Monograph-Lotus, Pink (Nelumbo nucifera)
Images of Lotus(Pink and White)
Nelumbo nucifera, known by a number of names including Indian Lotus, Sacred Lotus, Bean of India, or simply Lotus, is a plant in the monogeneric family Nelumbonaceae. The Linnaean binomial Nelumbo nucifera (Gaertn.) is the currently recognized name for this species, which has been classified under the former names, Nelumbium speciosum (Willd.) and Nymphaea nelumbo, among others. Names other than Nelumbo nucifera (Gaertn.) are obsolete synonyms and should not be used in current works. This plant is an aquatic perennial. Under favorable circumstances its seeds may remain viable for many years, with the oldest recorded lotus germination being from that of seeds 1,300 years old recovered from a dry lakebed in northeastern China.
A common misconception is referring to the lotus as a waterlily (Nymphaea), an entirely different plant as can be seen from the center of the flower, which clearly lacks the structure that goes on to form the distinctive circular seed pod in the Nelumbo nucifera. Waterlilies come in various colors, whereas the lotus has flowers ranging in hues of white to hot pink.
Native to Tropical Asia and Queensland, Australia, it is commonly cultivated in water gardens. The white and pink lotuses are national flowers of India and Vietnam, respectively.
The roots of Nelumbo nucifera are planted in the soil of the pond or river bottom, while the leaves float on top of the water surface or are held well above it. The flowers are usually found on thick stems rising several centimeters above the leaves. The plant normally grows up to a height of about 150 cm and a horizontal spread of up to 3 meters, but some unverified reports place the height as high as over 5 meters. The leaves may be as large as 60 cm in diameter, while the showy flowers can be up to 20 cm in diameter.
Researchers report that the lotus has the remarkable ability to regulate the temperature of its flowers to within a narrow range just as humans and other warmblooded animals do. Dr. Roger S. Seymour and Dr. Paul Schultze-Motel, physiologists at the University of Adelaide in Australia, found that lotus flowers blooming in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens maintained a temperature of 30–35 °C (86–95 °F), even when the air temperature dropped to 10 °C (50 °F). They suspect the flowers may be doing this to attract coldblooded insect pollinators. The study, published in the journal Nature, is the latest discovery in the esoteric field of heat-producing plants. Two other species known to be able to regulate their temperature include Symplocarpus foetidus and Philodendron selloum.
The traditional Sacred Lotus is distantly related to Nymphaea caerulea and possesses similar chemistry. Both Nymphaea caerulea and Nelumbo nucifera contain the alkaloids nuciferine and aporphine.
Nelumbo nucifera seeds
Lotus 'seeds', which are botanically nutlets of a multiple fruit with a very hard air-and water-impervious pericarp, have long been claimed to live for centuries. Scientific proof of their fabled longevity was only provided in 1995 by Jane Shen-Miller.
The University of California research biologist was able to germinate lotus seeds recovered from a dry lakebed in the former Manchuria (now part of northeastern China). Modern accelerator mass spectroscopy techniques allowed precise radiocarbon-dating of a minute piece of the thick and hard pericarp of the nutlets without killing the seeds. With this method, the age of the oldest germinating seed was determined to be 1,288 (plus or minus 250) years!
Kew Botanical Gardens
Lotus - history
Lotus is native to the Midle East, Asia, New Guinea and Australia. It is the most commonly featured flower in South Asian mythology and has featured in many South Asian religions through the ages.
Lotus is native to Iran, India, China, Vietnam to Japan, Malaysia, New Guinea and Australia. It has been held sacred in Asia and the Middle East for over 5,000 years.
It has been cultivated since early times, for religious and ornamental purposes. In India it is commonly grown in ponds and tanks for its elegant, sweet-smelling flowers.
Leaves, including those of the lotus, have been used to make utensils in India for many centuries.
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An historical picture showing a Bari leaf worker creating utensils from leaves.
Lotus flowers have been used throughout history in South Asia and have been featured in Buddhist and Hindu art, architecture and literature. It was even a symbolically important plant before the religions at the time of the the Indus Valley civilisation.
The flowers became symbolic of immortality and resurrection because people observed that they would grow from the bottom of dried up pools after the monsoon rains.
Despite its early use, it was Buddhism which first brought the lotus symbol to widespread use. Lotus medallions are prominent on the Buddhist places of worship at Sanchi in Madhaya Pradesh and Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh dating from the 2nd century BC to the 2nd century AD.
As Buddhism spread from India to Central Asia and China in the first few centuries AD, lotus flowers were used to represent Buddha. They featured on rosettes, scrolls, motifs and iconography.
The giant leaves of lotus plants were used as plates in ancient India, and its seeds and roots are still considered a delicacy. 11th and 12th century texts noted lotus dishes and feasts in which lotus leaves were consumed.
The lotus became a common feature woven into South Asia's culture. This continued with the advent of Islam in the 12th century AD. Lotus flowers had ancient connections with Persian culture, so they were already popular motifs on Islamic carpets, textiles and architecture. They feature in intricate patterns on perforated screens, tiles and ceramics.
Edible Parts: Coffee; Flowers; Leaves; Root; Seed; Stem.
Root - cooked as a vegetable[1, 46, 61, 272]. It is also a source of starch or arrowroot[2, 61]. Much used and relished in Chinese cooking, the root has a mild flavour and a crisp texture. It can be cooked with other vegetables, soaked in syrup or pickled in vinegar. The root contains about 1.7% protein, 0.1% fat, 9.7% carbohydrate, 1.1% ash. Young leaves - cooked or raw[46, 61, 117, 183]. Used as a vegetable. The leaves can also be used to wrap small parcels of food before cooking them. Stems - cooked. A taste somewhat like beet[2, 105]. They are usually peeled before use. Seed - raw or cooked[1, 46, 51, 183, 272]. A delicate flavour. The seed can be popped like popcorn, ground into a powder and used in making bread or eaten dry. The bitter tasting embryo is often removed[116, 117]. The seed contains about 15.9% protein, 2.8% fat, 70% carbohydrate, 3.9% ash. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute. Petals can be floated in soups or used as a garnish. The stamens are used to flavour tea.
Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Astringent; Cancer; Cardiotonic; Febrifuge; Hypotensive; Miscellany; Miscellany; Resolvent; Stomachic; Styptic; Tonic;
The Sacred water lotus has been used in the Orient as a medicinal herb for well over 1,500 years. All parts of the plant are used, they are astringent, cardiotonic, febrifuge, hypotensive, resolvent, stomachic, styptic, tonic and vasodilator[116, 147, 152, 176, 238, 240]. The leaf juice is used in the treatment of diarrhoea and is decocted with liquorice (Glycyrrhiza spp) for the treatment of sunstroke. A decoction of the flowers is used in the treatment of premature ejaculation. The flowers are recommended as a cardiac tonic. A decoction of the floral receptacle is used in the treatment of abdominal cramps, bloody discharges etc. The flower stalk is haemostatic. It is used in treating bleeding gastric ulcers, excessive menstruation, post-partum haemorrhage. The stamens are used in treating urinary frequency, premature ejaculation, haemolysis, epistasis and uterine bleeding[176, 238]. A decoction of the fruit is used in the treatment of agitation, fever, heart complaints etc. The seed contains several medically active constituents, including alkaloids and flavonoids. It is hypotensive, sedative and vasodilator[176, 279]. The seed has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and to relax the smooth muscle of the uterus. It is used in the treatment of poor digestion, enteritis, chronic diarrhoea, spermatorrhoea, leukorrhoea, insomnia, palpitations etc[176, 218, 238, 279]. The plumule and radicle are used to treat thirst in high febrile disease, hypertension, insomnia and restlessness[176, 238]. The root is tonic. The root starch is used in the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery etc, a paste is applied to ringworm and other skin ailments. It is also taken internally in the treatment of haemorrhages, excessive menstruation and nosebleeds. The roots are harvested in autumn or winter and dried for later use. The root nodes are used in the treatment of nasal bleeding, haemoptysis, haematuria and functional bleeding of the uterus. The plant has a folk history in the treatment of cancer, modern research has isolated certain compounds from the plant that show anticancer activity.
The leaves are used as plates for eating food off.
Plants for a Future
Lotus - food
Lotus is a wholly edible species and is cultivated as a food plant in China, Japan, Hawaii, India and Korea. It is prized mainly for its crisp rhizomes and seeds, though the flowers and leaves are also eaten in some areas.
How it is eaten
A photograph of dried lotus leaves on sale in Leicester.
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In South Asia, lotus leaves are eaten like vegetables.
In India, the rhizomes, seeds, leaves and flowers are eaten to some extent. The rhizomes are roasted or dried and sliced. They are used in curry, soups or fried as chips. They are also pickled or can be frozen and used as an ingredient in pre-cooked foods, and a kind of thickening powder may be prepared from the fleshy rhizomes.
The fruits are sold in Indian markets for the edible seeds embedded in it. The seeds are removed of their outer covering and embryo, which is intensely bitter. They are sweet and tasty and may be eaten raw, roasted, boiled, candied or ground into flour.
Young leaves, leaf stalks and flowers of lotus are eaten as vegetables in India. Its seeds are roasted to make puffs called 'makhanas'.
Lotus - Crafts
Because of its symbolic importance, the lotus plant has featured extensively in literature and art in South Asia. It has been used to make objects such as beads, clothing and lamps, and features in architecture.
Lotus and religious craftwork
A photograph of two rosaries made from shiny, black lotus seeds. From Kew's Economic Botany Collection.
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Lotus seeds are used to make rosaries for those who hold the plant sacred. These rosaries are from Kew's Economic Botany Collection.
As a sacred plant to Buddhists, Hindus and Jains, the lotus is important in South Asian craftwork which tends to use natural objects as symbols. Lotus seeds are strung together to make rosaries for these faiths, while lotus leaf stalks are used to make wicks for temple lamps. In Myanmar, fibre is harvested from the stems of the lotus plant and spun into thread. This is then woven to produce valuable lotus fabric, which might be used as an altar cloth or for religious robes. A simplified shape of a lotus is used to decorate many craft objects such as carvings on houses, folk paintings and fabrics.
The lotus (Sanskrit and Tibetan padma) is one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols and one of the most poignant representations of Buddhist teaching.
The roots of a lotus are in the mud, the stem grows up through the water, and the heavily scented flower lies pristinely above the water, basking in the sunlight. This pattern of growth signifies the progress of the soul from the primeval mud of materialism, through the waters of experience, and into the bright sunshine of enlightenment.
Though there are other water plants that bloom above the water, it is only the lotus which, owing to the strength of its stem, regularly rises eight to twelve inches above the surface.
According to the Lalitavistara, "the spirit of the best of men is spotless, like the lotus in the muddy water which does not adhere to it."
According to another scholar, "in esoteric Buddhism, the heart of the beings is like an unopened lotus: when the virtues of the Buddha develop therein, the lotus blossoms; that is why the Buddha sits on a lotus bloom."
The lotus is one of Buddhism's best recognized motifs and appears in all kinds of Buddhist art across all Buddhist cultures. Scrolling lotuses often embellish Buddhist textiles, ceramics and architecture.
Every important Buddhist deity is associated in some manner with the lotus, either being seated upon a lotus in full bloom or holding one in their hands. In some images of standing Buddhas, each foot rests on a separate lotus.
The lotus does not grow in Tibet and so Tibetan art has only stylized versions of it, yet it appears frequently with Tibetan deities and among the Eight Auspicious Symbols.
The color of the lotus has an important bearing on the symbology associated with it:
* White Lotus (Skt. pundarika; Tib. pad ma dkar po): This represents the state of spiritual perfection and total mental purity (bodhi). It is associated with the White Tara and proclaims her perfect nature, a quality which is reinforced by the color of her body.
* Pink Lotus (Skt. padma; Tib. pad ma dmar po): This the supreme lotus, generally reserved for the highest deity. Thus naturally it is associated with the Great Buddha himself.
* Red Lotus (Skt. kamala; Tib: pad ma chu skyes): This signifies the original nature and purity of the heart (hrdya). It is the lotus of love, compassion, passion and all other qualities of the heart. It is the flower of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.
* Blue Lotus (Skt. utpala; Tib. ut pa la): This is a symbol of the victory of the spirit over the senses, and signifies the wisdom of knowledge. Not surprisingly, it is the preferred flower of Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom.
The Lotus Symbol in Buddhism
Gods Favorite Flower; the Lotus Flowers
Both in worship and in portrayals of the divine, Hindus are infatuated with flowers. The very name of the Hindu worship ritual, puja, can be translated as "flower act."
The lotus is the foremost symbol of beauty, prosperity and fertility. According to Hinduism, within each human inhabiting the earth is the spirit of the sacred lotus. It represents eternity, purity and divinity and is widely used as a symbol of life, fertility, ever-renewing youth and to describe feminine beauty, especially the eyes.
One of the most common metaphysical analogies compares the lotus' perennial rise to faultless beauty from a miry environment to the evolution of man's consciousness--from instinctive impulses to spiritual liberation. In the Bhagavad Gita, man is adjured to be like the lotus--he should work without attachment, dedicating his actions to God--untouched by sin like water on a lotus leaf and the beautiful flower standing high above the mud and water. In the postures of hatha yoga, the lotus position, padmasana, is adopted by those striving to reach the highest level of consciousness, which itself is found in the thousand-petalled lotus chakra at the top of the head. For Buddhists, lotus symbolizes the most exalted state of man--his head held high, pure and undefiled in the sun, his feet rooted in the world of experience.
There is a story that it arose from the navel of God Vishnu, and at the center of the flower sat Brahma. Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the Protector) and Siva (the Merger) are associated with this plant. There are also accounts of the world born through a "Golden Lotus" and Padmakalpa, the Lotus Age in the Padmapurana (678 ce).
Lakshmi holding two lotus flower 27"
Trilok Chandra Majupuria of Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, explains in Religious and Useful Plants of Nepal and India (1989, M. Gupta, Lashkar, India), "The Taittiriya Brahmana describes how Prajapati, desiring to evolve the universe, which was then fluid, saw a lotus-leaf, pushkara parna, coming out of water. It is described that when divine life-substance was about to put forth the universe, the cosmic waters grew a thousand-petalled lotus flower of pure gold, radiant like the sun. This was considered to be a doorway, or an opening of the mouth of the womb of the universe. Hindu texts describe that water represents the procreative aspect of the Absolute, and the cosmic lotus, the generative. Thus, lotus is the first product of the creative principle." The role of Lord Brahma was to re-create the universe after the great flood on this planet. In order to create the universe, He used the different parts of the lotus plant.
Goddess Lakshmi, patron of wealth and good fortune, sits on a fully bloomed pink lotus as Her divine seat and holds a lotus in Her right hand. It is also mentioned in the Mahabharata that Lakshmi emerged from a lotus which grew from the forehead of Lord Vishnu, and a garland of 108 lotus seeds is today used for the worship of Lakshmi. The Goddess of Power, Durga, was created by Lord Siva to fight demons and was adorned with a garland of lotus flowers by Varuna. Goddess of Wisdom, Saraswati is associated with the white Lotus. And virtually every God and Goddess of Hinduism--Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Parvati, Durga, Agni, Ganesha, Rama and Surya--are typically shown sitting on the lotus, often holding a lotus flower in their hand. The lotus which serves thus as the seat of the Deity, signifying their divinity and purity, is called padmasana or kamalasana.
Hindu scriptures say that the Atman dwells in the lotus within the heart. Visualize within yourself a lotus, centered right within the center of your chest, right within your heart. Try to mentally feel and see the heart as a lotus flower right within you. Within the center of the lotus, try to see a small light. Hindu scriptures state that the Atman within the heart looks like a brilliant light about the size of your thumb--just a small light. This light is an emanation of your effulgent being. It is dwelling right within. The Self God is deeper than that. The lotus is within the heart, and the Self God dwells deep within that lotus of light.
Adapted from an article by Anil K. Goel, Lucknow from Hinduism Today July, 1999
The Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera A Plant Study by Share Siwek
The distinctive dried seed heads, which resemble the spouts of watering cansphoto, are widely sold throughout the world for decorative purposes and for dried flower arranging.
The flowers, seeds, young leaves, and "roots" (rhizomes) are all edible. In Asia, the petals are sometimes used for garnish, while the large leaves are used as a wrap for food, not frequently eaten (for example, as a wrapper for zongzi). In Korea, the leaves and petals are used as a tisane. Yeonkkotcha (연꽃차) is made with dried petals of white lotus and yeonipcha (연잎차) is made with the leaves. Young lotus stems are used as a salad ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine. The rhizome (called ǒu (藕) in pinyin Chinese, ngau in Cantonese, bhe in Hindi, renkon (レンコン, 蓮根 in Japanese), yeongeun (연근) in Korean) is used as a vegetable in soups, deep-fried, stir-fried, and braised dishes and the roots are also used in traditional Asian herbal medicine. Petals, leaves, and rhizome can also all be eaten raw, but there is a risk of parasite transmission (e.g., Fasciolopsis buski): it is therefore recommended that they be cooked before eating.
Lotus rootlets are often pickled with rice vinegar, sugar, chili and/or garlic. It has a crunchy texture with sweet-tangy flavours. In Asian cuisine, it is popular with salad, prawns, sesame oil and/or coriander leaves. Lotus roots have been found to be rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C, potassium, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, copper, and manganese, while very low in saturated fat.
The stamens can be dried and made into a fragrant herbal tea called liánhuā cha (蓮花茶) in Chinese, or (particularly in Vietnam) used to impart a scent to tea leaves. The lotus seeds or nuts (called liánzĭ, 蓮子; or xian liánzĭ, 鲜莲子, in Chinese) are quite versatile, and can be eaten raw or dried and popped like popcorn, phool makhana. They can also be boiled until soft and made into a paste, or boiled with dried longans and rock sugar to make a tong sui (sweet soup). Combined with sugar, lotus seed paste becomes one of the most common ingredients used in pastries such as mooncakes, daifuku, and rice flour pudding.
In Vietnam, the bitter tasting germs of the lotus seeds are also made into a tisane (trà tim sen).
A unique fabric from the lotus plant fibers is produced only at Inle lake, Union of Myanmar and is used for weaving special robes for Buddha images called kya thingahn (lotus robe).
Usage Nelumbo nucifera in Ayurveda
Latin: Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn.
Vernacular names: Sanskrit - Kamala - Svetakamala - Pankaj; Hindi - Kanwal; English - Sacred lotus; Unani - Kanwala; Malayalam - Tamara; Tamil - Tamarai; French - Nelumbo; German - Indische Lotosblume; Persian - Nilufer
Part Used: leaves, root, flowers, seeds
Ayurvedic Energetics:Rasa: sweet, bitter, astringent Veerya: cooling Veerya: cooling Vipaka: sweetGunas: light, unctuous, slimy
Doshas: KP- ; V+
Pharmacological Action: leaves: refrigerant, hemostatic ; root: demulcent; flowers: sedative, bitter, diuretic, astringent, hemostatic, refrigerant, cholagogic and expectorant; seeds: demulcent
Clinical Research: The presence of various alkaloids have been reported from the entire plant including nuciferine, neferine, lotusine, and isoliensinine. The ether extract of the petals and stamens yielded quercitin; the aqueous extract of the leaves yielded flavonoids, quercitin, isoquercitrin and leukodelphinidin. The seeds contain between 2-3% oil comprised of myristic, palmatic, oleic, and linoleic acid. The alcoholic root extract have shown CNS-depressant and diuretic activity in rodents.
Traditional Uses: The leaves are boiled with Mimosa pudica (Lajjaalu) in goat's milk to treat diarrhea ; the leaf paste is applied to the body in fever and inflammatory skin conditions;young leaves are taken with sugar to treat rectal prolapse . The stamens are mixed with ghee and jaggery and used in treating hemorrhoids. The leaves and flowers are both useful in many varieties of raktapitta, or bleeding disorders. The flowers are sometimes prescribed to promote conception. The petals alleviate thirst and inflammations. The seed powder mixed with honey is given in cough. The roots are said to be health for teeth. Taken with ghee, milk, and gold it is a general tonic said to promote strength, virility, and intellect.
Lotus - western medicine
Lotus is not commonly used in western medicine. Recent scientific research has been conducted on the chemical and medicinal properties of various parts of the lotus plant. Results support its use in traditional medicine.
Science supporting traditional uses
Scientific research on lotus provides evidence in support of many of its traditional medicinal uses to treat diarrhoea, fungal infections, fevers and conditions skin. Alcohol extracts of the rhizomes have also been shown to display as many as seven different kinds of therapeutic activity. The most notable is its anti-bacterial activity and hence use for the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhoea and syphilis. Rheumatoid arthritis is also reported to respond well to treatment with lotus, as do certain kinds of diabetes.
Preliminary studies on the ancient lotus seeds report the presence of an enzyme called L-isoaspartyl methyltransferase which may play a role in anti-ageing through their repair of proteins. If substantiated by further studies this would support the long-held traditional belief among Asian cultures that lotus is the symbol for fertility and re-birth.
Little is known about the toxicity of the different parts of lotus and it is generally considered a safe plant which is widely used as a food. Although an alkaloid known to affect the heart called nelumbine occurs in the leaves, fruit stalks and seeds, no cases of adverse reaction have been found in the literature.
This information is provided for general interest only. It is not intended as guidance for medicinal use. Further information on using herbal medicines is available.
Scholarly Research on Chemistry of Lotus
White Lotus Aromatics Lotus Newsletter 1
White Aromatics Lotus Newsletter 2