|This large lobelia, the flowers of which are fiery
red, is found in the wild in South America in the
Andes and their foothills. It is cultivated throughout
the world as an ornamental. The most common
name for this conspicuous plant is tupa,
which can be translated as "spot;' «point;' «sunspot"
or even «mark of disgrace:' Many inhabitants of the Andes consider this campanulaceous plant
to be toxic and avoid it. Since it is often called
tabaco del diablo ("devil's tobacco"), it was once
thought that it might have psychoactive or even
hallucinogenic effects (Schultes and Hofmann
1992, 47*). However, there is no ethnographic
evidence indicating that devil's tobacco is or ever
was used ritually for psychoactive purposes.
In Chile, Lobelia tupa and several other species
are referred to as trupa, tupa, or tabaco del diablo
(Lobelia excelsa Bonpl., Lobelia polyphylla H. et A.;
cf. Mosbach 1992, 105*). The Mapuche use the
name tupa to refer to a related species, Lobelia
salicifolia Sweet, which they use as a medicinal
plant to treat flu (they make a tea from the leaves).
The latex is said to induce severe inflammation of
the eye and of the digestive tract, together with
vomiting and diarrhea (Houghton and Manby
Lobelia tupa has been shown to contain piperidine
alkaloids; these do not, however, have any
unequivocal psychoactive effects. As with Lobelia
inflata, the principal alkaloid in the leaves is
a-lobeline (Kaczmarek and Steinegger 1958).
Lobelamidine and norlobelamidine are also
present (Kaczmarek and Steinegger 1958; Schultes
and Farnsworth 1982, 177*). Smoking the dried
leaves strongly stimulates the production of saliva
and an immediate stimulation occurs that is
similar to that produced by Lobelia inflata and
Nicotiana tabacum. The white smoke is relatively
easy to inhale and produces almost no irritation(cf. smoking blends).
Kaczmarek, F., and E. Steinegger. 1958.
Untersuchungen der Alkaloide von Lobelia tupa
1. Pharm. Helvetica Acta 33:257-62.
---.1959. Botanische Klassifizierung und
Alkaloidvorkommen in der Gattung Lobelia.Pharm. Helvetica Acta 34:413-29.