Lobelia (pukeweed), jewelweed, aloe and other totally natural pursuits

I never get tired of hearing bucks snort, but this morning one snorted repeatedly right outside my bedroom window just when I’d just decided to be lazy and sleep in.

Lobelia_(aka)So I changed my mind, listened to what the buck was telling me, and got moving.  I’ll take natural motivation wherever I can get it. Besides, I need to get some desk work done before the sun comes up and I’m ineluctably drawn outside to  enjoying the colors turn. My mother, die Naturfreunde, says if a colorful fall leaf lands on you and stays, you will have good luck.  You can’t try to make them land on you, it must be just serendiipity. Two did yesterday and I’m looking for another two doses of luck today.

We keep talking about sharing Meadowcreek with folks who would pay big bucks to have fall leaves land on them and such.  Untold hunters would love to see as many turkeys and deer as I do every day.  But we seldom get around  to inviting them.  Maybe we just want it for ourselves.  All I know is that I like it as it is. No need for any big changes.  Don’t fix something that works.

That’s the way I look at medicines too.  If it works, use it.  If it doesn’t, eschew it.  We have a lot of medicinal herbs at Meadowcreek.  Several here like to study them and be able to recognize them, but I don’t use them unless I know they work.  I’ve been afflicted by stinging nettle before, applied fresh jewelweed and the sting totally disappeared.  I’ve had bad burns and applied fresh aloe juice and the burn virtually disappeared.

But I use very few medicine, herbal or otherwise.  Anyone who advocates you use herbs or traditional medicines regularly is suspect to me. There are amost as many incompetents in herbal medicine as there are in traditional medicine, so watch out when people push an herbal supplement on you.  A little knowledge combined with blind faith in natural healing can be a dangerous thing.

First, beware anyone who suggests you consume anything they  don’t.  Especially if they are a physician (with emphasis on the “fee” in the first syllable).  Even if they don’t charge a fee for their advice, I’d still think twice.  Especially if they have a sick dog and a sick husband and others have died in their care.  (Actually, don’t listen to me, several of our dogs have died over the years and not all due to our neighbors’ gunshots and their own rambunctiousness.)

Wild lobelia is one herb which many herbalists advocate.  It can have sedative properties, according to numerous double blind studies.  Native Americans used lobelia to treat respiratory and muscle disorders,  They smoked it and asthma symptoms disappeared.  White settlers in Appalachia felt it worked and it became a part of their medicine chest.  The species used most commonly in modern herbalism is Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco).  

Since traditional medicine can’t cure asthma, it might be worth trying if nothing else works for you.

In the 19th century, American physicians prescribed lobelia to induce vomiting in order remove toxins from the body. Because of this, it earned the name “puke weed.” Today, lobelia is sometimes suggested to help clear mucus from the respiratory tract, including the throat, lungs, and bronchial tubes. .

Some pharmaceutical companies, thinking a lobelia extract, lobeline, has similar effects to nicotiine, prescribed as a nicotine substitute in many preparations designed to break the smoking habit. In 1993, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibited the sale of smoking products containing lobeline. The FDA reported that such products were not effective in helping people quit or reduce smoking.

Researchers now think that lobeline may actually reduce the effects of nicotine in the body, particularly the release of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in brain cells.  Work is ongoing to see whether lobeline has any potential in other sorts of drug addiction.

Lobeline, has been shown to reverse P-glycoprotein-dependent drug resistance in certain tumor cell lines in lab studies.  So work continues and we all have hope that cures will result.  In the meantime, be careful.

Lobelia is a potentially toxic herb. In moderate-to-large doses it may cause side effects ranging from dry mouth and nausea to convulsions and even coma.

 L. siphilitica and L. cardinalis, were once considered a cure for syphilis and now we know they are totally ineffective,

Herbalist Samuel Thomson popularized medicinal use of lobelia, goldenseal and a bunch of other native herbs in the early 19th century,  The preacher/charlatan from New England, Elias Smith, plagiarized much of Thomson’s system. A unique feature of Smith’s system was the identification of Lobelia with the plant of renown’ referred to in Ezekiel 34:29.  Believing that the United States held eschatological significance, Smith believed that this plant was provided by God to democratize medical treatment, just as Smith’s preaching was a democratization of theology.

One species, Lobelia chinensis (called bàn biān lián, 半边莲 in Chinese), is used as one of the fifty fundamental herbs in traditional Chinese medicine.

Just take any advice on herbs with a grain of salt, just as you should question any physician’s advice.  Know one knows your body better than yourself.  Trust your intuition.  If  you are interested in using a specific herb, we have lots of the old remedies at Meadowcreek.  And it will do you good just to walk around in the woods looking for them, even if you never use them.

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