ALSO, KNOWN AS:
- Bean of India
- Indian Lotus
- Sacred Lotus
- Sacred Water Lotus
The aquatic plant family Nelumbonaceae comprises two species and one of them is Nelumbo nucifera. Currently, the recognized name of this species is Linnaean binomial Nelumbo nucifera, which is classified under its several earlier names, including Nymphaea nelumbo and Nelumbium speciosum. This is a perennially growing aquatic plant. When the conditions are favorable, the seeds of this plant continue to be viable for numerous years. It is amazing to note that the oldest seeds of lotus that germinated successfully are those that were 1,300 years old and picked up from the dry bed of a lake located in the north-eastern part of China.
There are several instances where the lotus has wrongly been referred to as the water lily (belonging to plant family Nymphaea), a completely dissimilar plant that is evident from the flower’s center that does not have the structure that later on develops into a characteristic rounded seed pod in the case of Nelumbo nucifera (water lotus).
The roots of the lotus plant are firmly set in the mud or wet dirt and it gives out elongated stems. The leaves of the plant are attached to these long stems. While the lotus flowers are at all times found above the surface of the water, sometimes even the leaves can be seen floating on the water. The flowers are large, gorgeous and aromatic and they open in the morning. By the afternoon, the petals begin to fall.
As mentioned earlier, the lotus roots remain planted in the mud under the ponds or the river bed. The leaves are found floating on the surface of the water along with the flowers. Generally, the flowers grow on thick stems that raise a number of centimeters higher than the leaves. Normally, the lotus plant grows up to a height of roughly 150 cm and extends up to a maximum area of 3 meters horizontally. However, a number of reports, which have not been verified, state that the plant grows up to a height of more than 5 meters. The leaves of the lotus plant are circular in shape and very large, often growing up to 60 cm (two feet) in diameter. The attractive flowers usually measure 20 cm across.
The fruits of the lotus plants are cone-shaped pods and they enclosed seeds inside the holes found in these pods. It is worth mentioning here that the term ‘Nucifera’ denotes ‘having hard fruit’. When the lotus seeds become mature they become loose inside the pods. Subsequently, the pod tips downwards to the water and releases the seeds on the water surface.
PLANT PARTS USED:
Flowers, leaves, roots, seed, stem.
SACRED, THERAPEUTIC USE:
The water lotus is considered to be a sacred plant in the Orient and, for more than 1,500 years, it has been used in the form of a therapeutic herb. This aquatic plant is extremely versatile and all its parts are used for various purposes. The plant is astringent, febrifuge, cardiotonic, stomachic, resolvent, tonic, styptic and also a vasodilator. The juice extracted from the water lotus plant is used for treating diarrhea. In addition, a decoction of the leaf juice with licorice (Glycyrrhiza spp.) is used for treating sunstroke. In addition, a decoction prepared from the lotus flowers is employed to treat premature ejaculation (PE).
Herbal medicine practitioners often recommend the use of lotus flowers in the form of a cardiac tonic. The floral receptacle too is used to prepare a decoction, which is used for treating bloody discharges, abdominal cramps, and other conditions. The stalks of the flowers possess hemostatic (a medicine that stops bleeding) attributes and are generally used to treat conditions like excessive menstruation, bleeding gastric ulcers and post-partum hemorrhage. The stamens of the lotus are used to treat frequent urination, epistasis, premature ejaculation, uterine bleeding, and hemolysis. The fruits are used to prepare a decoction, which is employed to treat fever, agitation, problems related to the heart and other conditions.
The lotus seeds enclose several therapeutically active elements, which include alkaloids as well as flavonoids. The seeds are sedative, hypotensive as well as a vasodilator. It has been found that the lotus seeds help to lower the levels of blood cholesterol as well as unwind the smooth muscles present in the uterus. The seeds are used to treat enteritis, poor digest, diarrhea, insomnia, spermatorrhoea, palpitations, leucorrhoea and other health conditions. The radicle and plume of the lotus plant are used for treating intense thirst that accompanies diseases with high fever, restiveness, and hypertension. The root possesses tonic properties and the root starch of this aquatic plant is used to treat dysentery, diarrhea, and other conditions. It is used to prepare a paste with water and applied directly to ringworm as well as different skin problems. In addition, the root starch is also used internally for treating hemorrhages, nosebleeds, and excessive menstrual flow.
The roots of the lotus plant are harvested either during the autumn or in winter and dried out for use when necessary. The nodes of the roots are used for treating hemoptysis, nosebleeds, the uterus’ functional bleeding and hematuria. In folk history, the plant also has a reputation for having the aptitude to treat cancer. In recent times, scientists have successfully isolated specific compounds from the lotus plant that reveal its anti-cancer actions.
Believe it or not, the water lotus is the most famous and admired flowers throughout the world. Since time immemorial, the lotus flower has been raved about in religion, folklore as well as the arts either in one way or the other. In addition to the flower’s magnificent exquisiteness, the lotus is considered to be sacred owing to its ability to produce spiritual effects. The mature seeds of this aquatic plant have a healthy influence on people suffering from menorrhea, Neurasthenia (nervous exhaustion) and spermatorrhea. A decoction prepared with the plant’s leaves as well as the seed cores is helpful in treating hemorrhage and insomnia. In addition, several parts of the plant, including the tender leaves, flowers, seeds and rhizomes are safe for human consumption. The rhizomes form the basis of a lotus meal that contains elevated levels of starch. Often, the rhizome was smoked or used to prepare a tea that people believed would bring about a joyful feeling that seeped into the body as well as the mind. The big, circular leaves of lotus, which often measure two feet across, are used for wrapping food. The stamens, which are the male organs of any flower, may be dried out and later used to prepare an aromatic herbal tea in the same manner as we prepared tea with the dried leaves of different herbs.
The seeds, which are often referred to as nuts, are also used in a variety of ways. They can be consumed fresh or dried out and popped as popcorn – the little kernels of the corn explode when heated. Alternatively, you may also boil the seeds till they become soft and make a paste with them. In fact, this paste is generally combined with sugar and is used as a familiar ingredient in pastries like daifuku, moon-cakes, pudding, flour (the finely powdered food that is obtained by pulverizing and sieving any cereal grain), and rice (the grains that are utilized in the form of food, both polished as well as unpolished). The leaves, as well as the rhizomes of the lotus plants, are also used in combination with different herbs for treating several health conditions like fever, sunstroke, dysentery, diarrhea, blood vomiting and light-headed. The entire lotus plant is also used in the form of a remedy for mushroom poisoning.
The seeds of the lotus plant can be consumed in various ways – fresh and uncooked or ripened and cooked. The seeds form a well-liked ingredient in desserts, such as ‘cheng thing’, which are prepared locally. The rhizome of the plant is also edible. The rhizomes are elongated and have the shape of sausages with their central portion being hollow. In fact, they are connected in the same manner as sausages using a string and boiled in soups, used to make pickles or even candied for use as desserts. Even the petioles, as well as the tender roots of this aquatic plant, are consumed. This plant bears large circular leaves which are often used to wrap different foods, especially a preparation called lotus rice. It is worth mentioning here that people in China have been cultivating this plant since ages – probably from the 12th century B.C.
Precisely speaking, almost all the parts of the lotus plant, including its rhizomes (roots), flowers, tender leaves as well as the seeds are edible. People in Asia occasionally use the petals for garnishing purpose, whereas the large spherical leaves are used to wrap foods like zongzi. Although usually the leaves are not consumed, the tender leaves, petals, and rhizome may be eaten uncooked. However, consuming them raw may often result in transmission of parasites like Fasciolopsis buski. Hence, it is advisable that one should essentially cook these before consuming.
The rootlets of the lotus plant are regularly used to make pickles along with rice, sugar, vinegar, garlic and/ or chili. The texture of this preparation is crunchy and it tastes sweet-tangy. The rootlets are also popular in various Asian cuisines and well-liked with prawns, salads, coriander leaves and/ or sesame oil.
Even the stamens of the lotus flower can be dried out and use to prepare an aromatic herbal tea, which the Chinese call liánhuā cha. In Vietnam, people often use the dried lotus stamens to add essence and aroma to tea leaves. The lotus tea prepared by people in Vietnam is known as chè ướp sen, chè sen, or trà sen. The seeds or nuts of the lotus plant can also be used for several purposes. They can be consumed raw and also popped as popcorn – the popcorn from lotus seeds is called Phool makhana. In addition, you can also boil the seeds/ nuts till they become soft and make a paste or boil them with dried out longans plus rock sugar to prepare a sweet soup called tong Sui.
People residing in the southern part of India slice the lotus stem, marinate it using salt and allow them to dry. Later, they fry these dried lotus stem slices and use them in the form of a side dish. People in south Indian states Tamil Nadu and Kerala called the fried lotus stem slices ‘Thamara Vishal’.
In Vietnam, people use the bitter flavored lotus seed germs to prepare a tisane called trà time sen.
It is interesting to note that only people residing in the Inle lake area in the Union of Myanmar use the fibers of the lotus plant to make an exceptional fabric, which is used to weave unique dressing robes for the images of Buddha. These robes are known as lotus robe or kya thing an.
The seeds of lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) are also used for craft purposes. Typically, the dried out seed heads of lotus have an appearance similar to that of the watering cans sprouts. They are sold across the globe for the purpose of decorating and also used in dried flower arrangements.
HABITAT OF THE LOTUS:
This aquatic plant is indigenous to the regions of Asia as well as Queensland in Australia. Generally, the lotus is grown in water gardens. Significantly, the lotus is also the national flower of two Asian countries – India and Vietnam.
Commercial cultivation of lotus requires a very fertile loamy soil. The plant grows well when cultivated in 2.5-meter deep water. However, if you are cultivating the plant in places having cooler climatic conditions, it is necessary to grow it in less deep water, but never less than 30 cm in depth. Growing the plant in shallower water will help to warm up the plants more rapidly and, at the same time, promote superior growth as well as flowering. The lotus plant thrives best in water having temperature levels ranging from 23°C to 27°C during its growing season, which extends for five months. These plants do not like any disturbance to their roots and need to be transplanted directly into the stable positions at the earliest.
When the plants are well established, they may often turn out to be invasive, especially when they are being cultivated in appropriate conditions. The lotus is an extremely ornamental plant and a number of its named varieties has been developed for edible purposes. Commonly, the variety producing pink flowers is preferred as its seeds are best for consumption. On the other hand, the roots of the varieties producing white flowers are said to be best for consumption. The aroma of lotus flowers is sweet and fruit-like. In India, the lotus is considered to be a sacred plant and the flowers are used in various religious ceremonies. In the Orient, the lotus is often cultivated for its edible properties.
The lotus plant is mostly propagated by its seeds, which need to be filed across their center, being extremely careful so that you do not cause any harm to the seeds’ flesh. Prior to sowing, the seeds need to be soaked in tepid water and it is essential to change the water two times every day till they show indications of germination. Usually, the seeds start germinating within three to four weeks of soaking in warm water, provided they are maintained at 25°C. The new seedlings should be planted in separate containers, initially in very shallow water, but the level of water should be increased depending on the growth of the plant.
The lotus plant can also be propagated by root division, which should be ideally undertaken during the spring when the growing season of the plants begins. It is advisable that you need to be extremely careful while propagating the lotus plants through this method, as these plants extremely loathe any kind of disturbance to their roots.
Chemical analysis of the lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) rhizome has revealed that it encloses several alkaloids. The leaves of this aquatic plant also enclose alkaloids luciferin, nerenyuferin, and romerin. The dried out seeds of the lotus plant enclose 66.6 percent carbohydrate, 17.2 percent protein, and 2.4 percent fats. In addition, the herb also contains calcium, sugar, iron, and phosphorus. The stem of this herb lies underground and contains 83.8 percent moisture, 9.25 percent starch, 2.7 percent protein, 0.41 percent sucrose and 0.11 per cent fats. Besides these, it also contains a number of vitamins – vitamins Band C.
It has been found that the roots of the lotus plant contain elevated amounts of vitamin C, vitamin B6, riboflavin, thiamin, dietary fiber, copper, phosphorus, potassium, and manganese. They also contain little amounts of saturated fats.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS AND PRECAUTIONS:
When consumed in standard doses, this herb does not have any toxic effect. However, like any other herb, consuming it in excess may result in health problems.