This ‘devil’s weed’ of Thompsonian fame is a member of the Bellflower family, the Campanulaceae. It tends to grow wild in the borders of Vermont woods, along trails and sometimes in meadows where the fertility is poor. It doesn’t need much help to produce large amounts of seeds in its inflated pods (hence the Latin name), but it doesn’t compete too well with other plants that get much taller. We harvest leaves and seedpods in August and September – the pods are the most potent part. Careful with this one!
Elemental associations: Water
Phytochemistry: Alkaloids, bitter glycosides, volatile oils, resin, gum (D. Hoffmann)
Actions: Emetic, expectorant, relaxant and anti-spasmodic (depending on dose!)
Specific systems: Lungs, digestive
‘Pukeweed’, good ol’ doc Thompson used to call it, and it rightly deserves that name. It has an acrid taste like no other herb (except maybe tobacco), due largely to its alkaloidal content. It was a favorite for purging, or causing intense vomiting, which was more often used in the past to rid the body of ‘toxins and canker’ from the stomach. It can be a bit debilitating when applied this way, though.
Its main powers come from smaller doses, diluted in water and repeated often. It relaxes smooth muscle tissue like nothing else, making it excellent for asthma and other lung complaints, while its warming and slightly irritating reflex action ensures that the lungs will expectorate everything they need to. It also works quite well on the rest of the body, relieving muscular tension and resultant irritability.
Its main alkaloid, lobeline, is almost identical to nicotine and can bind the same receptor sites that are accustomed to nicotine. This, coupled with its expectorant action, and added to its relaxant qualities make it the #1 herbal smoking-cessation remedy. To start, for the particularly tough cases, it can even be smoked like a cigarette. Transition to the tincture as soon as possible.
Indications: Asthma, bronchitis, tobacco withdrawal
Contraindications: Pregnancy, surgery, weak constitutions, convalescence
Preparation/Dosage: Don’t make a tea. Just don’t. The tincture is prepared from the fresh leaves and seedpods, 70% alcohol, 1:4 to 1:10. Take 10 drops in water, 3-5 times daily or as needed for smoking cessation. DO NOT take more than 30 drops in a half hour period, unless you want to experience the emetic powers of this herb.