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Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD

Scientific Name:

Nicotiana tabacum

Botanical Family:

Solanaceae (Nightshade family)

Other Common Name:

Indian tobacco.

  • There are various species of tobacco, which contain varying amounts of nicotine, one of the plants’ main ingredients.  

Common Names in Spanish:


Parts of the plant used:


Where is it found?

  • The tobacco plant is native to South America. It is currently grown in many tropical and subtropical areas of the world.

How is it used?

  • In the American continent, tobacco leaves have been smoked or applied to the body for medical, magical, religious, and recreational activities for approximately 8,000 years.
  • The Mayan peoples of Mexico and parts of Central America inhaled tobacco smoke more than 2,000 years ago.

Nicotiana rustica
Photo: William Rafti / Rafti Institute/Wikipedia
Nicotiana rustica


What is it used for?

  • The tobacco plant has been an important part of magical and religious rituals by Native American peoples for many centuries before the arrival of the Europeans.
  • Products made from the leaves were applied externally as poultices for boils or skin infections and sores, as well as for bruises and sprains.
  • Teas made from tobacco leaves were used against intestinal worms, as a laxative, to induce vomiting (emetic), as an expectorant, for fainting and dizziness, as well as for headaches.
  • Tobacco leaves are applied to cuts as an antiseptic and to stop bleeding.
  • Ground tobacco leaves were also used as “snuff” (inhaled through the nose) for medicinal and ritualistic purposes.
  • Tobacco smoked is sometimes blown into the ear to treat earaches.


Safety / Precautions


  • Although tobacco has been part of ceremonial and healing practices for many centuries by various indigenous peoples, its “recreational” or habitual use poses serious risks for health
  • The main addictive substance contained in tobacco is a substance known as nicotine
  •  Nicotine is a highly poisonous substance that is also used as an insecticide
  • Smoking tobacco is associated with various serious health problems including emphysema, lung cancer, and cardiovascular disease, among many others
  • Chewing tobacco is associated with cancer of the mouth, esophagus, throat, tongue, larynx, and pharynx
  • Tobacco should not be used in any form during pregnancy and lactation

Before you decide to take any medicinal herb or herbal supplement, be sure to consult with your health care professional first. Avoid self-diagnosis and self-medication: Always be on the safe side!



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