Nicotiana tabacum

scientific name: 
Nicotiana tabacum L.
Botanical family: 

Botanical description

Annual, glandular-pubescent, robust herb, 1-3 m high. Leaves sub-sessile, oblong, lanceolate to elliptic, 10-50 cm x 3-30 cm, base decurrent on stem, apex acute to acuminate, margins entire, membranous; inflorescence a terminal panicles to 30 cm long, corolla pink, 5 cm long; fruit an ovoid capsule, 15-20 mm long; seeds brown, ridged, globose or ellipsoid, 0.5 mm long.



lice (pediculosis):

  leaf, juice, decoction or infusion, rubbed on scalp2

lice (pediculosis):

  mashed / crushed leaf, applied and rubbed on scalp1

For lice (pediculosis):

Prepare a decoction or an infusion with 2-4 dried leaves in 1 liter (4 cups) of water.  For decoction, boil for at least 10 minutes in a covered pot.  For infusion, add boiling water to ground dried leaves, cover and leave to cool.  Apply preparation and rub scalp, wash after 2-3 hours.  Use for 2-3 days in succession; repeat treatment after one week.

Any medicinal preparation must be preserved cold and used within the 24 hours.

According to published and other information:

Use for lice (pediculosis) is classified as REC, based on the significant traditional use (OMS/WHO)4 documented in the TRAMIL surveys.

Do not ingest the leaf or any of its preparations due to toxicity risk.

In case of poisoning, seek medical attention.

Not for use during pregnancy, during lactation or by children under 5 years old.

The fresh leaf has allergenic activity in human adults, and has been described as potentially causing dermatitis19 or other manifestations of cutaneous hypersensitivity, in addition to coagulation disorders and fibrinolysis20.

A case was reported of a boy who sustained general toxic effects as a result of ingesting the dried leaf21.

Contact of the skin with the fresh leaf caused nicotinic toxicity, specifically, nausea, vomiting, weakness and vertigo, in 47 human adults22.

Acute poisoning from nicotine occurs from the ingestion of insecticidal aerosols that contain it as active ingredient, or from the ingestion of tobacco byproducts.  The acute lethal dose for an adult is 60 mg of base nicotine23.

There is no available information documenting the safety of medicinal use in children or in pregnant or lactating women.

The leaf has been extensively studied and contains, among other components, alkaloids: nicotine (2 to 10%), nornicotine, 6-benzyladenine, anabasine, anatabine4-5.  It also contains organic acids: malic, oxalic, succinic and citric6; phenolic acids: chlorogenic7; flavonoids: kaempferol, quercetin, rutin; coumarins: aesculetin, scopoletin8; mono, di and sesquiterpenes9.

The plant contains other alkaloids, such as tyramine10, nicotianine, N-formyl and N-acetyl-nornicotine and N-methyl derivatives from anabasine and anatabine11.

The aqueous extract from the leaf in vitro (1 mL/plate) was not active against Epidermophyton floccosum, Microsporum canis orTrichophyton mentagrophytes12.

The methanolic extract from the fresh leaf was active against Aspergillus fumigatus13.

The seed was active in vitro against Puccinia recondita fungus14.

The aqueous extract from the leaf was repellent against Phyllocnistis citrella15.

The methanolic extract from the leaf and its alkaloid fraction demonstrated insecticidal activity against Culex pipiens larva (> 50% mortality in 48 hours)16.


The acetone extract from the dried leaf at variable concentrations showed insecticidal activity against snout moth larva of rice(> 80% mortality)17.


The methanolic extract from the dried root showed acaricidal activity (50 mg/mL) against Rhipicephalus appendiculatus.  Under the same conditions in vitro, the dried leaf and the stem showed no activity18.




1 GERMOSEN-ROBINEAU L, GERONIMO M, AMPARO C, 1984 Encuesta TRAMIL. enda-caribe, Santo Domingo, Rep. Dominicana.

2 WENIGER B, 1987-88 Encuesta TRAMIL. enda-caribe, Santo Domingo, Rep. Dominicana.

3 WHO, 1991 Guidelines for the assessment of herbal medicines. WHO/TRM/91.4. Programme on Traditional Medicines, WHO, Geneva, Switzerland.

4 SUN J, ZHU Z, ZHU Y, 1986 Studies on 6-benzyladenine localization in callus cels of tobacco. Zhiwa Xuebao25(5):480-482.

5 BOWMAN DT, WEEKS WW, WILKINSON CA, 1991 Stability of alkaloid production in flue-cured tobacco. Crop Sci 31(5):1121-1124.

6 COURT WA, HENDEL JG, 1978 Determination of nonvolatile organic and fatty acids in flue-cured tobacco by gas-liquid chromatography. J Chromatogr Sci 16:314-317.

7 HOFFMANN D, ADAMS JD, LISK D, FISENNE I, BRUNNEMANN KD, 1987 Toxic and carcinogenic agents in dry and moist snuff. J Natl Cancer Inst 79(6):1281-1286.

8 ADESINA SK, 1982 Studies on a Nigerian herbal anticonvulsant recipe. Int J Crude Drug Res 20:93-100.

9 NISHIKAWAJI S, FUJIMORI T, MATSUSHIMA S, KATO K, 1983 Sesquiterpenoids from flue-cured tobacco leaves. Phytochemistry 22(8):1819-1820.

10 SONGSTAD DD, KURZ WGW, NESSLER CL, 1991 Tyramine accumulation inNicotiana tabacum transformed with a chimeric trytophan decarboxylase gene. Phytochemistry 30(10):3245-3246.

11 LEETE E, 1983 Biosynthesis and metabolism of the tobacco alkaloids. In: PELLETIER SW (Ed). Alkaloids: Chemical and biological perspectives. New York, USA: John Wiley & Sons, 1:85-152.

12 CACERES A, LOPEZ BR, GIRON MA, LOGEMANN H, 1991 Plants used in Guatemala for the treatment of dermatophytic infections. 1. Screening for antimycotic activity of 44 plant extracts. J Ethnopharmacol 31(3):263-276.

13 LEIFERTOVA I, LISA M, 1979 The antifungal properties of higher plants affecting some species of the genus Aspergillus. Folia Pharm (Prague) 2:29-54.

14 GRUNWELLER S, SCHRODER E, KESSELMEIER J, 1990 Biological activities of furostanol saponins fromNicotiana tabacum. Phytochemistry 29(8):2485-2490.

15 BHASIN HD, 1926 Annual report of the entomologist to government, Punjab, Lyallpur, for the year 1924-25. Rept Operations Dept Agr Punjab 1(II):69-121.

16 YAMAGUCHI K, SUZUKI T, KATAYAMA A, SASA M, IIDA S, 1950 Insecticidal action of Japanese plants. II. A general method of detecting effective fractions and its application to 24 species of insecticidal plants. Botyu Kagaku 15:62-70.

17 ZHAO SH, ZHANG X, 1982 On the antifeedant and toxicities of natural organic insecticides against snout moth's larva of rice. Chin J Agr Sci 2:55-60.

18 VAN PUYVELDE L, GEYSEN D, AYOBANGIRA FX, HAKIZAMUNGU E, NSHIMIYIMANA A, KALISA A, 1985 Screening of medicinal plants of Rwanda for acaricidal activity. J Ethnopharmacol 13(2):209-215.

19 GONCALO M, COUTO J, GONCALO S, 1990 Allergic contact dermatitis from Nicotiana tabacum. Contact Dermatitis 22(3):188-189.

20 BECKER CG, VAN HAMONT N, WAGNER M, 1981 Tobacco, cocoa, coffee, and ragweed: cross-reacting allergens that activate factor-XII- dependent pathways. Blood 58(5):861-867.

21 BORYS DJ, SETZER SC, LING LJ, 1988 CNS depression in an infant after the ingestion of tobacco: a case report. Vet Hum Toxicol 30(1):20-22.

22 ANON, 1993 Green tobacco sickness in tobacco harvesters - Kentucky, 1992. Morbidity Mortality Weekly Rept 42(13):237-240.

23 TAYLOR P, 1996 Agents acting at the neuromuscular junction and autonomic ganglia. In: Goodman, Gilman’s: The pharmacological basis of therapeutics. Goodman LS, Limbird LE, Milinoff PB, Ruddon RW, Gilman AG, 9th ed. New York, USA: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., International Edition. p193.


The information provided is for educational purposes only for the benefit of the general public and health professionals. It is not intended to take the place of either the written law or regulations. Since some parts of plants could be toxic, might induce side effects, or might have interactions with certain drugs, anyone intending to use them or their products must first consult with a physician or another qualified health care professional. TRAMIL has no responsibility whatsoever towards the user for any decision, action or omission made in relation to the information contained in this Pharmacopoeia.