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Chinese Lobelia (Ban Bian Lian)

Chinese Lobelia (Ban Bian Lian)

What is Chinese Lobelia (Ban Bian Lian)?

Chinese Lobelia (ban bian lian, 半边莲) is the dried aerial part of the Chinese Lobelia Plant, also known as Lobelia chinensis, which falls under the family Campanulaceae. Lobelia chinensisis a low-growing, herbaceous perennial plant with pale pink to white flowers that bloom in the late summer and autumn. Native to paddy fields, moist meadows, bogs, stream banks and wet grasses in China and Southeast Asia, the plant is now also cultivated in North America.

In China, Chinese Lobelia Herb is considered to be one of the “50 fundamental herbs” in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The herb first appeared in the Compendium of Materia Medica in 1578 AD. Every summer, people will gather the aerial parts of Lobelia chinensis, have their impurities removed, wash the herb with water, and prepare them for medicinal usage.

In the West, Chinese Lobelia was a mainstay of the system of herbal medicine introduced by Samuel Thomson, a famous self-taught American herbalist from the early 19th century, who has been called the “Father of American Herbalism.”Native Americans also used to smoke the plant’s dried leaves. As the plant contains lobeline, which has a similar chemical makeup as nicotine, it is commonly called “Indian Tobacco”. In the early days, lobeline was often used as a smoking cessation aid. However, due to the lack of efficacy data to determine its safety and effectiveness, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned lobeline as a smoking cessation aid since 1993.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Chinese Lobelia Herb falls under the category of ‘Herbs that drain Dampness’. Such herbs are typically diuretics that can promote the production of urine to remove Dampness that has accumulated in the body. 

Neutral in nature, Chinese Lobelia Herb does not affect the yin-yang balance in your body.  Sweet in taste, the herb can slow down acute reactions, detoxify the body and has a tonic effect on the body by replenishing qi and blood.

Functions and Benefits of Chinese Lobelia (Ban Bian Lian)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Chinese Lobelia Herb has the following health benefits.

Chinese Lobelia Herb can induce diuresis to promote urination and relieve edema, especially floating edema. The herb can also help to address ascites and end-stage schistosomiasis (an infection caused by parasites from worms).

Chinese Lobelia can clear Heat, cool blood and reduce toxicity, both internally and topically. Apart from addressing Heat in blood and symptoms of toxic fire such as tonsillitis, the herb can treat sores and abscesses with swelling pain, venomous snake bites, stings of wasps, bees, scorpions and centipedes, ulcers, lesions, shingles and fungal infections.

Some believe that Chinese Lobelia can help to relieve palpitations, tight feeling in chest, acute heart failure, abnormal blood pressure levels, and even aid difficult or painful labour. 

In the West, Lobelia chinensisis is being clinically tested as a treatment for multi-drug resistant tumour cells. It may help to treat colds, respiratory infections, nosebleeds and muscle disorders. As a purgative, the herb may help to eliminate harmful toxins from the body.

Close up of Chinese Lobelia flower (Ban Bian Lian)
Chinese Lobelia (Ban Bian Lian) can help to ease inflammatory conditions like insect bites and skin rashes.

How to Use Chinese Lobelia (Ban Bian Lian)

The recommended daily dosage of Chinese Lobelia Herb is 10 – 15g, if used to make a decoction for consumption. For topical administration, do consult your healthcare provider on the recommended dosage for your condition.

Chinese Lobelia Herb and Chinese Lobelia Herb supplements can be found in some herbal stores and Asian specialty markets.

Cautions and Side Effects of Chinese Lobelia (Ban Bian Lian)

Chinese Lobelia Herb should not be used by individuals who are experiencing edema due to Deficiency, Blood Deficiency, or pregnancy.

When decocted, Chinese Lobelia Herb may cause side effects such as loose stools and anorexia. Other side effects associated with this herb include dizziness, headache, sweating, nausea, vomiting and increased heart rate. In severe cases, it may cause muscle twitching, difficulty in breathing, coma, dilated pupils, decreased blood pressure, and even respiratory central paralysis leading to death.


Here is a summary for Chinese Lobelia (Ban Bian Lian):

  • Herb name (Chinese): 半边莲
  • Herb name (Pin Yin): bàn biān lián
  • Herb name (English): Chinese Lobelia
  • Herb name (Botanical): Herba Lobeliae Chinensis
  • Origin of species: Lobelia chinensis Lour.
  • Part(s) of herb used: Whole plant
  • Geo-specific habitat(s): Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Guangdong, Zhejiang, Sichuan, Anhui, Guangxi, Fujian, Taiwan
  • Taste(s) & Properties: Pungent; Neutral; Administrates the Heart, Small Intestine and Lung Meridians
  • Actions: Eases inflammatory conditions, such as insect bites and skin rashes; Relieves water retention in the abdominal region, such as difficult urination

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