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

1985, 100*).

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.

Top Contributors