This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
COMMON NAMES. Indian Tobacco, Wild Tobacco.
MEDICINAL PARTS. The leaves and seeds.
Description. -- Lobelia is an annual or biennial indigenous plant, with a fibrous root, and an erect, angular, very hairy stem, from six inches to three feet in height. The leaves are alternate, ovate-lanceolate, serrate, veiny, and hairy; flowers small, numerous, pale-blue; fruit a two-celled ovoid capsule, containing numerous small brown seeds.
History. -- Lobelia flowers from July to November, and grows in nearly all parts of the United States, in fields, woods, and meadows. The whole plant is active, and the stalks are used indiscriminately with the leaves by those who are best acquaianted with its properties. The root is supposed to be more energetic, medicinally, than any other part of the plant. The proper time for gathering is from the last of July to the middle of October. The plant should be dried in the shade, and then be preserved in packages or covered vessels, more especially if it be reduced to powder. It was used in domestic practice by the people of New England long before the time of Samual Thompson, its assumed discoverer.
Properties and Uses. -- Administered internally it is emetic, nauseant, expectorant, relaxant, sedative, anti-spasmodic, and secondarily cathartic, diaphoretic, and astringent. It is extensively used to subdue spasms, and will give relief in epilepsy, tetanus, cramps, hysteria, chorea, and convulsions; but it is merely a temporary relief when administered internally, and if not used with great skill and caution in that way, may do as much harm as good. Applied externally, in the form of an ointment, combined with healing and soothing barks and roots, it is decidedly the best counter-irritant known to mankind. In this shape its equal has never been discovered, and probably never will be This is one of the ingredients of the "Herbal Ointment," a full-description of which will be found on page 469 of this work. There are any number of officinal preparations of Lobelia, but it is the opinion of the author that its chief value consists in being made into an ointment, with other rare and potent ingredients. There is nothing in nature that can favorably compare with it in this form. In other shapes it may be useful; but it is also dangerous unless given with care.