Category: Medicines - plant based
Introduction and description
Nelumbo known by the common name lotus or Water lotus, is a plant in the Nelumbonaceae family. There are two similar living species in the genus:
- The Sacred lotus Nelumbo nucifera is better known. Native to Tropical Asia, it is commonly cultivated in water gardens and is found as far afield as Queensland in Australia. It is also used in Chinese medicine and cooking. This species is the national flower of Egypt, India and Vietnam. In other words it is a widespread plant growing all over Asia, parts of Australia and parts of Africa. It is also known as the Rose of India
- The American lotus Nelumbo lutea is native to North America and the Caribbean - Eastern United States, Mexico, Greater Antilles, and Honduras.
This description will concentrate on Nelumbo Nucifera. Having said this, horticultural hybrids have been produced between these two geographically separated species, which makes identification and chemical analysis difficult.
Botanically, Nelumbo nucifera may also be referred to by its former names, Nelumbium speciosum or Nymphaea nelumbo. It is not related to water lilies despite the old name.
A bit of history
The effects of lotus were known to the ancient Greeks and Ancient Egyptians amongst many others. The Odyssey described well the land of the Lotus Eaters.
Why do we talk, for example, of the ‘lotus’ position. If you think about it, the seated position has no obvious links with a lotus at all, but of course if the Hindu holy man sat with his lotus brew and drank a sip in that position, we have a more meaningful association, although its symbolism also comes into play here.
In Hindu religious literature, Surya is often depicted with two hands holding a lotus. Vishnu, the Indian god known as the preserver, is depicted as a blue bee resting on a lotus flower.
The ‘Sahasrara chakra’ has a special place in much Hindu and eastern religious thought. It is the name given to the crown chakra. It is symbolized by a lotus with one thousand petals. So there is a very direct link here between Hindu spiritual experience and the lotus flower.
The chemical analysis
It is difficult to show just what a very complex plant the lotus is, without showing its chemical composition, so in the following table I will list the chemicals as they are recorded in the Dr Duke database. You should be able to see that the rhizome might be better classified as a food, the flower has its own very unique properties and the seed is highly nutritious - both rhizome and seed contain a good supply of vitamins and minerals - and thus might also be better thought of as a food. [β-carotene is a precursor (inactive form) to vitamin A] .
Lotus appears to be an extraordinarily good source of the amino acids regarded as essential for humans - phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, and histidine. Additionally, cysteine (or sulphur-containing amino acids), tyrosine (or aromatic amino acids), and arginine are always required by infants and growing children. I have indicated in green the aminoacids the plant contains. They are almost a complete food.
From Dr Duke’s database of plants and chemicals
Part of Plant
Chemical showing low and high ppm
ALANINE 540 2585
ARGININE 880 4210
ASH 9700 68000
ASPARTIC-ACID 3690 17655
CALCIUM 450 3704
CARBOHYDRATES 120000 824880
CYSTINE 220 1055
FAT 1000 6790
FIBER 8000 49383
GADOLEIC-ACID 20 95
GLUTAMIC-ACID 1390 6650
GLYCINE 1560 7464
HISTIDINE 380 1820
IRON 7 70
ISOLEUCINE 540 2585
KILOCALORIES 560 2680
LEUCINE 690 3300
LINOLEIC-ACID 140 670
LINOLENIC-ACID 60 285
LYSINE 940 4500
MAGNESIUM 200 1215
METHIONINE 220 1050
MUFA 200 955
NIACIN 21 130
OLEIC-ACID 140 670
PALMITIC-ACID 280 1340
PALMITOLEIC-ACID 20 95
PHENYLALANINE 470 2250
PHOSPHORUS 1000 4785
POTASSIUM 3820 34925
PROLINE 1360 6500
PROTEIN 26000 167000
PUFA 200 955
REDUCING-SUGARS 15600 96296
RIBOFLAVIN 0.6 3.7
SERINE 600 2870
SODIUM 395 1935
STARCH 92500 570988
STEARIC-ACID 10 50
SUCROSE 4100 25309
THIAMIN 2.2 14
THREONINE 510 2440
TRYPTOPHAN 200 955
TYROSINE 290 1390
VALINE 550 2630
WATER 750000 838000
ALANINE 2390 7242
ARGININE 3380 10242
ASH 9000 52000
ASPARTIC-ACID 5050 15303
BETA-CAROTENE 0.06 0.18
CALCIUM 590 13333
CARBOHYDRATES 139000 762000
CYSTINE 540 1636
ERUCIC-ACID 310 939
FAT 2000 27000
FIBER 10700 131000
GADOLEIC-ACID 120 364
GLUTAMIC-ACID 9570 29000
GLYCINE 2210 6697
HISTIDINE 1150 3485
IRON 9.5 71
ISOLEUCINE 2050 6212
KILOCALORIES 630 3900
LEUCINE 3260 9879
LINOLEIC-ACID 2850 8636
LINOLENIC-ACID 270 818
LYSINE 2640 8000
MAGNESIUM 560 2650
METHIONINE 720 2182
MUFA 1040 3152
MYRISTIC-ACID 10 30
NIACIN 4 78
OLEIC-ACID 620 1879
PALMITIC-ACID 770 2333
PHENYLALANINE 2060 6242
PHOSPHORUS 590 7130
POTASSIUM 3670 16652
PROLINE 3440 10424
PROTEIN 41300 242000
PUFA 3120 9454
RIBOFLAVIN 0.4 2.6
SERINE 2520 7636
SFA 880 2667
SODIUM 10 490
THIAMIN 1.5 7.5
THREONINE 2000 6060
TRYPTOPHAN 590 1788
TYROSINE 1000 3030
VALINE 2660 8061
WATER 143000 80200
Rest of Plant
CALCIUM Fruit 1360 1511
CARBOHYDRATES Fruit 666000 740000
FAT Fruit 24000 26667
FIBER Fruit 26000 28889
PHOSPHORUS Fruit 2940 3267
PROTEIN Fruit 172000 191111
REDUCING-SUGARS Fruit 24000 26667
SUCROSE Fruit 41000 45556
Seeds and leaf - If we take just some of the chemicals as an example, Nuciferine, in the seeds and leaf, has a calming sedating effect.
Flowers - The stamens of the flowers appear to be AchE inhibitors. Acetylcholinesterase, also known as AChE is an enzyme that degrades the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine (often abbreviated ACh) is a neurotransmitter that is the body’s answer to deep relaxation and the meditative state, as such an AchE inhibitor has the effect of boosting any of this endogenous neurotransmitter we have in our bodies. It stops the degradation process and in some senses acts a bit like Acetylcholine itself. If you follow the link you will be able to see what Acetylcholine and AchE inhibitors do in detail, but Acetylcholine in simplified terms helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system – it acts as a relaxant.
It is also worth adding that the plant also appears to have considerable antiviral activity.
Sacred lotus and the Mysteries
In the days of the Ancient Egyptians and the Mystery religions when sexual stimulation was key to obtaining a spiritual experience, Lotus flowers were regarded as sacred, because if your parasympathetic nervous system is active, men get an erection, but they don’t get ejaculation because it takes an excitatory response to get the ejaculation.
The importance of the lotus from the point of view of Mystery religions is well summarised by the fact that it appears to be a natural contraceptive for women. Nelumbo nucifera seeds have been used as an antifertility agent in females by the local tribes of Rajasthan [in India] especially of Udaipur district for some time and the Iranian Journal of Reproductive Medicine Vol 6 2008 ‘Effect of Nelumbo nucifera seeds on the reproductive organs of rats’ – Anja Mutreja Msc et al, reported that their use was well justified by clinical proof [at least in rats].
This is advice from a site which sells lotus extract, and it makes interesting reading because apart from being useful advice, hints at medical uses as yet undiscovered for the flowers, or at least they may be known but no papers on Pubmed seem to cover them
Using Lotus flower extract
- Do not use if you are on diabetes type drugs. Theoretically, lotus may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. Patients taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
- Do not use it if you have low blood pressure. Although few adverse effects in humans seem to have been reported for lotus, it will lower blood pressure.
- Do not use Lotus if you are using blood thinners, and caution is advised in patients taking agents that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
- Do not take with Ginkgo biloba. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba. This may be because they both have anti-platelet action.
- Do not use it if you are on tablet or other drugs for lowering blood pressure – for the same reasons as above, the plant itself lowers blood pressure.
- You should not use Lotus when you are pregnant or breast feeding principally because there is a lack of available scientific evidence on all its effects.
- Although cannabis and alcohol seem to work with lotus without causing problems, all other combinations are best avoided.
Lotus appears to be a plant with a huge potential as a food and medicine, but used in its plant form, not as an extract or essence.
- Research seems to have lagged behind anecdotal and historical use making any recommendation about its use difficult
- There have sadly been cases where so called lotus extract is not lotus extract, the market is not regulated
- The flowers may be addictive if not treated strictly as a medicine, to be used only when needed, and with the extracts it is very easy to overdose
Finally, I want to comment on [its] addictive potential. It does efficiently decrease anxiety and does have slight pain reducing properties.
I have a large amount of it around, [and] there isn't a day that goes by that I don't use it and there never seems to be a mood that does not accept its use. It reminds me somewhat of Cocaine in that I don't typically like to stop using it once I start, …..As for the addictive qualities, I have actually used it enough to develop a mild withdrawal syndrome. The withdrawal noted was characterized by anxiety and restlessness. …. The symptoms were only decreased by more use of the Lotus flower. Although I do not believe it to be very addictive, it does have some addictive qualities.
References and further reading
- Selective cholinesterase inhibitory activities of a new monoterpene diglycoside and other constituents from Nelumbo nucifera stamens - Jung HA, Jung YJ, Hyun SK, Min BS, Kim DW, Jung JH, Choi JS; Division of Food Science and Biotechnology, Pukyong National University, Busan 37, Republic of Korea. "………... N. nucifera stamens-derived compounds potentially exert their primary … effects as AChE inhibitors rather than BACE1 inhibitors".
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing ARGININE 017958
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing GLYCINE 017955
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing HISTIDINE 019061
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing LYSINE 017957
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing PHENYLALANINE 017936
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing PROLINE 017956
- Dr Duke's list of Plants Containing QUERCETIN 021446
- Dr Duke's list of plants having chemicals with vasodilatory activity 017836
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antidote to Heavy metals activity 018388
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antieczemic activity 018421
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antipolyneuritic activity 022051
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antiretroviral activity 018318
- Dr Duke’s list of the top 40 plants with Antimigraine activity 021412
- Influenza and Isoquercetin 010387
- Introspective Nap Time Nelumbo Nucifera (Sacred Lotus) & Skullcap by CognitiveLiberty4all 017495
- Lotus and the herpes simplex virus 010388
- Sacred lotus flower - summary of effects 010392
- Sacred lotus leaves - HIV antiviral effects 010394
- Sacred Lotus rhizome a summary of properties 010391
- Sacred Lotus seeds - a summary of effects 010393
Wisdom, Inspiration, Divine love & Bliss
- Introspective Nap Time Nelumbo Nucifera (Sacred Lotus) & Skullcap by CognitiveLiberty4all 017495
- The bliss of Lotus petals 010389