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Heath Lobelia

Lobelia urens

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Campanulaceae (Bellflower)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Heathland, roadsides, wasteland, woodland.

Purple, 5 petals
Bluish-purple flowers in a long-stalked, lax spike. The flowers each measures between 1 and 1.5cm long. The upper lip consists of 2 narrow lobes and the lower lip has 3 narrow teeth. Similar to Garden Lobelia (Lobelia erinus) but that is a trailing annual plant. Heath Lobelia is not trailing. Also, the flowers of Garden Lobelia come in different colour forms whereas Heath Lobelia flowers are always bluish-purple.
The fruit is a many-seeded capsule.
The shiny, dark green leaves are toothed, narrow and oblong. They alternate along both sides of the stems. A downy perennial growing on damp, acid soils.
Other Names:
Acrid Lobelia, Burning Lobelia, Flower of the Axe, Wild Lobelia.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Lobelia urens, also known as "Burning lobelia" or "Wild lobelia," is an annual herb that is native to Europe and Asia. It is known for its small, bright blue, pink, or white, trumpet-shaped flowers that bloom in the summer and fall. The plant has small, pointed leaves and can grow up to 12 inches in height. It prefers well-drained soils and full sun to partial shade. Lobelia urens is often found in waste places, along roadsides, and in other disturbed areas. It is not commonly grown as an ornamental plant, but some gardeners may use it as a wildflower or in naturalized settings. The name "urens" comes from the Latin word "urere" meaning "to burn," which refers to the use of the plant as a traditional remedy for burns and other skin conditions.


Heath Lobelia, also known as Lobelia urens, is a herbaceous flowering plant belonging to the Lobeliaceae family. This plant is native to Europe and western Asia and is found growing in dry, sandy soils in heathland, open woodland, and grassland habitats. The plant is a popular ornamental and is also used in traditional medicine for various ailments.


Heath Lobelia is a small perennial plant that grows up to 30 cm in height. The stem is thin and branched, and the leaves are lance-shaped, slightly toothed, and arranged alternately along the stem. The flowers are small and tubular, with a pale blue or white color, and are arranged in a spike-like inflorescence.


Heath Lobelia has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat various ailments. The plant contains several active compounds, including lobeline, lobelanidine, and lobelanine, which have been found to have pharmacological properties.

Respiratory conditions: Heath Lobelia has been used traditionally to treat respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and coughs. The plant contains lobeline, which has been found to have bronchodilatory effects and is used in some commercial respiratory medications.

Pain relief: Heath Lobelia has also been used traditionally as a pain reliever. The plant contains alkaloids that have analgesic properties and can help to reduce pain associated with conditions such as headaches and menstrual cramps.

Muscle relaxant: The active compounds in Heath Lobelia have muscle relaxant properties and can help to relax smooth muscles in the body. This makes it useful in treating conditions such as muscle spasms, cramps, and menstrual pain.

Antispasmodic: The plant has antispasmodic properties and has been used traditionally to treat conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal disorders.

Side Effects

While Heath Lobelia has several potential health benefits, it can also cause side effects in some individuals. The plant contains alkaloids that can be toxic in large doses, and excessive consumption can lead to vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. It should be used with caution, and individuals should consult with a healthcare provider before using Heath Lobelia for medicinal purposes.

Heath Lobelia is a small flowering plant that has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments. The plant contains several active compounds that have pharmacological properties, including bronchodilatory, analgesic, muscle relaxant, and antispasmodic effects. While Heath Lobelia has potential health benefits, it should be used with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare provider.

More Information about Heath Lobelia

Heath Lobelia is also a popular ornamental plant, often grown for its attractive flowers and foliage. The plant is easy to grow and can tolerate a wide range of soil types and growing conditions. It is often used in rock gardens, borders, and as a ground cover.

In addition to its medicinal and ornamental uses, Heath Lobelia also has cultural and historical significance. In traditional medicine, the plant has been used by indigenous peoples of North America and Europe for various ailments. It was also used as a ceremonial plant by some indigenous communities.

The plant has also been used in traditional agriculture as a natural insecticide. The active compounds in the plant are toxic to insects and can be used to control pests in crops and gardens.

Despite its potential benefits, Heath Lobelia is not without controversy. The plant contains alkaloids that can be toxic in large doses, and some individuals may experience adverse reactions to the plant. Additionally, the plant is listed as an invasive species in some areas and can compete with native plant species for resources.

Heath Lobelia has been the subject of scientific research in recent years, exploring its potential health benefits and the mechanisms by which it exerts its effects. Some studies have found that the plant may be useful in treating nicotine addiction and reducing withdrawal symptoms in smokers trying to quit. This is due to the presence of lobeline, which has been found to have a similar structure to nicotine and can bind to some of the same receptors in the brain.

Other studies have explored the plant's potential as an anti-inflammatory agent. Inflammation is a common factor in many chronic diseases, and compounds found in Heath Lobelia have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. This suggests that the plant may have potential in treating conditions such as arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.

Additionally, some studies have found that Heath Lobelia may have antimicrobial properties. This is particularly relevant in light of the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, as alternative treatments for bacterial infections are needed. The plant has been found to inhibit the growth of several types of bacteria, including some that are resistant to antibiotics.

Heath Lobelia has also been studied for its potential use in cancer treatment. Some studies have found that the plant contains compounds that may have anticancer effects, particularly against breast cancer cells. However, more research is needed to fully understand the potential of Heath Lobelia in this area.

In addition to its potential health benefits, Heath Lobelia has cultural significance and has been used in traditional ceremonies and rituals by some indigenous peoples. The plant is also an important food source for some species of wildlife, including birds and insects.

Unfortunately, like many plants, Heath Lobelia is threatened by habitat loss and other environmental factors. It is listed as a species of conservation concern in some areas, and efforts are being made to conserve the plant and its habitat.

In conclusion, Heath Lobelia is a small flowering plant with a long history of medicinal, cultural, and ecological significance. While it has potential health benefits and is a popular ornamental plant, it should be used with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare provider. Additionally, efforts should be made to conserve the plant and its habitat to ensure that it continues to play an important role in the natural world.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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