Native Americans used lobelia to treat respiratory and muscle disorders, and as a purgative. The species used most commonly in modern herbalism is Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco). However, there are adverse effects that limit the use of lobelia.
Lobelia has been used as "asthmador" in Appalachian folk medicine.
Two species, L. siphilitica and L. cardinalis, were once considered a cure for syphilis.
Herbalist Samuel Thomson popularized medicinal use of lobelia in the United States in the early 19th century, as well as other medicinal plants like goldenseal.
One species, Lobelia chinensis (called bê n bi?n lián, ??? in Chinese), is used as one of the fifty fundamental herbs in traditional Chinese medicine.
Several studies show that lobelia is ineffective in helping people to quit smoking.
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