An herb entry from the Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs book by James K. Sayre, Copyright, 2001. All rights reserved.


Tobacco - Nicotiana tabacum - family: Solanaceae (Nightshade Family).

This is an annual plant that grows up to about ten feet high. It has large hairy spade-to-oval-shaped light green leaves and in the summer and autumn it produces clusters (panicles) of tubular flowers that range from rose to greenish in color. The flowers are followed by capsules (fruits) containing numerous tiny seeds. Leaves traditionally used by Native Americans in some of their traditional ceremonies. Leaves were also used by Native Americans as a poultice for bites, bruises, cuts and sprains. Its leaves are harvested, dried, cured and are then made into cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and chewing tobacco. Its use as a smoking drug spread to Europe in the seventeenth century, partially fueled by the story that it was a potent aphrodisiac. Nicotine is also traditionally used in insecticides. Note: its active constituent, nicotine, is a potent and highly addictive toxic alkaloid with the formula C10H14N2. Note: large doses of tobacco can produce nausea, vomiting or death. Note: nicotine is absorbed through the skin, so tobacco should not be employed as a poultice. Note: even so-called second-hand or side-stream cigarette smoke contains harmful chemicals that lead to lung cancer and emphysema. Note: leaves are poisonous to livestock. Note: POISONOUS PLANT. Listed in the United States Pharmacopoeias from 1820 to 1890. Native to tropical America. Cultivated as a recreational drug crop for its leaves in southeastern United States and in milder parts of Ontario in eastern Canada. Cultivated as an ornamental in North America. Many cultivars exist.




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Web page last updated on 25 May 2003.