By Hwaa Irfan
Native to Asia, North Africa, Persia, and Oceania, this highly valued plant, from time immemorial has been regarded as a sacred plant. Nelumbo nucifera is a member of the Nymphaeaceae family of the plant kingdom, which bears seeds that 500 years later, have been found to be still fertile!
As a symbol of purity, peace, rebirth, and fertility, the lotus is sacred to not only ancient Egyptians, but is also sacred to the Buddhists, and the Hindus.
Much of its symbolism evolved from the way the plant grows, beginning from the muddy waters which the lotus loves so much. Nourished by such humble beginnings, the stems rises above the water existence of our emotions, to the light and air where it flowers, a symbol of spiritual unfolding or jihad an nafs. Both Egyptian and Indian mythology refer to a giant blue lotus at the End of Days that precede Beginning of Days that arises from the abyss of primordial waters, flowering to reveal a new child god, born to restore the Light and banish Darkness. There is much symbolism here that could be paralleled with the Egyptian youth behind the January 25 Revolution 2011, who inspired many, but the all-important message is still misunderstood.
The rhizomes ensure the spread of the plant, and is so firmly rooted, that it is very difficult to remove. The rhizomes are white-yellowy brown and are tough, fibrous externally, with a dense center, and a spongy inner layer. As such, the rhizomes have been a source of food in indigenous American cultures, and elsewhere, containing the vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and ascorbic acid.
The plant requires much needy space, and plenty of sun. As the long stalks extend above the waters they join the leaves at the center of the blade, while the blades float on the surface of the water or above the water.
The white/pink flowers are solitary in nature and open for two days closing overnight. Some varieties open at dawn, and with a short day, closes again a couple of hours after the mid-day sun, while others open while we are asleep at night, and close when we are awake.
The outer sepals are white (2-6 sepals) but 10 -30 on white, pink or red petals spiral, and as if pregnant, the base of the flower swells and becomes fleshy as it surrounds the ovary of many compartments.
The fruit is ovoid in shape, and produces nutlets that occupy the space inside the flowers. The flowers have an interesting feature in that they produce heat while flowering, and maintain temperatures of 30-35° while flowering. The flowers are pollinated by beetles.
The variety Nelumbo nucifera is widely cultivated in Africa, Australia, China, Greece, Japan, and South Korea today. The oil is rendered through a process of solvent extraction, which may leave behind some potentially harmful traces. However, CO2 extracts achieves a cleaner end product that is true to the oil, and is thicker than other extractions.
Lotus oil is quite expensive, and blended mixes are widely available. They are usually blended in a Carrier Oil like apricot, jojoba or sweet almond oil, the benefit of which is that it can be applied straight on the skin.
Nelumbo nucifera contains:
- Isorhamnetin 3-O-rutinoside
- Linoleic acid
- Nicotinic acid
- N –nornuciferine
- Palmitic acid
At the Institute of Toxicology, College of Medicine, National Taiwan University Catechin was found to be affective in the treatment of hyperglycemia in cases of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.
ß-sitosterol is a plant sterol that supports the immune system. It has also been found to be affective in the treatment of a range of illnesses including cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, TB, psoriasis, allergies, cervical cancer, fibromyalgia, systemic lupus, asthma, hair loss, bronchitis, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Nelumbine, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to stop bleeding and to eliminate stagnated blood.
Some men use ß-sitosterol for enlarged prostate, and some women use it for symptoms of menopause. Beta-sitosterol is used for heart disease and high cholesterol. It is also used for boosting the immune system and for preventing colon cancer, as well as for gallstones, the common cold and flu (influenza), HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, tuberculosis, psoriasis, allergies, cervical cancer, fibromyalgia, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), asthma, hair loss, bronchitis, migraine headaches, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
The therapeutic effects begin with the floral scent. The aroma of Lotus essential oil is subtle, and varies slightly depending on the colour, but the scent is essentially uplifting, and transcendent. Some of the therapeutic properties are as follows:
- Astringent (flowers)
- Demulcent (seeds)
- Emmenagogue (roots)
- Expectorant (flower)
- Mucilaginous (roots)
- Refrigerant (flower)
- Sedative (flowers)
- Tonic (heart, immune system, nervous system)
There are blue, pink and white lotus essential oils, each with their own synergy.
Blue Lotus (Nymphaea caerulea) essential oil is the rarest of the types, and is closest in energy to Lotus flower essence. Painted on the walls of ancient Egyptian temples, the therapeutic value is on the spiritual plane and is of benefit to those who want to work on their physiological energy points, i.e. the chakras. As the universe realigns itself, so too are those who are open, which means that the energy points will not be as traditionally understood, but at elevated rate and function, so this should be born in mind by the observant.
The delicate yet powerful energy of the Blue Lotus, helps to strengthen awareness, thus connection with one’s chakras, especially the crown chakra, which is the main focus of all Lotus Flowers. In doing so, one becomes more in touch with the Divine, and thus helps to bring more into alignment with one’s true self, purpose and assists a process of self actualization for those who are open and are working towards such higher truths.
Pink Lotus essential oil (Nelumbo nucifera) works with the 2nd, and 3rd chakras and helps to balances one’s energies, especially the sexual energies of the 2nd chakra.
White Lotus essential oil is more subtle, and takes more time for the benefit to become apparent which is a sense of peace born from clarity, prepares one for a meditative state, and strengthens one’s ability to connect with one’s higher self as a part of one’s conscious self development.
Clinical trials have proven the seeds to protect the liver from toxicity.
Lotus oil in India is used to treat fungal infections of the skin, and in Asia in general, the seeds and fruit have been used to treat ailments of the gastro-intestinal tract, cardio-vascular disease, insomnia, nervous disorders, and skin conditions.
For glossary see It All Makes Good Scents!
It is believed that the phytochemicals in the Lotus plant interferes with drug therapy in the treatment of diabetes, high cholesterol, psychiatric or cardiac conditions, or erectile dysfunction, but this is based purely on the constituents of the plant, not actual evidence.
The oil can only be used for external use, though some traditions have specific applications for internal use. It is preferable to dilute it in a Carrier Oils at 2 drops per tablespoon (15ml).
Diffuser – The scent is intense so it is best to mix the oil with lighter oils. One can add 2 drops to 1 drop of neroli in water, and spray the air for poor libido, anxiety, fatigue, lack of energy, feeling of disconnection, insomnia, weak immunity.
Bath oil – depression, digestive problems, upper respiratory problems, musko-skeletal, poor/tired skin, , enlarged prostate, delayed menses, vaginal infections, systemic lupis, sluggish liver, skin infections.
Burfield T. “The Adulteration of Essential Oils and the Consequences to Aromatherapy & Natural Perfumery Practice.” London. 2005
Huang, C.F. et al. “Extract of Lotus Leaf (Nelumbo nucifera) and Its Active Constituent Catechin with Insulin Secretagogue Activity.” J. Agric. Food Chem., 2011, 59 (4), pp 1087–1094 DOI: 10.1021/jf103382h
“Sacred Lotus.” http://www.drugs.com/npp/sacred-lotus.html