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Peru Herb: Wild Tobacco

(Nicotiana attenuata, N. trigonophylla, N. glauca) Other names: Punche, Indian Tobacco, Coyote Tobacco, Mustard Tree, and Tree Tobacco (N. glauca).

Nicotiana glauca, Tree tobacco, is a perennial plant originally from Peru. Wild tobacco has become naturalized into some states and can be found in Arizona, Southern California, Texas and New Mexico usually as annuals that come up in the spring. They are known to not last long into the hot summer months but I have seen them grow even into fall at higher elevations and, after the few months of cool weather in Arizona, make an early spring comeback. Rarely, are we without some form of wild tobacco whether it be in the blooming, flowering, seeding or drying stage which is excellent for smoking and ceremonial use. They like to grow in dry river beds, washes, meadows, flood plains, the desert and rocky outcroppings. The species typically found in Arizona is N. trigonophylla. Parts used, externally, are normally the leaves and flowers.

Many species of Wild Tobacco are typically used as a fresh poultice, applied externally as an analgesic or pain reliever. The dried leaves can be made into an infused oil or salve and used for sore muscles, joints, sunburn and external pains. The fresh or dry leaf can be made into a liniment and used for the same purpose. Tobacco has a numbing effect when applied externally. All parts of the wild plant contain nicotine which is a powerful narcotic. Add a strong infusion of the leaves to bath water to relieve the pains of hemorrhoids, menstrual cramps, muscle bruises or muscles sore from over use. The leaves contain anti-spasmodic properties. Traditionally, dried tobacco has been smoked to treat colds

Other uses of the fresh plant are for relieving the itch and sting of insect bites. Simply mashing and applying the fresh leaves or moistening the dried leave will help to neutralize skin reactions to bites and stings, stopping the swelling, burning and itching. Even commercialized tobacco, N. tabacam, can be used in this fashion.

A liniment can be made by soaking the dried tobacco in alcohol for 2 weeks. A salve can be made by infusing the dried leaf in oil for several months then adding beeswax and vitamin E as a preservative. Liniments are sometimes drying to the skin and in the dry desert environment using an oil or a salve may supply the added benefit of moisturizing the skin.

Tobacco is a ceremonial herb used to facilitate a peaceful communication between those in ceremony by communicating to the spirit world and removing any interfering, evil spirits/energy thus opening up a clear and clean channel for the ceremony though the smoke traveling to the ancestors and the ancestors remembering the spirit of the tobacco thus bringing with them wisdom and assistance.

Please be aware that all species of Wild tobacco contain nicotine which is highly poisonous when ingested.

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