An annual plant, the herb lobelia inflata contains lobeline, an effective central nervous system relaxant, that is used to treat stress and respiratory problems. It is also effectively used as an aid for tobacco smokers to help them break their habit. Follow these suggestions to harvest your lobelia herb crop safely and successfully.
Step 1: Find a Place to Plant
Lobelia herb is native to North America and northeast Asia, especially the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia. It can grow in areas from dry grassland to the fringes of the forest, from cleared fields to the borders of streams and marshes. Clear or designate a place in your garden to plant lobelia herb.
Step 2: Plant Lobelia Herb Cuttings or Seeds
To cultivate lobelia herb, plant the seeds in a slightly acidic soil with a heavy clay base. In cool zones 0 to 7, plant in spring; in zones 8 to 10, plant in fall. Lobelia is hardy to zone 0, and can overwinter without damage.
This plant can grow well in either light shade or full sun. Its seeds are self-fertilizing, so leave sufficient seed pods on the plant to allow for reproduction. The seeds germinate in about 2 weeks after sowing.
Step 3: Harvest in Late Summer
The plant's flowers, leaves and seeds all contain the active alkaline relaxant lobeline, but it is at its highest concentration in the seeds. Gather all parts of the plant above ground in late August to mid-September. Dry the flowers and leaves to build up their lobeline concentration. Remove any dried flower petals before collecting seed pods. Lobelia roots usually aren't harvested as t hey contain little or no lobeline.
Step 4: Uses for Lobelia
Lobelia inflata is used internally to treat a wide range of respiratory disorders such as asthma, bronchitis, chronic cough and pneumonia. Its active ingredient lobeline relaxes the bronchioles of the lungs so that phlegm can be expelled through coughing. As an asthma treatment, it stimulates the adrenal glands to release epinephrine, promoting relaxation of the lung and other main airways. Lobelia works directly on the respiratory control center of the brain, to induce deeper and more relaxed breathing, necessary for relief of asthma and other lung disorders.
Lobelia is also useful in relieving the symptoms of muscle and joint inflammation when applied externally as an ointment or lotion. In addition, you can use it to treat repetitive and involuntary contractions of the colon and other large muscles.
Use lobelia herb only under the supervision of a medical practitioner. Large doses can induce paralysis, coma and death.
Lobeline is contained in many preparations designed to lessen the craving for nicotine, as it simulates the effects of nicotine without being addictive itself. Aside from its medicinal uses, lobelia plants act as an effective insect repellent when burned.
Lobelia herb is a traditional favorite of alternative and herbal medicine practitioners, for a wide range of breathing disorders. Always use it as directed by a doctor or licensed herbal or alternative medicine specialist.