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HerbaceousSpecies Plant

Lobelia chinensis

Lobelia chinensis

Asian lobelia, Chinese lobelia or Herba Lobellae Chinensis (Lobelia chinensis Lour.) is a herbaceous species belonging to the Campanulaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Subkingdom Tracheobionta,
Spermatophyta superdivision,
Magnoliophyta division,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Subclass Asteridae,
Order Campanulales,
Campanulaceae family,
Subfamily Lobelioideae,
Genus Lobelia,
L. chinensis species.
The terms are synonyms:
– Dortmanna campanuloides (Thunb.) Kuntze;
– Dortmanna chinensis (Lour.) Kuntze;
– Dortmanna radicans (Thunb.) Kuntze;
– Dortmannia campanuloides (Thunb.) Kuntze;
– Dortmannia chinensis (Lour.) Kuntze;
– Dortmannia radicans (Thunb.) Kuntze;
– Isolobus caespitosus (Blume) Hassk.;
– Isolobus campanuloides (Thunb.) A.DC.;
– Isolobus kerii A.DC.;
– Isolobus radicans (Thunb.) A.DC.;
– Isolobus roxburghianus A.DC.;
– Lobelia caespitosa Blume;
– Lobelia campanuloides Thunb.;
– Lobelia chinensis f. lactiflora (Hisauti) H.Hara;
– Lobelia chinensis f. plena (Makino) H.Hara;
– Lobelia chinensis f. tetrapetala (Y.N.Lee) M.Kim;
– Lobelia chinensis subsp. albiflora (E.Wimm.) E.Wimm.;
– Lobelia chinensis subsp. lactiflora (Hisauti) H.Hara;
– Lobelia chinensis subsp. plena (Makino) H.Hara;
– Lobelia chinensis subsp. tetrapetala Y.N.Lee;
– Lobelia chinensis var. albiflora (E.Wimm.) E.Wimm.;
– Lobelia chinensis var. tetrapetala Y.N.Lee;
– Lobelia japonica F.Dietr.;
– Lobelia kerii (A.DC.) Heynh.;
– Lobelia radicans Thunb.;
– Lobelia radicans f. lactiflora Hisauti;
– Lobelia radicans f. plena Makino;
– Lobelia radicans subsp. albiflora E.Wimm.;
– Lobelia radicans subsp. lactiflora Hisauti;
– Lobelia radicans subsp. plena Makino;
– Lobelia radicans var. albiflora E.Wimm.;
– Lobelia roxburghiana (A.DC.) Heynh.;
– Lobelia roxburgiana (DC.) Heynh.;
– Pratia radicans G.Don;
– Pratia thunbergii G.Don;
– Rapuntium caespitosum (Blume) C.Presl;
– Rapuntium campanuloides (Thunb.) C.Presl;
– Rapuntium chinense (Lour.) C.Presl;
– Rapuntium chinensis C.Presl;
– Rapuntium radicans (Thunb.) C.Presl.
The following forms are recognized within this species:
– Lobelia chinensis f. cantonensis Danguy, 1930;
– Lobelia chinensis f. chinensis.

Etymology –
The term Lobelia was given to the genus by Linnaeus to the Flemish botanist Mathias de Lobel (or de L’Obel, Latinized in Matthaeus Lobelius, 1538-1616), physician and botanist of the king under James I of England, of the court in London, and author of a famous Historia plantarum.
The specific epithet chinensis refers to its origin in China.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Lobelia chinensis is a plant endemic to eastern, southern, southwestern and south-central China.
This plant grows in the rice fields, streams and wet grasslands of Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Sichuan, Taiwan, Yunnan, Zhejiang, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Japan ( including Ryukyu Islands), Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.
Its natural habitat is therefore that of humid places, especially around rice fields and in the plains, in humid and grassy prairies, along waterways and on cultivated land, such as rice fields, tea and cinchona plantations, mainly between 500 and 1,600 meters.

Description –
Lobelia chinensis is a herbaceous and perennial plant, creeping with decumbent, slender stems, up to 6-30 cm tall, glabrous, minor rooted nodes.
The leaves are alternate, sessile or petiolate, 1 mm long, with a narrow elliptical or lanceolate lamina, of 7-26 x 1,5-7 mm, with a glabrous, rounded, obtuse or largely wedge-shaped base, margin entire or clearly serrated in the superior, acute or acuminate apex.
The flowers are generally solitary, carried in the axillary position of the upper leaves of the branches; they have thin pedicels, 1.2-2.5 cm; 2 bracteoles at the base, 1 mm long, glabrous or absent. Obconic hypantus narrow. The corolla is pink, white or blue, 10-15 mm, divided at the base in the back, with white villi under the throat.
The anthesis takes place from the month of May and bears fruit until October.
The fruit is a 6-7 mm obconical capsule.
The seeds are broadly elliptical and compressed.

Cultivation –
Lobelia chinensis is a perennial plant which, although poisonous, is often used in Chinese herbal medicine. It is often harvested from the wild and traded in local markets.
This plant is grown in humid areas and, as far as Malaysian crops are concerned, it is mainly propagated vegetatively.
Stems or runners are dispersed by various means, including water, and these root to form new plants.
Propagation also takes place by seed, which must be sown immediately after maturation.
The young seedlings grown in the nursery are then placed in individual pots and allowed to develop sufficiently before being transplanted.
It can also be propagated by division, via basal cuttings in the vegetative season. It is advisable to harvest the shoots when they are about 10 cm long with plenty of stem underground. They are then placed in single pots and kept in light shade until they take root well.
If stratified in moist sand, it forms roots at the nodes.

Customs and Traditions –
Lobelia chinensis is among the 50 fundamental herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine, of which it has the Chinese name: 半边莲; pinyin: bàn biān lián.
This herb is recommended for snake bites, ascites and digestive tract infections.
It has a number of purported uses and folk remedies including treating inflammation, scurvy, and fever. A tea made from the root and leaves can be used as a diuretic. On the other hand, it also has some astringent properties and uses.
However, Lobelia chinensis is considered mildly toxic due to its adverse effects, including vomiting, heartburn, anxiety, vibration, eclampsia, increased heart rate, and severe stomach pains.
According to Chinese medicine, the whole plant is antiphlogistic, purifying, diuretic and febrifuge.
Taken as an alcoholic macerate, it is used as a pulmonary tonic and for the treatment of tuberculosis, asthma and bloody vomiting. A strong decoction is taken as a diuretic and cathartic; it can stimulate breathing, lower blood pressure, stop bleeding and reduce swelling.
Applied externally as a decoction or as a poultice of the fresh leaves, it is employed in the treatment of swellings, sores and abscesses, bites and stings of poisonous insects and animals; dental abscesses, ascites and traumatic lesions.
The fresh plant can also be crushed and used as a poultice.
The root is anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, anti-syphilitic, cathartic, purifying and diuretic and is used in the treatment of kidney problems.
No edible uses are known.
Lobelia chinensis contains the alkaloid lobeline which has a similar effect on the nervous system as nicotine; the following active ingredients are also present:
– 6,7-dimethoxycoumarin, fraxinol, 5-hydroxy-7-methoxycoumarin, tomentine, 3′-hydroxygenkwanine, apigenin, quercetin, luteolin, linarin, luteolin 3′,4′-dimethylether-7-O-beta-D -glucoside , isoferulic acid and ethyl rosmarinate.

Method of Preparation –
Lobelia chinensis has little or no odor and a sweet, pungent taste. When harvesting for medical use, plants with the greenest stems and yellowest roots are preferred.
With this plant an alcoholic maceration is prepared which is used as a pulmonary tonic and for the treatment of tuberculosis, asthma and bloody vomiting.
A decoction is prepared as a diuretic and cathartic.
Externally, the fresh leaves are used as a decoction or as a poultice.
The root is used as an anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, anti-syphilitic, cathartic, purifying and diuretic and is used in the treatment of kidney problems.
Historically, this plant was used in herbal medicine to help quit smoking, however due to lack of scientific evidence, its use has been banned in some countries such as the United States where the Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of herbs containing lobelin.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: The pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; we therefore decline all responsibility for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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