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 is an outdated synonym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 American

cimora 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.

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