Lobelia (Ban Bian Lian)
Botanical Name: Western – Lobelia erinus, L. sihilitica, L cardinalis. Eastern – L. chinensis.
Lobelia is a powerful herb. Too much can be toxic. The right amount, however, treats chest pain, acute heart failure, tonsillitis, and even aids a difficult or painful birth. Lobelia has anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties. It also helps promote urination. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is considered one of the famous “50 Fundamental Herbs” and has been used for centuries to treat a wide variety of conditions from heart problems to colds to snake bites.
Below is an overview of Lobelia, combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Lobelia.
Western Name: Lobelia
Also Known As: Asthma Weed, Barfweed, Vomitwort, Indian Tobacco, Pukeweed, Fool’s Bane
Organs/Systems: Lung, Heart, Stomach, Genitalia, Bladder
Key Actions: Antispasmodic, Anti-inflammatory, Relaxant, Rejuvenant, Stimulatent, Purgative, Anticancer, Nervine, Expectorant, Emetic, Diuretic, Anti-asthmatic
Medicinal Uses: Muscle cramping, cancer, edema, asthma, coughs, congestion, syphilis.
Pin Yin: Ban Bian Lian
Also Known As: Half Edged Lily
Meridians: Heart, Lung, Small Intestine
Key Actions: Drains Damp, Promotes Urination, Cools Blood, Reduces Toxicity, Opens the Chest, Dissolves Phlegm, Stimulates Uterus
Medicinal Uses: Edema, end stage liver cirrhosis, ascites. It is the herb of choice for treating poisonous snake bites, scorpions, centipedes and wasp stings and can be used internally or externally. It is also used for Fire Toxin patterns such as tonsillitis. Palpations, tight chest, acute heart failure, high or low blood pressure, very good for difficult or painful labor (especially cervical or vaginal rigidity).
Parts Most Frequently Used: Leaf, Root, Fruit
Flavors/Temps: Sweet, Neutral, Slightly Bitter
Caution: Many adverse effects limit the use of lobelia. Because of its similarity to nicotine it may be dangerous to certain populations (children, pregnant women, those with cardiac disease) Excessive use can cause vomiting or nausea. The chemical alkaloid compound lobeline may cause dizziness. All parts of the plant are considered poisonous/toxic if eaten in large quantities and can cause exhaustion, dilated pupils, convulsions and coma.
History/Folklore: In China it is considered to be one of the “fifty fundamental herbs” in TCM. The Chinese use it successfully to treat end-stage schistosomiasis (infection due to parasites from worms) and end-stage cirrhosis of the liver. As it balances circulation of Qi and Blood it is also good for treating acute heart failure and either high or low blood pressure.
In the west lobelia is being clinically tested as a treatment for multi-drug resistant tumor cells. Certain species (L. sihilitica, L. Erinus and L. cardinalis) have been used as a cure for syphilis.
The leaf used in tea form is good for treating colds, croup, and nosebleeds. As a purgative it helps induce vomiting and thereby eliminates harmful toxins from the body.
In the Victorian language of flowers lobelia symbolized malevolence and ill will.
Native Americans used it to treat respiratory difficulties, muscle disorders and as a purgative.
This herb was a mainstay of the system of herbal medicine introduced by Samuel Thomson, a famous self-taught American herbalist from the early 19th century, who has been called the “Father of American Herbalism.”
Lobeline, which can be modified to Lonelane is a compound that can decrease methamphetamine in rats, making this compound a possible treatment for meth drug dependency. The seeds contain the highest amounts of lobeline, more than any other part of the plant.
A tincture of the whole plant is said to help treat paralysis of the lungs and tongue.
Native Americans used to smoke the dried leaves and as Lobeline has a similar chemical makeup as nicotine, the plants are sometimes commonly called “Indian Tobacco.” The Iroquois used the root to treat leg sores, venereal diseases (often combined with cherry bark) and ulcers. It was also used to discourage the presence of gnats. The Crow Tribe used it in religious ceremonies. The plant was so valued that some tribes used it as an article of trade.
Often used as good ornamental plant in the garden as it attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
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