Botanical name: 

Related entry: Lobelia under sedatives

The entire plant, the seeds, of Lobelia inflata.—U.S.

Preparations.—The powdered seeds, the powdered plant, the tincture, the acetous emetic tincture, the oil.

Dose.—The dose of the powdered seed will be from gr.s. x. to grs. xx. every fifteen minutes; of the powdered plant, ʒss. to ʒj.; of the tincture gtt. x. to gtt. xx. every ten minutes; of the acetous tincture ʒss. to ʒj. every ten minutes. The oil is not used as an emetic. The acetous emetic tincture (Lobelia, Sanguinaria, Ictodes, aa.) is a very good preparation, and may be used in doses of one teaspoonful every ten minutes to free emesis. The emetic powder (Lobelia, Sanguinaria, Ipecacuanha, Ictodes, aa, Capsicum one-eighth part) is employed in infusion when stimulation is thought necessary.

Therapeutic Action.—Lobelia is emetic, expectorant, diaphoretic, antispasmodic, sedative, and sometimes cathartic. It acts in a manner similar to tobacco, though it is much milder, and is generally regarded, when given in large doses, as an acro-narcotic poison.

When the herb is chewed incautiously, it occasions a sensation of burning and distension, which extends down the oesophagus, and finally nausea and vomiting follow, attended with giddiness, tremors, and headache, with excessive prostration. In some instances purging occurs as well as emesis, with copious perspiration and general relaxation. If the dose is too large and frequently repeated, it usually produces generul prostration and relaxation, accompanied with profuse perspiration. Extreme nausea, great anxiety and distress, are the two frequent concomitants of its administration; nevertheless, the usually short duration of these symptoms, and the salutary impressions which it makes upon the system, compensate, in most instances, for any transient deleterious effect which it may produce. If it acts promptly as an emetic, the unpleasant effects named are much less liable to be manifested.

Lobelia is a prompt, safe, and efficient emetic, equaled by few, and surpassed by none, when resorted to for this purpose. It operates promptly and very thoroughly, but its action is less protracted, and less apt to produce such compression of the liver as will cause copious bilious evacuations than other agents often used. As an emetic it may be resorted to in all cases where a gentle, yet efficient agent may be demanded.

As a general rule, during the forming or early stages of many febrile affections, the use of this article will be found highly valuable. It produces nausea, great relaxation, and diaphoresis; it also exerts a powerful sedative influence upon the nervous system, lessening the force and frequency of the heart's action. Its harsh and irritant properties may be greatly modified by combining with it other emetic agents, and still its valuable sanitary powers upon the system retained.

It proves equally important in the treatment of many acute inflammatory affections, especially in those of the respiratory organs. In all the forms of pneumonia, pleuro-pneumonia, and pleurisy, it occupies a conspicuous place among our therapeutic agents. As a nauseating emetic, antispasmodic, efficient expectorant, and diaphoretic, and secondarily as a sedative, it stands unrivaled. In the most aggravated forms of these complaints, if this article is administered in small and nauseating doses in conjunction with the free use of diaphoretic infusions, with a view to relax the system most perfectly before emesis occurs, it almost uniformly affords relief; it should be frequently repeated if the debility is not so great as to forbid it. It speedily relieves the dyspnoea, pain and oppression in the chest, and proves highly expectorant and antiphlogistic, for the reasons already assigned.

In asthma and pertussis it is one of the most important remedial agents which we can employ. In relation to the latter disease, Dr. Eberle observes, that he has used it combined with the extract of Belladonna (gr. v. to ℥j. of the infusion of Lobelia; dose, gtt. xx. to ʒj., according to age, three or four times daily), with unequivocal advantage. When administered in asthma, it almost invariably gives prompt relief, and no physician who has once used it, will fail to resort to it again whenever occasion requires.

In the various forms of cynanche, especially in cynanche tracheal is, it is a very important agent. It is rarely administered in croup without giving prompt and, in many cases, permanent relief. In those forms of cynanche in which there is ulceration of the fauces, or tonsils, rendering deglutition difficult, it often mitigates the urgent symptoms and facilitates convalescence.

In dyspepsia its stimulant properties, and the strong impression which it exerts upon the chylopoietic viscera, render it superior to many others, perhaps we might say to all other agents of this class.

In protracted nausea and vomiting, when other agents had failed to arrest it, lobelia administered in minute doses, has proved effectual in quieting the stomach.

It is exceediugly important in many chronic affections, when the object is to give the nervous system a very powerful shock. Its acro-narcotic properties in such cases, and its well-known influence upon the nervous system, render it an important auxiliary to the use of tonic and alterative medicines.

In chronic bronchial affections and in phthisis, lobelia has been administered every morning, or second or third morning, with great apparent advantage; indeed, many cases are said to have been cured by it alone. There can be no question as to its salutary influence in such cases, when administered in small doses so as to keep up a continued nausea for some time before emesis occurs. Its stimulant, expectorant, and relaxing influence upon the respiratory organs, removes the accumulated mucus, lessens the cough, and instead of debilitating, offen exerts an invigorating influence upon the patient.

As a stimulating expectorant it may be used in pulmonary affections, both of an acute and chronic character, either alone or combined with less exciting agents, as the ipecacuanha, asclepias, Indian turnip, ictodes, etc., etc. It is very valuable in chronic catarrhal affections, coughs, colds, and irritation of the respiratory organs.

In spasmodic or convulsive diseases the lobelia is of unquestionable importance. In hysterical convulsions, in tetanus, and, in short, in any of the convulsive diseases, we are in possession of no article which more effectually controls spasm than this. In hysteria of a chronic character, the strong impression which it makes upon the nervous system renders it more effectual in breaking up that morbid habit, or condition of the nervous system, than any other agent belonging to the class of emetics, and perhaps we might say, to the list of remedial agents.

In violent spasmodic colic it is very efficient in giving relief. It may be used in the form of enemata in spasmodic and convulsive diseases, in colic, hysteria and tetanus, in cases of strangulated hernia, etc. When used as an injection, or when applied to the surface, it often produces its specific effects, as nausea, vomiting, sedation, and general relaxation of the whole system. Lobelia is often used as an external application, in the form of a discutient cataplasm, as a fomentation, and as an embrocation. It may be combined with other agents of a discutient and narcotic character, and together with the ulmus fulva made into a cataplasm, and applied to indolent and painful tumors. It has been used as a fomentation, and as an ointment in cases of contracted tendons, stiff joints, etc. The tincture has been applied to the surface in herpetic affections of different kinds, and in cases of poisoning from the Rhus radicans or poison vine, and also in cases of chronic ophthalmia, with some benefit.

The diseased conditions in which this agent may be used with advantage, are numerous; and we do not wish to detract from the importance and superior merits of the article when we say we believe it has occasionally done irreparable injury, and in some instances been destructive of life; and that the too profuse and indiscriminate use of it by one class of physicians, is only equaled by the obstinate refusal to test its virtues, and unwarrantable objections urged against it by others. (He's bashing both Thomsonians and Allopathics in one go - that's a double point score! -Henriette.)

Specific Indications.—The pulse is full and oppressed, or small and feeble. Oppression in the praecordium, labored action of the heart, and cardiac pain. Oppression of the chest, difficult and labored respiration, accumulations of mucus in bronchite. Rigidity of os uteri, with thickness of tissue.

Specific Uses.—In all cases where the pulse is full and oppressed, or small and oppressed, the Lobelia may be employed with advantage. It is specific in most cases of angina pectoris, and in neuralgia of the heart. It is an important remedy when the patient complains of oppression in the chest and difficult respiration. It is specific in the asthenic laryngitis of children, and in analogous cases of the adult. It is also an important remedy when there is profuse secretion and want of power to remove it. It stands first in the materia medica as a remedy in difficult labor from rigidity of the os and perineum, (carried to slight nausea). In conclusion, it may be regarded as one of the most direct stimulants to the sympathetic nervous system, and it influences every organ and function supplied or controlled by these nerves.

Dose.—For ordinary use, tincture of the seed gtt. v. to gtt. xx. In water ℥iv.; a teaspoonful as often as required. In angina or neuralgia of the heart, a single dose of gtt. x. to gtt. xxx., which may be repeated if necessary. In asthenic bronchitis we sometimes combine it with a simple stimulant, as Comp. Spirits of Lavender.

The American Eclectic Materia Medica and Therapeutics, 1898, was written by John M. Scudder, M.D.