Lobelia inflata

Lobelia inflata

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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.

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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.

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Tweefontein and Friends

Everywhere is in the middle of nowhere.
Until the landmarks are discovered.
A pair of parents are having a baby, the whole world in one little bundle.
Highways interconnected; corporate box stores erected.
The framework for modern-day survival, swinging in the wind, less stable than an unsteady bridge.
Standing in a parking lot, in a field, on a mountain top,
The four directions are there.
Walk up the hill, there’s fresh water.
Plants’ fearless, fecund propagation throughout all landscapes.
Ancient scouts walked without shoes,
but on my feet there are boots.
Soothed by the sun and the stream;
the medicine for the soul holds the body close.


I recently visited my dear friends who are expecting a baby. They live in a beautiful mountain town amongst wild plants, fresh water streams, and others who are cultivating and spreading the beauty of plant medicine.

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Tweefontein Herb Farm is just outside of New Paltz, New York. This project is run collectively by a group of individuals. They are committed to being stewards of the land, to collective and cooperative living, and to selling herb products to the greater New York area. When I met some of the members of TweeFontein Herb Farm, they were in between market days, so my friend and I volunteered to help them gather some more fresh herbs. We worked on harvesting peppermint and lemon balm. They use the fresh herbs to make wonderful tea blends.

I was totally inspired by this group’s enthusiasm to market their tea blends and within that the fresh mountain air, minerals, and overall good energy. The way that we harvested the peppermint and the lemon balm was such that the plants would continue to branch out and to grow.  We cut the tops of the plants just above a branching stem. In the photo above, the tails of the peppermint stems are visible.

In addition to the plants at Tweefontein Herb Farm, many more plants were found! Wild yarrow, mullein, blackberries, sumac (tree, pictured below), and Saint John’s Wort (also pictured below).

Sumac tea was new to me! It tastes high in vitamin C, having some resemblance to Hibiscus.  In addition to tasting a new tea, I was seeing St. John’s Wort growing somewhat in abundance! I have only seen this plant thriving in the Northeast, but it is known to grow throughout the US (and Europe).  The latin name is Hypericum perforatum.  In the future, I would like to try to propagate this plant because of  it’s many practical uses.

It’s a plant for the Nervous System. In Europe, physicians  prescribe St. John’s Wort for clinical depression. A topical preparation may be used for sciatic nerve pain.  My herbalist friend uses oil infused with St. John’s Wort as sun protection, while other sources have suggested it’s ability to increase photosensitivity, when taken internally (ie: tea).  Another herbalist I know recommends Hypericum perforatum combined with Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) for a topical wound healing salve.  The essence of St. John’s Wort appears often in Flower Essences as a protective spirit.  The yellow flowers are bright and uplifting.  The plant has ovate leaves that are covered with oil glands that appear to be dots when the back of the leaf is held up to the sun. It is one of those plants that has a lot to say!