Said to symbolize malevolence and ill will within the Victorian era, Lobelia has since become a commonly cultivated ornamental plant, widely found in flower beds, large pots, window boxes and hanging baskets. Among Native Americans, it was used to treat respiratory and muscle disorders, as well as a purgative. These uses spread among American physicians of the 19th century, who primarily used it to induce vomiting. These uses left Lobelia referred to in some texts and among some herbal circles as somewhat more unsavory sounding names, such as Asthma Weed, Indian Tobacco, Pukeweed and Vomitweed.
Modern herbalists find Lobelia useful in treating food poisoining, using the herb to induce vomiting. It also saw brief uses in a smoking cessation program as a replacement for nicotine. It is also used as a physical relaxant and a nerve depressant, easing tension and sensations of panic. This combined with its antispasmodic and expectorant qualities, are what make it a common treatment for asthma among herbalists.