The genus of the tobacco plant originally comes from the South American continent and belongs to the nightshade family with around 75 different species.
In the event of pest infestation, the plant transports nicotine from the roots to the other parts of the plant and stores it in the stem, leaves and flowers. The neurotoxin nicotine serves as a natural defense against pests. When the tobacco plant senses the saliva of beetles, the concentration of nicotine is increased and the beetle's nervous system is destroyed as soon as it eats the plant. Certain caterpillars are particularly hard on the tobacco plant because they are immune to nicotine. Therefore, the tobacco plant has natural mechanisms to protect itself against these pests. As soon as the plant senses the caterpillar's saliva, it releases the hormone jasmonic acid. The resulting scents attract a certain type of wasp, which lays its eggs in the caterpillars, killing them. The fragrance cocktail is also perceived by the tobacco plants growing next door, which then collectively change their gene composition to prevent the pests.
Tobacco is still used today by many shamans in the Amazon in their rituals. They use the "spirit" of tobacco and can cure diseases with the tobacco smoke. For them, tobacco is a Planta Maestra, a so-called teacher plant. This allows the shaman to switch to the spiritual world in a guided manner.
The medicinal plant was formerly used for earaches, snake bites, cuts and burns, respiratory diseases, fever, nervous disorders, bladder problems and skin diseases.