Tobacco comes from South America, where it was first encountered by the settlers who saw the locals smoking it in long-barreled smoking pipes mainly in ceremonies and social events. Native Americans have used tobacco apparently as early as 3000 years BC.
The name Nicotina comes from Jean Nicot, the French ambassador to Lisbon who brought tobacco plants to France. The name Tabacum comes from the pipes called "tabago" by the natives. Its active ingredient is an alkaloid called nicotine, known for its carcinogenic properties. Nicotine is also a strong anti-inflammatory agent.
In some parts of South America, tobacco is regarded as a medicine. Tobacco is strongly associated with ceremonial use by smoking or as an infusion by both south and North American natives, as an offering or to seal deals.
Examples for use of tobacco as a medicine include treating earaches and toothaches. Smoking tobacco is believed to cure many conditions, including colds. Tobacco was traditionally mixed with other medicinal plants such as sage, Salvia and cough root, to alleviate the symptoms of asthma and tuberculosis.