"Natural Healing with Herbs for a Healthier You"

by Rosanna King
This site brought to you by The School of Natural Healing & Christopher Publications

Lobelia can be used in a large variety of ways. Effective preparations include: decoction, fluid extract, infusion, pills or capsules, poultice, ointment, powdered herb or seed, syrup, and acid tincture. Lobelia can even be smoked for asthma or used as an enema.[1]


Heat destroys most of the medicinal properties of the lobelia so when making tea an infusion is preferable to a decoction. To make an infusion, pour 1 cup boiling water over ¼ to ½ teaspoons dried leaves; steep 10-15 minutes. Drink 3 times per day.[2] If using the seed it is best to crush them so the medicinal properties can be released into the liquid. A decoction of the herb is still useful as an emetic, the dose is ½ cupful.[3] Tea is not the preferred method because of lobelia’s acrid taste.[4]     


Tincture, especially the acid tincture made with vinegar is the very best way to use lobelia. It is safer and more effective this way than any other form. The acid tincture is extremely versatile, and with a little creativity is appropriate for most if not all of the conditions that lobelia can be used for. The tincture is especially valuable for croup, asthma, lockjaw, and ringworm. The tincture can be made from the green or dried herb. A tincture made of the seeds is much more potent.[5]


In addition to internal uses the acid tincture and even the alcohol tincture can be used externally as a rub for relaxation, rubbed on the neck and chest and between the shoulders to break up congestion. This is especially good for babies with mucus and spasmodic congestion problems as some feel it is better not to give lobelia internally to infants. It’s relaxing effect can be balanced with cayenne, peppermint or other stimulants if desired. Combined with Cayenne or another stimulant it is great for a chest or sinus rub. One other external use is for earache. Place a few drops of warm lobelia tincture in the ear and plug with cotton.[6]


Dosages vary greatly from one herbal to the next often influenced by the author’s opinion of the safety or danger of the use of lobelia. Some feel strongly that lobelia is a low dosage botanical and should never be used as an emetic. Others though they realize it must be used wisely, are not afraid of it because they believe an overdose is virtually impossible due to the emetic properties of the herb. It is wise to start with a small dose and increase or repeat doses till the desired results are obtained.[7]


The anticipated results and the condition being treated also affect dosage. A good example of this is in treating asthma and croup. In a crisis situation, such as an asthma attack, relatively large doses are given along with warm herbal tea to encourage vomiting and expelling of mucus. In these situations a teaspoonful dose of the acetic tincture is repeated every 10-30 minutes till vomiting occurs.[8] One man took three tablespoonful doses. Afterwards he said, “. . . My breathing was so difficult that I took a tablespoonful of the acid tincture of lobelia, and in about three or four minutes my breathing was as free as it ever was. I took another in ten minutes, after which I took a third, which I felt through every part of my body, even to the ends of my toes.”[9] For a more long range therapeutic approach, working at nourishing and healing over a length of time lesser amounts are used combined with other herbs.[10] Or for the squeamish who are not in a life or death situation, just enough lobelia can be given to gain some decongestant/expectorant action without throwing up. “A Modern Herbal” listed “5-30 drops every half-hour in elm or flaxseed infusion” as an expectorant. Given cautiously this seems to be a low enough dosage to avoid vomiting.[11]



Amazingly lobelia is so powerful it has a noticeable effect even in very small amounts such as a dilution of 1:99. Those who feel lobelia is a low-dosage botanical say “5 drops of the acetous tincture taken three times daily (usually in marshmallow tea or with demulcent tinctures) should prove adequate.” Lobelia tincture is generally combined with other tinctures at the rate of 1 part lobelia tincture by volume: 10 parts of a mixture of other tinctures such as mullein, elecampane, thyme, hyssop, red root, echinacea, etc. by volume). This compound is taken at the basic dosage of one or two droppersful (30-60 drops) 3-5 times daily. Those leery of lobelia’s powerful actions give the caution “Straight lobelia tinctures or compounds containing lobelia should be diluted in at least a full cup of water (240 ml) before ingestion.[12] I found an even stronger warning stating “A total of 20 mg lobelia per day should not be exceeded. Doses higher than 500 mg are highly toxic and . . . could be fatal.[13]


Recommended doses for the acetic tincture (1:5) vary greatly from the overly cautious 5 drops three times a day to the more reasonable dose of 1 to 4 ml three times a day. Dr. Christopher suggested ½ to 1 teaspoonful doses (2-4 ml) and he never gave more than 3 doses in succession. “A Modern Herbal” tops them all with a suggested dose of 1 to 4 drachms. Most likely it is supposed to be a maximum daily dosage.[14]


Standard conservative dose for the tincture of lobelia is ½ ml three times per day with a maximum dosage of 2ml a day. The British Pharmaceutical Codex’s recommended dose for the tincture (1:8, 60 percent ethanol) is .4 to 1.6 milliliters up to three times a day. The largest suggested dose I found of the U.S.P. tincture was 1 to 4 drachms. That is equivalent to approximately 1/8 to ½ fluid ounce or 14 milliliters.[15]


Recommended doses for the fluid extract (1:1 in 50% alcohol) vary from 0.2 to 0.6 mL (5-15 drops) up to 0.5 to 1.5 ml (10-30 drops) three times per day. The difference in dosage makes sense when you look at the sources. The first source, www.adam.com also said lobelia is a potentially toxic herb, while the last suggested dosage was found in “School of Natural Healing”. The dose listed in “A Modern Herbal” is somewhere between the two at 10-20 drops.[16]



The dried herb in powder, capsules, pills, etc. recommended dosages vary as much as the extract and tinctures. According to the British Pharmaceutical Codex, 50-200 milligrams of dried herb three times a day is the recommended dose for asthma, chronic bronchitis, and spastic colon.[17] www.best-home-remedies.com said capsules commonly contain 395 milligrams, tablets 2 milligrams and lozenges 1 milligram.[18] Dr. Christopher’s recommended dose of the powdered herb (leaves, stems, flower and/or pods) was 200-650 milligrams.[19] An old home doctoring book gave the dose as 1-5 grains but “A Modern Herbal” gives the dose as 5-60 grains.[20] One grain is equal to 64.8 milligrams so “A Modern Herbal’s” dose equals a whopping 3888 milligrams. Really makes me wonder if the 0 is a typo and it should read 5-6 grains which would be 324-388.8 milligrams. All these different dosages can be quite confusing. To simplify things just follow Dr. Christopher’s dosage recommendations he used lobelia for years and I’m sure he knew what he was talking about.


For children adjust the recommended adult dose to account for the child’s weight. Most herbal dosages for adults are calculated on the basis of a 150 lb (70 kg) adult. Therefore if the child weighs 50 lb (20-25 kg), the appropriate dose of lobelia for this child would be 1/3 of the adult dose.[21]


Doses for four more preparations of lobelia follow. Dosage for syrup of lobelia 1 to 4 teaspoons or 1 to 4 drachms; solid extract 100-300 milligrams or 2 to 4 grains (129 to 259 ml); Etherial tincture, B.P., 5 to 15 drops. The solid extract and etherial tincture are no longer on the market as far as I know. It’s a good thing too. Dr. Christopher warned against the latter saying “Do not use lobelia tincture from drug stores, as it is extracted with an etheric menstruum.”[22] The solid extracts were inferior as well, being heat evaporated tars with many of their constituents oxidized by heat.[23] The oil of lobelia seed has also faded into history. Dosage was 1 drop rubbed up with 20 grains of ginger or triturated with one scruple of sugar and divided into 6 to 12 doses. This was considered useful as an expectorant, nauseant, sedative, and diaphoretic, when given every one or two hours.[24]


To use lobelia as an enema, also called internal bathing by some, follow these directions “This herb may be administered by means of the internal bath, namely, taking a solution of one ounce of the powdered lobelia to a quart of water and injecting this solution into the intestines, through the rectum.” Dr. Christopher and Jethro Kloss both recommended adding lobelia to a catnip enema for fever, pneumonia, pleurisy, nephritis, hepatitis, meningitis, etc. The reason for this being  The bowels are lined with tiny blood vessels which will absorb the herb into the system.” – “Modern Encyclopedia of Herbs”[25]


Lobelia can be made into a poultice for external treatment of bruises, insect bites, sprains, felons, ringworm, erysipelas, and poison ivy irritation. Lobelia plasters and liniments are used to treat sprains, muscle spasms and bruises because of the plant’s relaxing and stimulating effect. Dr. Christopher instructed to make a compress or plaster of lobelia for swellings, pneumonia, pleurisy, boils, etc. For any external problems Dr. Christopher said “Apply a poultice consisting of 1 part lobelia and 2 parts slippery elm.” I’ve listed Jethro Kloss’s lobelia poultices with the formulas. Please refer to page 61 for information on them.[26]


Here are directions for making your very own lobelia tincture.

First off for a lobelia tincture we use vinegar rather than alcohol. Due to lobelia’s unique constituents and properties lobelia extracts made with vinegar are more effective than those made with alcohol and water. We use 4 oz. of the dry herb to 1 quart solvent in this case organic apple cider vinegar. Put the lobelia in a quart jar and cover with the vinegar. Macerate for two weeks. That means shake it every day when you go past. When the 14 days are up, strain the vinegar out of the lobelia. Put the herb in a cheese cloth and squeeze to get as much good out of it as you can. Compost the spent herb and store your lobelia tincture for future use in a dark glass bottle. [27]

[1] Christopher, School of Natural Healing, ch. 10, p. 397; Kloss, Back to Eden, section 2, p. 144; Page, How to be Your Own Herbal Pharmacist, p. 198; Meyer, The Herbalist, p. 75.

[2] Hoffman, Healthy Bones & Joints, ch. 4, p. 86

[3] Christopher, School of Natural Healing, ch. 10, p. 397.

[4] http:metagenics.com/resources/imc/OneMedicineProf/ProfHerbs/Lobelia.html

[5] Christopher, School of Natural Healing, ch. 10, p. 397, 394.

[6] Christopher, School of Natural Healing, ch. 10, p. 398; Chevallier, The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants p. 108; Royal, Herbally Yours, ch. 2, p. 24; Hopkins, Stock Your Medicine Cabinet Herbally, p. 13.

[7] Christopher, School of Natural Healing, ch. 10, p. 397; Hopkins, Stock Your Medicine Cabinet Herbally, p.12-13

[8] Christopher, School of Natural Healing, ch. 10, p. 402; Goodenough, The Favorite Medical Receipt Book and Home Doctor, Department 5, p. 569; Kloss, Back to Eden, section 2, p. 144.

[9] Kloss, Back to Eden, section 2, p. 145.

[10] Hopkins, Stock Your Medicine Cabinet Herbally, p. 13.

[11] Grieve, A Modern Herbal, p. 495.

[12] Cech, Making Plant Medicine, part 2, p. 167.

[13] http://www.adam.com/democontent/IMCAccess/ConsHerbs/Lobeliach.html

[14] Cech, Making Plant Medicine, part 2, p. 167; Christopher, School of Natural Healing, ch. 10, p. 397; http://www.adam.com/democontent/IMCAccess/ConsHerbs/Lobeliach.html, Grieve, A Modern Herbal, p. 495.

[15] Hoffman, Healthy Bones & Joints, ch. 4, p. 87; Karch, The Consumer’s Guide to Herbal Medicine, ch. 6, p. 128; http://www.adam.com/democontent/IMCAccess/ConsHerbs/Lobeliach.html, Grieve, A Modern Herbal, p. 495.

[16] http://www.adam.com/democontent/IMCAccess/ConsHerbs/Lobeliach.html; Christopher, School of Natural Healing, ch. 10, p. 397; Grieve, A Modern Herbal, p. 495.

[17] Karch, The Consumer’s Guide to Herbal Medicine, ch. 6, p. 128.

[18] http:www.best-home-remedies.com/herbal_medicine/herbs/lobelia.htm

[19] Christopher, School of Natural Healing, ch. 10, p. 397

[20] Grieve, A Modern Herbal, p. 495.

[21] http://www.adam.com/democontent/IMCAccess/ConsHerbs/Lobeliach.html

[22] Christopher, School of Natural Healing, ch. 10, p. 397; Grieve, A Modern Herbal, p. 495.

[23] Moore, An Herbal/Medical Dictionary, p. 21.

[24] Grieve, A Modern Herbal, p. 495.

[25] Kadans, Modern Encyclopedia of Herbs, p. 148 Christopher, School of Natural Healing, ch. 10, p. 397; Kloss, Back to Eden, section 2, p. 142.

[26] Lust, The Herb Book, part 2, p. 253; Mabey, The New Age Herbalist, ch. 1, p. 36; Christopher, School of Natural Healing, ch. 10, p. 398.

[27] Christopher, Dr. Christopher’s Guide to Colon Health, ch. 3, p. 57; Grieve, A Modern Herbal, p. 495; Christopher and Gileadi, Every Woman’s Herbal, p. 206; Cech, Making Plant Medicine.

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