Making a Lobelia Tincture

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Doc Jones United States of America
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Lobelia is a bit different than most of the herbs we use when making tinctures.

For one thing it's deadly poison. The good news is that it is also one of nature's most effective emetics (emetics make you puke) so it's nearly impossible to overdose on Lobelia. In fact, Dr. John Christopher (Pioneer America herbalist) use to treat asthma attacks in people by giving a dose of peppermint tincture and then giving a teaspoon of Lobelia every half hour until they puked their guts out. The vomiting was, to him, the evidence that he had given enough Lobelia to do the job. In a severe asthma attack, this approach would be good but for milder episodes one needn't go so far. One dose is usually adequate. Several of my clients use Lobelia to control their asthma episodes.

So anyway, it's powerful stuff and can theoretically be toxic (or at least pretty danged unpleasant) in high doses so it's best to make your tinctures more dilute. For other herbs my tinctures are 1:3 or 1:5. I make my Lobelia tinctures 1:10.

The other thing about Lobelia is that it loves vinegar. So I always add some vinegar to my menstrum*.

So to make the 10 parts of menstrum I will add for each 1 part of dried herb, I use 7 parts vodka and 3 parts apple cider vinegar. I have no doubt that a 100% vinegar tincture of Lobelia would be fine but the alcohol increases shelf life.

So, take 1 gram of dried Lobelia + 7 ml vodka and 3 ml vinegar (multiply each accordingly to fill your jar) poke it into a dark cupboard for a few weeks. Shake it and say nice things to it every day and...voila! Lobelia tincture.

Lobelia is a great anti-spasmodic for muscle spasms too (actually that's what it's doing in the asthmatic lungs). I have a rib that pops out occasionally and gives me glorious back spasms. I usually use cramp bark (another good antispasmodic). One day I was in a hurry and grabbed a big spoonful of Lobelia instead. Tossed it in some water, drank it, and headed out the door to the post office.
I was about two blocks from home when the nausea hit me. I was in a cold sweat and it was only by the grace of heaven that I didn't turn my guts inside-out in the car. Within a few minutes the nausea passed and my back was vastly better...better than ever in fact. Still, I've found that about half a spoonful works just as well and doesn't scare my stomach so badly. ;)

Doc

*Menstrum is the term for the liquid used in making a tincture(alcohol, vinegar, glycerin...whatever). The herb portion is called the "mark". Herbalists love funky words.
Comfrey
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What about using lobelia topically for muscle spasms/pain? If someone was to make a liniment which included lobelia, would you advise they added vinegar the the mix?
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Doc Jones United States of America
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Comfrey wrote:What about using lobelia topically for muscle spasms/pain? If someone was to make a liniment which included lobelia, would you advise they added vinegar the the mix?
Lobelia really likes vinegar and extracts much better in its presence. I often add powdered Lobelia to my wound poultices. A liniment is an interesting idea. You'll have to let us know how it works. Lobelia is a good antispasmodic so it may work well in that application.

Patrick
akcrapo
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Patrick,

Mom wants to make a lobelia extract using only alcohol (she feels like the ones she's tried with vinegar don't work as well). She doesn't have a way to measure the lobelia by weight. Can she just use 0.25 cup of POWDERED herb with 2.5 cups 80 proof vodka? --Amber
IdahoHerbalist
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You do not have to measure anything. Start with whatever amount of lobelia (or any other herb) and pour in enough menstrum to cover plus just a little more. Shake and stir and see if there is enough to cover. If not add just a little more. Shake and mix each day and make sure the marc is covered. In a couple of days you should not have to add any more menstrum. Maybe add just enough vinegar to keep the lobelia happy!

You will not know the exact strength but it will be as strong as it can be because you added just enough menstrum to make the tincture.

Give that a try.
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Doc Jones United States of America
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akcrapo wrote:Patrick,

Mom wants to make a lobelia extract using only alcohol (she feels like the ones she's tried with vinegar don't work as well). She doesn't have a way to measure the lobelia by weight. Can she just use 0.25 cup of POWDERED herb with 2.5 cups 80 proof vodka? --Amber
A lot of Lobelia tinctures are only vinegar and they aren't as good as the alcohol and vinegar ones. If you use the 7 parts booze and 3 parts vinegar, she'll like it. She got one from me recently and said it worked well. It's the same as the recipe in post one.

Patrick
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Doc Jones United States of America
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IdahoHerbalist wrote:You do not have to measure anything. Start with whatever amount of lobelia (or any other herb) and pour in enough menstrum to cover plus just a little more. Shake and stir and see if there is enough to cover. If not add just a little more. Shake and mix each day and make sure the marc is covered. In a couple of days you should not have to add any more menstrum. Maybe add just enough vinegar to keep the lobelia happy!

You will not know the exact strength but it will be as strong as it can be because you added just enough menstrum to make the tincture.

Give that a try.
That method (commonly called the folk method) works fine for almost anything. With Lobelia however I strongly recommend actually measuring things out and doing a 1:10 ratio. Just coverng Lobelia with enough hooch to cover it will result in a very strong tincture that's much more difficult to dose properly (unless you want to use it to induce vomiting LOL). :)

Doc
sstolzenburg
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Doc Jones, I have Lobelia erinus, I am not sure if it is the type that supports the medicinal properties you suggest? What do you know about this variety?

I know you said the varieties you buy in the nurseries are all variations of the same but....?
IdahoHerbalist
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erinus is an ornamental variety, primarily. Doc says it has some sort of medicinal property, but not the ones that we grow the official variety for.
sstolzenburg
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Thanks, it is a pretty plant, but I guess it is better for the flower garden rather than the herb garden. :wink: Always want to keep the good ones and know when you have it right, and when you don't. This time, not so good.
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