In Heal Local: 20 Essential Herbs for Do-It-Yourself Home Healthcare (New Society Publishers, 2015) author and herbalist Dawn Combs makes herbal healthcare less intimidating and more attainable, helping locally-minded gardeners and non-gardeners alike take back food, goods and services from pharmaceutical corporations and sourcing them from small growers, producers, artisans and entrepreneurs. This section on Lobelia comes from the chapter “The Herbs.”
Lobelia (Lobelia inflata)
Properties: Respiratory stimulant, antiasthmatic, antispasmodic, expectorant, emetic
Harvest notes: Lobelia is an annual that is used for its above ground parts. The harvest period is after the plant has bloomed in early fall. Lobelia is in danger due to overharvesting or loss of habitat so it is important to source it responsibly or grow it yourself.
Lobelia is a very strong antispasmodic with a special affinity for the respiratory system. It is effective for emergency asthma treatment, congestion, asthma (exercise induced, bronchial and spasmodic), bronchitis, whooping cough, pneumonia and hiccups. In the digestive system it is effective for food poisoning, hiatal hernia, as an emetic and for heartburn. Lobelia is perfect for severe muscular spasm, epilepsy and any other situation that requires a supreme relaxant.
Lobelia likes to be combined with other herbs to mellow its effects. If you are using it alone, use only one to two drops of tincture at a time. You may continue to use these small doses until the desired result is achieved. Stop when salivation or nausea occurs.
Contraindications: Women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid lobelia. It is not recommended for those with high blood pressure or heart disease.
Herbal Remedies for Asthma
• Lemon Balm
• St. John’s Wort
Asthma is ultimately a constriction of the airways due to irritation and inflammation. As a syndrome or defined disease it has been studied all the way back to ancient Egypt, but still today we don’t really understand why someone is born with this problem. The person who suffers from asthma will have “triggers” which set off wheezing, chest tightness, panic and feelings of suffocation. These episodes often occur in response to an allergen so it is, of course, helpful to treat the person as you would if they had basic allergy issues.
The severity of the attacks will dictate how you prepare a home health kit. If the person in your household with asthma tends to have serious attacks that deprive them of oxygen and require emergency treatment, it is important to have a lobelia tincture within easy reach at all times. It may be helpful to label that tincture “in case of asthma attack” or something else in plain English rather than “lobelia tincture.” In the case of a serious situation like this, it is important to remember that you don’t know who may reach into your medicine cabinet. If your child has asthma, you may be away at work and their friends may be at home with them when there is an emergency. Make this type of first aid product really easy to understand by anyone.
Beyond the emergency situation, a wholistic family caregiver is going to want to know what to do to prevent or heal the dysfunction. In the case of asthma, it can be helpful to build the health of the respiratory system internally with herbs such as mullein, calendula and garlic. Nervines are important in a treatment protocol because some of the triggers for an asthma attack can be emotional or stress related, causing constriction in the muscles around the airways. Lemon balm and St. John’s wort in teas, pills or tinctures are perfect for this type of work and have been used specifically for asthma related issues successfully. Diuretics and alteratives affect the way that toxins are carried out of the body and proteins are cleansed from the blood. This, of course, keeps the allergic trigger down to a minimum; parsley and chickweed are effective when used in this way.
Personally, I think the answer to asthma may lie in adrenal health. Two of the most common medications for asthma are synthetic forms of the norepinephrine and corticosteroids that are produced in the adrenal glands. It seems that there may be a fight or flight dysfunction that is causing the lungs to react inappropriately to external stimuli. I haven’t found any research to back up this hunch of mine, but in the meantime, I will continue to recommend that those treating asthma symptoms add adrenal tonics to their treatment programs.
Alternatives for internal application:
• Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)
• Blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium)
• Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
• Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides)
• Butterbur (Petasites hybridus)
• Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)
• Elecampane (Inula helenium)
• Ephedra (Ephedra sinica)
• Wild cherry (Prunus serotina)
Learn more about local, natural remedies in The Uses and Benefits of Boneset.
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Heal Local: 20 Essential Herbs for Do-it-Yourself Home Healthcare, by Dawn Combs, published by New Society Publishers, 2015.