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|This delicate lobelia is native to North America,
where it is known by the names pukeweed and
Indian tobacco. The plant was used ceremonially
by the North American Crow Indians and played a
role in the love magic of the Pawnee and
Mesquakie (Ott 1993, 411 *) . Lobelia is one of the
ingredients in kinnikinnick and other smoking
blends. The Indians also smoked the plant medicinally
for asthma, bronchitis, irritations of the
throat, and coughs. The herbage is finding
increasing use as a tobacco substitute (see Nicotiana
tabacum), especially among people who are
trying to quit tobacco. Smoked by itself, lobelia is
clearly psychoactive. It has both sedative and
stimulating effects, which can surprise those who
have no prior knowledge of the plant.
The herbage contains more than twenty
piperidine alkaloids. The main alkaloid, a-lobeline,
is a nicotine antagonistA substance that interferes with or inhibits the physiological action of another. (Szoke et al. 1993) and is
used as a nicotine substitute for medical withdrawal
(Krochmal et al. 1972,216). The a-lobeline
content is almost twice as high in cultivated plants
as in wild specimens (approximately 1.05 to 2.250/0
of dry weight; Krochmal et al. 1972,216).
In Mexico, a closely related species, Lobelia
cliffordtiana 1., is numbered among the hierbas
locas, the ('herbs that make one crazy" (Martinez
1987, 427*; Reko 1938, 185*). It too may be
suitable as an inebriating ingredient in smoking
blends. An Asian species, Lobelia nicotianaefolia, is
known as rasni or "wild tobacco:' The long,
tobacco-like leaves of this plant, which can grow
up to 3 meters in height, are said to be poisonous
but can be smoked (Macmillan 1991, 430*). The
name Lobelia longiflora 1. is an outdated synonym
for Hippobroma longiflora (1.) G. Don, which is
one of the ingredients in the South Americancimora drink (Zander 1994, 312*) .
Krochmal, Arnold, Leon Wilken, and Millie Chien.
1972. Plant and lobeline harvest of Lobelia inflata
1. Economic Botany 26:216-20.
Szoke, E., A. Krajewska, and A. Nesmelyi. 1993. NMR
characterization of alkaloids from Lobelia inflata.Planta Medica 59 suppl.: A704.