This plant is native to the eastern united states and parts of Canada. The common name for Lobelia inflata is Indian tobacco. The flowers are tubular in shape and blue or white in color, although the parts used medicinally are the leaves, seeds, and seed pods. I have not been acquainted with this plant in its wild form, but the reputation of its medicinal uses precedes it.
I was taught about Lobelia inflata as a necessary addition to any first aid kit. The tincture of the dried plant is used in emergent situations from anaphylactic shock and asthma attacks to other situations that may require regurgitation. The tincture may cause vomiting, but this dosage is dependent on age and weight, and varies from two drops to a whole dropper-full. The recommendation is that if lobelia is needed, then vomiting would be a mere side effect to a state of shock or labored breathing.
The tea of lobelia dried is also a used as a nervine tonic. It is soothing, and can be mixed with mullein to promote smoking cessation. Or mixed with chamomile to soothe a headache. In addition to an alcohol based extract (tincture) and infusion (tea), a fellow herbalist told me that she used a salve (oil extract) with lobelia to soothe muscle spasms. In soothing the nervous system, organ and muscle functioning is aided and regulated.
This herb is a great example of a plant which has many uses, and different applications for each respective preparation. I think the way in which the plant chemicals are extracted from the plant lends to various potencies. I have not been in the situation where I needed to use lobelia as an emergency herb. But I have experienced its soothing effects from an infusion: I bought dried lobelia from an herb shop where they sell bulk herbs, and prepared tea. It is without a doubt potent, but I did not vomit! Rosemary Gladstar recommends that when learning about herbs, it is best to try the herbs, smell them, look at them, and keep a small amount in your apothecary. In doing this, you will assemble a small index of plants and refer to their uses and preparations time and time again, so that a stranger becomes a new friend.