pills will be found good in all cases of dyspepsia, rheumatism, inflammation, gout, asthma, consumption, jaundice, cold chills, fevers, etc., etc., and, like those of the pure Lobelia pills, may be taken in quantities of 4, 6, 8, 10, or 12 in a day, and may be taken either before or after meals, either night or day, with the greatest advantage. Should there be a great degree of acidity of the stomach they will probably produce pain similar to that of pure Lobelia pills, but this will be found rather a good sign than otherwise, and will cease as soon as the acidity and disease begin to subside.

It has often been said that botanic practitioners should be in possession of a remedy or remedies that could be relied upon and as safe and as sure in action as water is in quenching thirst, and that may be given to the infant a month old or to the centenarian. That is what can be done with any of the preparations of Lobelia Inflata mentioned in these articles. In all cases where it is found persons cannot take other preparations the compound Lobelia pills will be found to take the place of the others, and may be given or taken as an emetic in quantities of 1 to 20 every 15 minutes with a teacupful of hot water every time the pills are taken, until free vomiting takes place, the patient at the same time being kept warm in bed. It may sometimes happen that only a few pills and a cupful or two of hot water may be needed to produce emesis; or it may take a matter of 200 of the pills and two quarts of hot water to produce the same effects. I have seen cases where I have caused from 12 to 20 of the compound Lobelia pills to be taken every 15 minutes until the whole of the 200 have been taken and a teacupful of hot water every time the pills were given, and I may here again say to my readers that I am governed not by the quantity administered, but by the effects produced. In cases of infants and young children, where the pills cannot be taken whole, they may be dissolved in hot water, about 20 to a cupful, and a teaspoonful or two of the liquor or infusion given to them every 10, 15, or 30 minutes, or every one, two, or three hours, according to the requirements of the case to be treated.

The compound Lobelia pills, made and prepared as above, may be used in all diseases and complaints for which the other preparations mentioned in these articles are recommended, especially in cases of children when suffering from a severe attack of scarlet fever. I remember a case in Shaw Street, Bolton, in the spring of 1874, of a fine, curly-headed little boy being taken ill on a Sunday evening with scarlet fever. I was called to see him on the Wednesday morning following, and found the mother crying. When I asked her what she was crying for, she said that it was something very serious, as their little Harold was dying from scarlet fever. I asked to see the child, when the mother said I could do so if I was not afraid. My reply was that I was not afraid of anything, for if I was I should not be fit for my profession. I was then taken to see the child and found it dying. I asked what had been done, and they told me that they placed the child in a hot bath of mustard and water and then sent for the doctor. He had seen the child that morning and said there was no hope, it was certainly dying, its eyes were fixed, its lips dry, black, and parched, the glands of its neck swollen, and the breathing was laboured and difficult. After watching the child for about three minutes, the mother asked me what I could do, and I said I could not promise to find anything that would bring the child round, as it was such a very serious case, and there was very little hope of doing any good. However, she prevailed on me to try what I could do for the child, so I turned round to her and said, "Your son got a box of pills from me last week: has he used them all?" The answer was "No." I asked to see how many there were, and when shown the box I found there were about twenty. I placed the twenty pills in a teacup, and filled it three-parts full with hot water. I then stirred them up until they were all dissolved and ordered the mother to stand by the child and give two teaspoonfuls every 15 minutes until she found it breathing easier, then put a good fire in the room and put clean sheets and clean clothing on the bed and fresh warm clothing on the child. Also to get vinegar and hot water, and sponge the child all over the body with it, wiping it thoroughly dry afterwards, and at the same time keeping the child as warm as possible; then to put on its clean clothing and put it back into bed, giving a teaspoonful of the mixture every hour afterwards until she had given it all. The result of the above treatment was that the child was greatly relieved, and in a few short weeks was entirely restored to health and strength, and is living to-day.

There is no romance or bombast about the above statements, as they are what actually occurred, but the question may arise as to how this result could be brought about with a few pills—a question which may be easily answered when the principles of the component parts of the pills are thoroughly known and understood by the practitioner causing them to be administered. The dynamic effect of the Lobelia Inflata on the human system is to produce complete muscular relaxation; the effect of cayenne pepper is to produce a reaction in the secretory vessels, as well as stimulating and equalising the circulation of the blood; the gum arabic soothing the mucous surfaces that it comes in contact with; the aniseed, being a mild aperient, relieves the bowels. By the action of the above the stomach and bowels are relieved of their accumulation, the lungs are relieved of the obstructing phlegm and mucus, the inflammation is allayed, and all the system is brought into better action; and when that is done the patient is brought into a state of convalescence.

In regard to the use of the Lobelia preparations mentioned in this article, we cannot do better than quote the words of the poet as given on page 110 of Samuel Thomson's "New Guide to Health, or Botanic Family Physician," and which I think are very applicable for the purpose, when he says:—

"In every case and state and stage,
Whatever malady may rage,
For male or female, young or old.
Nor can its value half be told.

To use this med'cine do not cease
Till you are helped of your disease,
For Nature's friend this sure will be
When you are taken sick at sea.

If anyone should be much bruis'd,
Where bleeding frequently is used,
A lively sweat upon that day
Will start the blood a better way.

Let names of all disorders be
Like to the limbs join'd on a tree:
Work on the root, and that subdue,
Then all the limbs will bow to you."

At this stage it might be appropriate to give some Notes taken of the trial of James Wallis, Herbalist, for Manslaughter, in which Lobelia largely figured, and thereafter add my comment.

"On Jan. 31st, 1884, James Wallis. of 34, Bath Street, City Road, was charged with the manslaughter of Matilda Sainsbury, of Green Street, Chelsea, by administering Lobelia. The Public Prosecutor was represented by Mr. Poland and Mr. Mead, while the prisoner was defended by Mr. Montagu Williams and Mr. Washington Lyon.

Mrs. Sainsbury, who was 41 years of age, had been ill for a long time, and had been attending at some dispensary, but without any relief. She suffered from cold, and had great difficulty in breathing, being almost choked at night with phlegm. Thinking that if she could only get the accumulation off her chest she might feel better, she asked her lodger, Edward Bull, to get her some medicine to effect this. He, having himself greatly benefited bv Mr. Wallis' treatment, applied to him for medicine for Mrs. Sainsbury, and received an emetic for her. The dose was from a teaspoonful to two table-spoonfuls, but prisoner said she might take the whole bottleful and it could do her no harm. He also gave witness (Edward Bull) some powders, and also plaisters to be applied to patient's chest and back, as well as pills; and witness paid him half-a-crown. Mrs. Sainsbury took about a tablespoonful of the medicine, but ten minutes afterwards had an attack of diarrhoea, and asked for some brandy and water. This she put to her lips, but she fainted, and never recovered consciousness. Witness took a quantity of phlegm from her mouth; and Dr. Whitmarsh, being called in, pronounced her to be dead.

Witness had been cured when blind, after visiting many "hospitals without avail, by prisoner, and had a bottle of the same medicine as given Mrs. Sainsbury. His brother, who had been under medical treatment for bronchitis for three months without effect, was also cured in a few days by prisoner. The son of deceased confirmed this witness.

Dr. Whitmarsh said he found deceased had been dead for half an hour when he was called in. She was covered with a cold sweat, and the pupils of her eyes were dilated. He took possession of the bottle of medicine, sealed it, and handed it to Dr. Stephenson. He also made a post-mortem examination, and found adhesion of right lung, and left lung almost gone; congestion of liver and brain; coats of stomach inflamed; and found deceased had suffered from chronic bronchitis. He thought at first the medicine was Hellebore, but found it to be Lobelia, which he used himself as an expectorant and anti-spasmodic. It was always the tincture he used, never the powder or seed. The tincture was made from the seeds, and a dose was from 10 to 30 drops; a drachm, or 30 drops, would contain 4 grains of the seeds. He considered 28 grains a dangerous dose, which, if it failed as an emetic, would act as a depressent on the heart's action, causing syncope; and the appearance of the corpse he considered to be quite consistent with that death.

Under cross-examination, Dr. Whitmarsh acknowledged that he was mistaken in thinking it Hellebore, which was a poison that chemists were forbidden to sell, under Act of Parliament.

Extracts were then read in Court from medical works on the properties of Lobelia; and Dr. Whitmarsh was asked if he considered Dr. Skelton as a medical authority. He replied that he did not know him, and should not take his bock as authoritative; but acknowledged that he would give 30 drops of Tincture of Lobelia to a grown-up patient. Also he would give it in cases of spasmodic asthma. A quotation was then read from Dr. Elliotson in a book by John Stephens, M.D., entitled "Medical Reform":—"Lobelia Inflata is one of the most important articles in the Materia Medica; with many it acts as a charm. In ten or twenty minutes they will be perfectly relieved, so that all the other remedies used in asthma and other diseases of the respiratory organs are nothing to be compared with it." Asked if he agreed with that, Dr. Whitmarsh replied, "Yes, in proper doses, decidedly."

He had never heard of Dr. Kinglake, who said of Lobelia:—"In some instances of difficult respiration it proves beneficial without occasioning nausea, but when sickness results from its use, so far from that occurrence being a reason, for discontinuing it, an additional inducement is afforded for pressing it until full vomiting, and the consequent relief, be obtained." Witness agreed with this, providing the patient were watched during the process of vomiting; but did not agree with the next sentence, that "no apprehension had need be entertained of its acting deleteriously"; nor with, "it may, therefore, in cases of oppressed respiration, especially when of the spasmodic character, be fearlessly administered." Asked if he knew that it was Dr. Elliotson who introduced Lobelia into Europe, he replied that he did not.

A passage from Beach's "Materia Medica" was read, which says that when a man is so sick as to be past care, this emetic will relieve him and cause him to live longer and easier than without it, except when there is mortification. Dr. Whitmarsh did not believe that at all, and thought it would act as an extinguisher. He said the books brought forward were principally the works of Herbalists. It was suggested that neither Dr. Elliotson nor Dr. Skelton were Herbalists; and Mr. Justice Williams summed up the evidence given that Lobelia is valuable but dangerous, and requires watching and caution in administering.

Mr. Montagu Williams thought that Herbalists were not very popular with the medical profession.

. Dr. Whitmarsh having admitted that Lobelia was not on the list of prohibited poisons, was asked if he used chloral. He replied that he prescribed it very often. It was used by city gentlemen as a night draught in cases of insomnia; very often fatal mistakes occurred through its use. Lobelia was a poison, but there were recognised poisons which were not on the prohibited list. In reply to another question, he said he did not consider Dr. Alfred Swain Taylor as a great authority on poisons, and agreed with the following quotation:—"Within the last few years there have been several inquests and trials for manslaughter in this country as the result of the improper administration of the leaves of the Lobelia Inflata by ignorant quacks calling themselves Medical Botanists and dealers in vegetable medicines. The medical evidence given on those trials showed that in large doses Lobelia is a most noxious drug; that deaths from Lobelia still frequently occur in the Northern counties, the medicine being taken in secrecy, any death arising from it being either concealed or referred to other causes." Dr. Whitmarsh admitted that he had known a number of fatal results from taking chloral incautiously,

Mr. Justice Williams asked: "Is it not common ground, in a case like this, that the incautious use of powerful and dangerous medicines may have fatal results?"

Dr. Thomas Stephenson, Professor of Medical Jurisprudence at Guy's Hospital, deposed to having received from last witness a jar containing the human stomach, and fluid, which he analysed and found to be an acetic solution of Lobelia (which was very turbid), with a deposit of the herb itself, seeds, and fragments of leaves. The stomach was reddened, and the symptoms pointed to rapid death from Lobelia. Lobelia was an irritant, and the acetic acid would also act as an irritant. The death did not appear to him to be due to suffocation. A teaspoonful of the tincture would contain a full medical dose of Lobelia, viz., 3 1/2 grains, the maximum dose of the British Pharmacopoeia. The powders were of Cinnamon and the pills contained a harmless dose of Capsicum. Lobelia was recognised among medical men as a very potent medicine and poison. There had been trials for murder and manslaughter through its use. One of its active principles was an alkaloid—lobalnia.

The Coroner's Officer produced the prisoner's deposition at the Inquest, in which he stated that the woman was reported to be choking, and he sent the Tincture of Lobelia as an expectorant. He had taken double the quantity himself, as also the messenger, who had had it several times. He made the tincture himself.

The case for the prosecution being ended. Dr. Howell, M.R.C.S., England, of 3, Church Street, Brighton, said that during 30 years of practice he had been in the daily habit of prescribing Lobelia Inflata, and stated most emphatically that it was not a poison, but an invaluable medicine, there being nothing like it in the Materia Medica. He had taken it in powder, pills, tincture, and in syrup, having administered it in the form of syrup to a very delicate child in teaspoonful and table spoonful doses. And to produce emesis he had given drachm doses of this very thing described as a narcotic vegetable poison, which he emphatically denied, its general properties being tonic, expectorant, and sudorific, and, in his opinion, the most valuable emetic known to medical practitioners. Mr. Bravo would have been alive now if he had used it instead of antimony; and Professors Arapath and James struck it out from the poisons list. He, after hearing the preceding evidence, considered the woman died from syncope. If she had taken the whole bottleful she might have been alive now, and, in his opinion, the dose she took could not in any way have accelerated her death. He did not acknowledge that there were any dangerous properties in this drug—the error had got into English authorities by copying from American books; and he did not agree with Taylor on this subject, for he had copied out the spiteful utterances of Dr. Thatcher in the "American Dispensary" and other books. It was only prejudice in the medical profession that had caused all the bother. He had given very heavy doses, and it had never operated deleteriously. One of the reasons why he stood by to watch his patients was on account of the falsehoods circulated by the medical profession about it, and people had been terrified by these reports.

Mr. Charles Lakin, L.R.C.P., Edinburgh, L.R.S.A., London, &c., &c, in practice at Leicester, said he had been in practice for 11 years, and had prescribed Lobelia Inflata for his patients. He agreed with last witness as to properties of Lobelia being tonic, sudorific, and expectorant, and as to its being one of the most valuable emetics known to the British Pharmacopoeia. He had given as much as 60 grains, or 1 drachm, and did not consider the 28-grain dose the deceased had taken as a dangerous one for a woman in that condition, nor that it accelerated the woman's death, which appeared to be from syncope, produced by a weak condition. He had not known Lobelia to have any effect upon the heart so as to cause syncope; and he did not agree with the passage previously quoted from Dr. Taylor: it was not his experience. He had known a patient to have one tablespoonful of the powdered Lobelia Inflata at a dose; that would be 3 to 4 drachms, or 240 grains, and it was taken with beneficial results, the patient being his own mother. Of course, that would not be so potent, quantity for quantity, as the tincture. Asked if an excessive dose would be safer than a small one, because, it would be more likely to produce vomiting, witness replied: That is what is required as an emetic. If it failed to act as an emetic there would be no danger, as it would pass through the bowels, some people requiring more, some less. He would not have given the entire bottleful (70 grains) to the woman at once, because it might have proved an excessive emetic.

Mr. William Henry Blunt, of Snow Hill, Birmingham, wholesale and retail Herbalist, said he frequently sold the herb Lobelia, and knew its properties. It was not at all dangerous to life. Accidentally he had taken nearly a large teacupful of the acid tincture of Lobelia one morning before breakfast. That tincture was made of 2 1/2 oz. of the herb and seed to a pint of malt vinegar. The effect was that it only acted on his bowels, and not as an emetic; that was 18 or 20 years ago.

Mr. George Stevens, of Old Market Street, Bristol, brother of the late Dr. Stevens, said he had had great experience in the properties of Lobelia for upwards of 40 years. A drachm was his general dose.

Mr. George Beck, Dale End, Birmingham, Medical Botanist, gave similar evidence, having had 36 years' experience of Lobelia. He had taken 4 grains in a pill, with full benefit, for irritable stomach and dyspepsia. It always relieved pain and soothed the mucous membrane of the stomach. He prescribed a good deal of Lobelia, using half a pound a week.

Mr. George Brown, an American physician, who practised at Rochdale, had, he said, had 25 years' experience in the use of Lobelia. He had taken, himself, three doses within 20 minutes of a drachm each, to produce emesis; that was 180 grains. He had excellent health. Asked as to his University, he replied that he was from the Eclectic Medical College of Cincinnati, having passed his examinations, and had been in residence there.

Mr. Henry Pearson, of 25, Battersea Park Road, student of Medical Botany, said that when suffering from coughs and tightness of chest he had taken 960 drops of Lobelia.

His Lordship, turning to Mr. Mead, remarked that all this testimony was very strong, and that as his evidence went it ought to poison anyone, so that all these people ought to have died.

Mr. Mead replied that their contention was, that if Lobelia failed as an emetic then the danger began.

There were many other witnesses for prisoner present, but, enough evidence having been given, the counsel addressed the jury, and his Lordship summed up the case. In the course of his remarks he observed that there appeared to be a controversy between properly-qualified practitioners on the one side and irregular practitioners on the other, but the jury had nothing to do with that, the law on this subject being exactly the same with regard to duly-qualified and educated practitioners and with regard to persons who were the most ignorant Herbalists or quacks in the country. The only distinction was that if a duly qualified practitioner made a mistake and a misadventure followed from it, the jury might pause longer in convicting him of culpable negligence because of his being entitled to consider himself qualified, and having a right to form a judgment. On the other hand, the unqualified and uneducated person had a greater burden cast upon him under the same circumstances, as he ought to know he was not well-informed or qualified, and might be dealing with some illness upon which he had not full information. It did seem to his Lordship that they ought to have had something more in detail and more specific from the medical faculty as to what Lobelia was. The two medical men who had given evidence were men of great distinction and reputation, but neither of them had given any definite information as to the properties of the drug. It would have been of great assistance if they had. The prisoner and his witnesses denied that Lobelia was at all a dangerous remedy, and as they challenged the medical faculty boldly upon that statement, therefore it seemed a pity that the challenge had not been taken up.

After a short deliberation the jury returned a verdict of "Not guilty," adding that the prisoner should be more cautious in the use of disputed drugs.

During the examination the counsel for the prosecution was cunningly assisted in his questions to the witnesses for the defence by the continued and significant whisperings of his prompter, Dr. Stevenson, who sat opposite him. When the Vicar of the parish where Wallis resided visited Dr. Stevenson in order to try to get him to give up prosecuting Wallis, Dr. Stevenson is reported to have said, "We are determined to crush the Herbalists."


In regard to the different preparations of Lobelia Inflata before mentioned, I have repeatedly said that the Herbalist practitioner need never be afraid of using them, as, not being poison, they never destroy life; but, on the contrary, by their sanative and cleansing influence, they restore the lost vitality and energy of the system to health and strength, and it is in the use of non-poisonous remedies that the Herbalist is enabled to gain so much more success than the Allopath or Homoeopath practitioners in the treatment of disease.

I believe that all remedies should be to the body in disease what food is to the body in health, that is, of a building-up nature, and not of a depleting or pulling-down one. The human body being made up of living particles, the Vital Force has the power to select from any remedies given that which is suitable for the repair and reconstruction of these living organisms; and if the remedy be of a destructive nature, such as poisons, no matter whether it be herbal, mineral, or chemical, nor how small the dose may be, so sure as it is a poison, so sure will it destroy life to the extent to which it is given.

In speaking of Lobelia, Dr. John Skelton. in his book, "The Science and Practice of Medicine," page 679, says that Dr. King tells us that there is much discordance of opinion among medical men as regards its narcotic properties. It is, he says, "primarily emetic, nauseant, expectorant, relaxant, sedative, and antispasmodic; secondly, cathartic, diaphoretic, and astringent. He says, when chewed, Lobelia produces a disagreeable sense of burning and distension, which extends into the assophagus, terminating in nausea and vomiting, with oppressive prostration, relaxation of the muscular system, and a languid pulse. In doses of 10 or 20 grains of the leaves or seeds it is a prompt and efficient emetic, and may be given in all cases where emesis is indicated. Its action is somewhat modified by a combination with Ipecacuanha and other vegetable emetics, and rendered safer and more efficient in very small doses. It excites diaphoresis, increases expectoration, diminishes cough, and counteracts spasmodic action in all diseases of the respiratory organs, as croup, pneumonia, pertussis, catarrh, asthma, and in those fits of dyspnoea resembling asthma it will be found useful either as an expectorant or emetic."

Continued here.


Common Plants and their Uses in Medicine was written by Richard Lawrence Hool, F.N.A.M.H., in 1922.



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