Botanical name: 

Lobelia. (Lobelia Inflata).

Strictly speaking, this is not a common plant, but as it is used by nearly every Herbalist in Britain, I have included it in this list. It is not indigenous to this country, but to America, where it is to be found growing in nearly every part, especially throughout the United States. This plant, Lobelia Inflata, is also known as Wild Indian Tobacco. It is a biennial, with a fibrous, yellowish white root, and an erect, angular, very hairy stem, and in the full-sized plant very much branched, from 6 inches to about 2 ½ feet high. The leaves are alternate, scattered, sessile, ovate lanceolate, serrate, netted, veined, and hairy. The flowers are small and numerous, pale blue in colour, on short stalks, each one arising from the axil of the smaller leaves or bracts. The calyx consists of five subulate segments, the corolla is tubular, small, and slit on the upper side, ventricose at the base, the limb bilabiate and the tube prismatic, with the segments spreading, the two upper ones lanceolate and the three lower ones oval. Theanthers are united into an oblong curved body, purple in colour, and the filaments white, stile filiform, stigma curved, two lobed, enclosed by the anthers, the capsule two-celled, ovoid inflated striated ten angled, and crowned with the persistent calyx. The seeds are small, oblong, and brown in colour. As stated above, this plant may be found throughout the States in fields, woods, and by the roadsides, flowering from July to October or November. In the Linnean system Lobelia belongs to Class V., called Pentandria, order Monogyniae. In the natural system it belongs to the order Lobeliaceae, and the time for gathering it is from August to November. Lobelia has three principles, namely, alkaloid, resinoid, and neutral, and its properties are emetic, diaphoretic, expectorant, nervine, anti-spasmodic, diuretic, resolvent, relaxant, and mild astringent. It is employed in cases of hoarseness, bronchitis, common cough, whooping cough, croup, asthma, influenza, pneumonia, catarrh, hysteria, convulsions, poisoning, suspended animation, tetanus, false labour-pains, child-birth, epilepsy, sick headache, neuralgia, febrile diseases, cutaneous eruptions, etc.

The whole plant is used, either in the crude herb, fresh or dried, powdered herb or seed, solid and fluid extract, acid tincture, spirit tincture, in simple or compound pills, in infusion, decoction, or syrup, made with sugar or honey. It may be combined with other ingredients, or sprinkled on poultices for external application to wounds or sores. The Lobelia Inflata has-long been a favourite remedy in my practice as a Herbalist, and since its introduction as a remedial agent, has given general satisfaction. It yields quite a number of approximate active principles, but its excellence resides in the alkaloid and neutral constituents, and these principles are soluble in water, and possess the emetic, diaphoretic, anti-spasmodic, etc., properties in an eminent degree, which operate without the slightest irritation. Lobelia also yields a soft resinoid or oleoresinous principle, which has greater excellences for external application than inward use. This oleoresin is possessed of powerful relaxant properties, and is sometimes used internally for spasms, convulsions, asthma, and whenever such signs are indicated. It is this active constituent of Lobelia that has caused it to be regarded by many as narcotic and dangerous. Since then, however, research and practice have proved there is no real danger in its use.

Lobelia may be employed for all purposes where an emetic is required, the secret of success being to give enough, the dose varying from 2 drachms to 2 ozs., and even more in particular cases. I have had a clinical experience of over forty years in the use of Lobelia Inflata in substance, infusion, alcoholic and acid tinctures, and other preparations; but for the purpose of an emetic I give preference to the following preparations:—

Take 1 oz. of Dr. Skelton's best Composition Powder—that made with White Poplar Bark. Place it in a jug that will hold 5 half-pints, fill it with boiling water, stir well, let it stand in a warm place for 10 minutes; take a teacupful every 15 minutes. The sediment need not be taken.

The effect produced from the administration of the above will be that part of the first or second dose will be rejected, but the rest will remain down.

Then take ½- oz. of the same Composition Powder, ½- oz. of Lobelia herb powder, ½- oz. of Lobelia seed powder; mix the whole, place in a jug, and pour on five half-pints of boiling water, stir well, let it stand in a warm place for 10 minutes, then take one teacupful every 15 minutes until the lot is taken.

The effect produced by taking this mixture will be similar to those produced by taking the first preparation, but immediately the last dose has been taken the patient will vomit for about five minutes. The patient may then lie in sweet repose for one or two hours. Then the patient will have another heavy vomiting bout, then lie down again for about an hour, and he will find he is able to eat a meal of good substantial food, and not only to eat it, but to relish it at the same time. The reason for the above effect is that the patient has been kept warm in bed, the circulation of the blood equalised, the mucous of the lungs, and the obstructing matter of the stomach, liver, kidneys, and bowels having been collected together and brought away by means of sickness; the bowels are relieved, the water voided, the muscles are relaxed, and the patient finds himself almost free from pain and disease. In my opinion, Lobelia used in the above way is the safest and most reliable emetic, under all circumstances, that can possibly be used. I do not judge by the quantity administered, but by the effects produced; and, as I have said, the secret of success is to give enough. As a remedy in mucous or spasmodic croup, Lobelia will be found exceedingly useful, especially in the form of the anti-spasmodic or third preparation. The tincture is administered in teaspoonful doses and made as follows:—

Take Lobelia herb and seed powdered, Scullcap and Valerian (English, if possible to get it), equal parts; Skunk Cabbage, Gum Myrrh, and Cayenne Pepper, of each half an ounce. Mix the whole, then put them in a bottle containing three half-pints of rectified spirits of wine; cork tightly, and shake well every day for 14 days, and then filter through white blotting paper into another bottle, then it will be ready for use.

The above tincture will be found superior to any other single agent, as its purely innoxious character renders it a safe and reliable remedy for patients of all ages.

In the above-named diseases, viz., mucous and spasmodic croup, the tincture must be administered promptly and in full teaspoonful doses in warm water, and repeated at intervals of every ten or fifteen minutes until free vomiting ensues, as it is necessary in all such cases to induce complete relaxation of the system by means of full emetic doses, and afterwards to maintain it with smaller doses, repeated at suitable intervals. Where the case is very severe, or the tincture is difficult to administer, as in the case of infants, it should be rubbed well into the neck, chest; and between the shoulders at the same time. Two or three drops of the tincture in a raw state should be placed in the mouth, and washed down with teaspoonful doses of warm water, and the patient kept warm in bed. In all such cases relief will be experienced in a few minutes, and by repeating the same treatment every one or two hours a cure will soon be effected, and the patient brought to a state of convalescence. But how is this result brought about? Simply because the properties of the ingredients of which the tincture is composed have been conveyed, by rubbing and breathing, to the parts affected. The properties of the Lobelia, by immediate action on the muscular and mucous parts of the oesophagus, glottis, larynx, windpipe, and bronchial tubes, cause immediate relaxation, the parts previously contracted are made to expand, and breathing is made easier; whilst the properties of the Cayenne Pepper warm and stimulate the blood, allay the inflammation of the parts, cause better secretions and action of the mucous membranes. The Scullcap and Valerian, being nervines, allay the irritation of the nerves, and prevent too much straining and excitement, and by that means prevent rupture of the small blood-vessels; while the action of the properties of Skunk Cabbage and Gum Myrrh is to keep canker away and brace up the system.

The same directions will apply in cases of pneumonia or inflammation of the lungs, no matter how severe they may be. The anti-spasmodic tincture, or the third preparation of Lobelia, as we call it, will be found not only to unload the lungs of the accumulated secretions, but also to resolve the plasticity of the blood, relax spasm, promote diaphoresis, and change the entire diathesis of the system in all febrile disorders manifesting a tendency to congestion. We have in Lobelia one of the most reliable remedies yet discovered; its powers of relaxing constriction, equalising the circulation, promoting absorption, secretion, and exhalation, are particularly called for, and will seldom disappoint the practitioner. The necessities of particular cases will best indicate the manner of employing Lobelia. If it be desirable to produce sudden revulsion, as in severe and sudden congestions, it should be administered in full emetic doses, say from one to three ounces. In other instances, broken doses, frequently repeated, will serve a better purpose.

This will be found so, especially in cases of fevers. In typhoid, typhus, spotted, black, or slow fever, and especially in malignant scarlet fever, its value cannot be half told. I have seen in my time some of the worst cases of scarlet fever cured by the following simple treatment, even when death has seemed to have set in and there has been no apparent hope of recovery. I have gone in to such cases and caused to be administered one teaspoonful of the Third Preparation, or Antispasmodic Tincture of Lobelia, in a little water, made warm, and given every half-hour until the patient seemed easier. Then make up a good fire in the room; have some clean underclothing, well aired, warm, ready to put on. Then get two quarts of hot water and one quart of best malt vinegar. Mix the water and vinegar, then bring the patient near the fire and wash the body all over with the vinegar and water, and wipe dry. Put the clean clothing on, and at the same time causing clean sheets to be put on the bed. Put the patient back into bed, and give a teaspoonful of the preparation in warm tea or warm water, and every two hours afterwards, taking care to wash with vinegar and warm water every day, and—Hey, presto!—the patient will be on the highway to recovery. I have treated some scores of cases of scarlet fever in the above way, and never lost a single case by death. In 1881 I treated a man for diphtheria, and brought him round, but in a few weeks after he was again thrown down with scarlet fever, and I was consulted in regard to his case, although they had the doctor. I was not asked to see him, but was asked for my advice. I gave the advice above as to treatment. It was acted upon, and in less than fourteen days he was entirely well again, and is living to-day. Now I want all my readers to see where the beauty and advantage of the above treatment comes in. The man alluded to was married, with a wife and three children. The doctor had attended him, and it was stated if the doctor had him to himself he might have been well sooner. When I heard that statement I said, "Well, let the doctor have a try; I won't do any more till he has done." Now two of the younger-children were taken i11 with it, and the doctor tried his best, but they both died and were buried. Then the eldest of the three, a girl about eight years of age, was attacked. The doctor had another try, and when he saw that death was setting in he said he could do no more, and they must be prepared for the worst. Then it was that I was again consulted in regard to the case, and without going to see the case, because I was not asked, I advised them to use the above treatment. They did so, and the girl got well and is living to-day. Then I asked those who had made the above statement which system of treatment they considered the better, and they were compelled to admit the superiority of the Herbal treatment. In another case, a boy about 9 or 10 years of age was taken ill on a Sunday in 1892 with scarlet fever. I saw him on the Tuesday morning following. It seemed a very bad case. They had no doctor. I was asked to treat him—they did not want the doctor—so I took the case in hand, caused a report to be sent to the sanitary authorities and advised the above treatment to be used; and on the Friday the boy had so far progressed that he was able to come downstairs, the fever all gone, the peeling-off all disappeared; and on the Saturday, five days 2fter I first saw him, he was running in the street, entirely cured. The same simple treatment will answer its purpose in all kinds of fever, of whatever type they may be, and the practitioner never need be afraid to use it, as it will neither disappoint him nor the patient upon whom it is used.

Previous to commencing this article on Lobelia inflata I had intended to have written an article on the simple treatment of fevers, but now I do not need to do so, as they all come in under this heading, and, if the above instructions are carried out, they will never fail. I will now give my readers some more wonderful instances of cures made by the above simple treatment.

The first case occurred about four years ago, when I was consulted one Saturday afternoon by the parents of a boy who was ill. I advised them to take him home and get him into a good perspiration with Hyssop tea and Anti-Spasmodic, or Third Preparation of Lobelia Tincture, and when he should cool down, to sponge him over with vinegar and warm water, then wipe him dry. They asked if I did not think there was something lingering about him. I advised that they should carry out my instructions, and then they would soon see what was the matter. They did so, and on the following day it proved to be a case of the worst form of scarlet fever. A doctor was called in, and he ordered the boy to be isolated in the front room for two months. The parents asked me to treat his case, as they objected to giving him the doctor's medicine, and I advised the above treatment to be carried out. The result was that the following week the doctor said he had never seen a case of the kind progress so wonderfully before. This treatment was continued, and in three weeks the boy had entirely recovered, so that, instead of his being isolated for two months, the doctor himself certified to the boy's cure in five weeks' time.

Another case was that of a voung man who was attacked with scarlet fever on a Monday. I was sent for on the Tuesday, but being away from home a doctor was called in, while orders were left at my house that I should call and see the young man as soon as I returned. I saw him the following day, and found him suffering from measles and scarlet fever combined. I enquired what the doctor had said, and was told he considered it was fever, but would wait a day or so before reporting the case. Meanwhile I was asked to treat the case instead of the doctor. As they said they did not wish the patient removed to the hospital, I said they must do as I advised, and we should puzzle the doctor. I then ordered a packet of Blood Mixture Herbs sweetened with liquorice to be boiled in four quarts of water down to two quarts, then to be strained, and when cold it would be fit for use; one half-pint of this with two teaspoonsful of the Anti-Spasmodic, or Third Preparation of the Tincture, put into it, to be given every two hours for the first day; besides sponging the body with vinegar and hot-water. These instructions were carried out, and when the doctor came on the Thursday he was simple speechless with astonishment, as he could have sworn it was fever, but there was none then. The case was not reported, nor the patient taken to the hospital, and by the Saturday he was entirely cured. During the following week the doctor had him at his surgery on three different days, examining different parts of his body with a magnifying glass, and failed to discover any peeling off. The young man told him he was going to start work on Monday morning, and the doctor said he could do so, but that if there were any peeling off he must return at once to him. Nothing of the kind took place, and it is now nearly four years ago. So much for the treatment of fevers; and I have had cases of typhoid, typhus, slow and black fevers, and never lost a case by death.

Now for a case or two of rheumatic fever, which is supposed to be difficult to cure. In July, 1875, one Saturday morning I was consulted in regard to the case of a young woman who had been ill with it for six weeks. She was entirely confined to her bed, and unable to move either arms, hands, legs, or feet, nor to sit up in bed; and had to be fed like a child. The doctor said it would be three months before he could alter his treatment for her. I said I could find them a preparation which, if used according to Instructions (both as a lotion and medicine), and if they did not mind expense, would cure in seven days' time. That was the Anti-Spasmodic Tincture, or Third Preparation of Lobelia. It was three o'clock in the afternoon when the patient was rubbed all over the body, both back and front, from the top of the neck to the ends of the toes, also hands and arms; not a part of the body was missed; an eight-ounce bottle of the preparation being used in rubbing her. A teaspoonful was also given her every half-hour in hot water until eight o'clock at night. It made her perspire freely, and when she cooled down she was sponged all over with vinegar and hot water. She felt as though she was on fire. But note the result: By 10 o'clock that night she could move her hands, arms, legs, and feet; and on the Sunday morning, after being sponged again with vinegar and water, she could sit up in bed and feed herself. When Monday morning came she could dress herself, and by Wednesday afternoon she was walking in the streets round Farnworth; and in seven days a complete cure was made. For the first twenty-four hours after eight o'clock on the Saturday night the preparation was given in teaspoonful doses in hot water every two hours; and after that every three hours for three days; and then every four hours, with occasional rubbing, until the cure was complete, which, as before stated, was in seven days.

Another case was that of a young man living opposite St. John's Church, Oxford Road, Dukinheld, who was attacked with rheumatism in a similar manner to the above-mentioned case. I saw him on the Monday, and treated him in the same way. He had been ill for three weeks, but on the Tuesday was able to get up, and on Wednesday walked to Charles Town Station in order to see me off by train on my way home. He was cured in the same short space of time as the other case. The Preparation was obtained from Mr. C. Walden's Herbal Stores, in the same road.

The following is a case of bronchitis. A gentleman called six times before he was able to see me. When at last he had made known what he wanted, he said, "Now what can you do, for I want something that has no humbug about it?" It was his wife who was ill, and the doctor had tried his best, but she was dying, and he believed I could find something that would cure her. What could I do? I said, "Well, if you want something with no humbug about it, and you will go to the expense, I will find you a preparation that neither you nor anyone else need grumble at." I found him an 8-oz. bottle of the Anti-Spasmodic Tincture, or Third Preparation of Lobelia, and gave orders to administer a teaspoonful in warm water every two hours, also to rub round the neck and chest with the same. They did so, and in a few weeks he came to thank me, saying that the preparation had saved the life of his wife.

I will now say a little about the Acid Tincture and Acid Syrup of Lobelia.

There are a great many different ways in making the acid tincture of Lobelia, and Dr. John Skelton, senr., gives the following in his Family Medical Adviser (3rd edition}, page 249:— Lobelia seed, 2 ounces; Lobelia herb, ½ ounce; cayenne pepper, a teaspoonful. Mix the lot in a pint of good vegetable vinegar (meaning malt or raspberry vinegar, I should say). Let it stand from 10 to 12 days, shaking it up well every day, after which it will be fit for use. He (Dr. Skelton) states that the above preparation may be used either in this or any other way (meaning, no doubt, that it may be taken either in its raw state or in other convenient fluids, such as Hyssop, Balm, Pennyroyal, Composition tea, or other tea or warm water), but he says it is best to form it into a syrup for children. This can be done by adding a sufficient quantity of the golden syrup of treacle. A teaspoonful of this may be given to a child twelve months old in weak Composition tea every 20 minutes until vomiting takes place; a table-spoonful to an adult. It will also be found highly useful in this way given in asthma throughout the day, or a tablespoonful in some Composition tea at bedtime. In consumption, pleurisy, cough, etc., it will be found very serviceable. There is also a syrup of Lobelia given in the National Botanic Pharmacopoeia, published by the National Association of Medical Herbalists of Great Britain, on page 150 (2nd edition), Syrup of Lobelia is as follows:—

"Lobelia Herb, 2 ½ ounces; water, 2 pints; boil down to one pint, strain and dissolve in the liquid by gentle heat 2 pounds of refined sugar. Useful in coughs, but it is emetic if taken in large doses." This may be termed a simple syrup, which will be found highly useful if given in teaspoonful doses every one, two, three, or four hours, according to the requirements of the case.

There is also on the same page (150) an acid syrup of Lobelia, given as follows:—

Formula No. 1.—Lobelia Syrup, 1 part; malt vinegar, 1 part, mixed.

Formula No. 2.—Lobelia Syrup, 1 part; raspberry vinegar, 1 parts. Dose, quarter teaspoonful. Useful in asthmatic coughs.

But there are other ways of making the Acid Tincture of Lobelia besides the above, which I will now give, together with my experience in the use of them.

One of those ways is to take 2 ounces of Lobelia Herb in the herb, but broken up in half-inch pieces. Put into a large Winchester bottle with 3 pints of very best malt vinegar, just warm; when cold shake well and every day for 14 days, when it will be fit for use. The dose of the above will be one to two teaspoonfuls, either in its raw state or mixed in tea or warm water, every half-hour or every one, two, three or four hours, according to the case to be treated.

There is also another way by which the Acid Tincture of Lobelia can be made—i.e., by taking 2 ounces of the Lobelia Inflata herb, broken up in half-inch lengths, and putting them into a large Winchester bottle with three pints of warm water and 1 lb. of pure acetic acid. Shake it well every day for 14 days, when it will be fit for use. The dose to be taken is the same as of that made with the malt vinegar. If it is required to be made into a syrup it can be done by straining one half-pint through a fine cloth, or by filtering it through white blotting paper; then put it on the fire in a saucepan, with three-quarters of a pound of lump sugar. Let it simmer for five or six minutes, taking care not to let it boil, and at the same time removing all the scum which may come to the top; when that is done take it off the fire, let it cool, and bottle for use. The dose of the syrup is the same as that of the Acid Tincture, and for persons of all ages—from an infant two or three days old to the centenarian. It may be given every half or every one, two, three, or four hours in one or two teaspoonful doses, and it may be taken either in the raw syrup or in Hyssop, Balm, Pennyroyal, Mint, Composition, or other tea or warm water or sage tea.

Continued here.

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