Monday, May 23, 2016

1805: American Indians smoked asthma weed

American Indians smoked dried herbs stuffed into pipes too.  Now, did they get this wisdom from travelers from far off lands, or did they come up with the idea on their own?  No one knows for sure, and either theory is a possibility.
Figure 5 -- Kellog's Asthma Relief
contained both lobelia and strammonium (2)

Either way, American Indians had access to another member of the nightshade family called lobelia inflata.  Various people experimented and observed it's effects when ingested and inhaled, and soon it was learned of the hallucinogenic effect.

At first it must have been tossed into fires, later on heated bricks or in pots, and ultimately the herbs were stuffed into pipes and smoked, just as they were in ancient India, and probably Egypt and Mesopotamia before that.

While American Indians mostly smoked their pipes for the hallucinogenic effect, or to benefit other ailments, the medicine was, at some point, recommended for asthma-like symptoms too. It is for this reason that Indian Hemp is often referred to as Indian Tobacco or Asthma Weed.

American physicians were introduced to lobelia and used it for asthma releif, yet they also used it to make some patients vomit.  The idea here was that along with vomit, toxins would be removed from the body to balance the humors and cure the ailment.

For this reason it was often referred to as pukeweed and vomitwort.  (1)

  1.  University of Maryland Medical Center, "Lobelia,"
  2. Picture used with permission from
  3. Jackson, Mark, "'Divine Stramonium': The Rise and Fall of Smoking for Asthma,"  Med Hist., 2010 April; 54(2): 171–194.
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