Some amazing medicinal plants: the lotus
In this series, we present medicinal plants from all the continents on Earth, this time featuring the Lotus.
Archaefructus sinensis or ‘ancient fruit from China’ is the name given to the fossilized remains of what may be the earliest known flowering plants. They were discovered in a slab of stone in northeastern China. The fossils date back at least 130 million years and represent a plant growing in shallow pools and flowering over the water surface. Known as “the mother of all flowering plants”, and owing to its appearance and habitat, scientists believe it to be an ancient relative of the water lily and lotus.
Genus: Nelumbo. Species: Nelumbo nucifera.
Lotus, Indian lotus, sacred lotus, bean of India, Egyptian bean. The lotus is the national flower of India and Vietnam.
An aquatic perennial, it thrives in a warm temperate to tropical climate. It is native to South Asia and Northeast Australia, and is commonly cultivated in water gardens in India, China, Vietnam, Japan, Malaysia, New Guinea and Queensland, Australia.
The lotus flower is associated with the creation myths of Hindu and Egyptian mythology. According to the Puranas, Brahma emerged out of a magnificent lotus that sprung from the navel of Lord Vishnu who was resting on the endless coils of a giant cobra on the surface of a vast ocean that existed before space and time. Upon Lord Vishnu’s command, Brahma created the world. Similarly, Egyptian legend says that a giant lotus called Seshen emerged from the primordial waters of Nun, which in turn brought forth the Sun God who created life. While several Hindu and Egyptian gods and goddesses and Gautama the Buddha are associated with the lotus flower, the flower also has a deeper mystical symbolism.
The petals of the flower close at sunset and open with the touch of the sun rays, representing our journey through the darkness of ignorance into the light of knowledge.
As the lotus emerges from the muddy waters and spurts upwards, despite having its roots in the mud, we can rise above our material desires and aspire for spiritual enlightenment even as we continue to live in the world and fulfill our worldly duties.
Symbolically the lotus represents creation, rebirth, purity, beauty, freedom, wisdom and spiritual enlightenment. The flower blooms and blossoms in a murky environment, which shows us the way to live and thrive in this world unaffected by our surroundings. In the same way water drops are repelled by the lotus leaves and flowers, a Self-realized person remains free from the fears and temptations of the world.
Symbolically the lotus represents creation, rebirth, purity, beauty, freedom, wisdom and spiritual enlightenment.
The lotus is also a sacred symbol in Yoga and it represents the energy centers of our body, known as chakras. The heart, especially, is believed to be like a closed lotus flower that opens to its fullest potential through practice and perseverance in the spiritual field. The crown chakra, the highest of all the chakras, is also known as sahasra-dal-kamal, which means ‘lotus of a thousand petals’. Padmasana, or the lotus position, is mostly recommended for meditation as it straightens and stabilizes the spine which aligns the chakras. This position also facilitates control over rhythmic breathing patterns in the human system.
The lotus can grow to a height of 150 centimeters and spread 3 meters horizontally. The flowers are commonly pink and white. The plant favours low salinity and thrives in freshwater wetlands. It prefers warm sunlight and does not bloom during winter, flowering mainly between July and September in the northern hemisphere and October to April in the southern hemisphere. The lifespan of a lotus flower is 3 to 4 days, with the petals opening in the morning and closing by late afternoon.
The roots of the plant are firmly affixed in the mud, and the stems are long to which the leaves are attached. These long stems contain air spaces that maintain the plant’s buoyancy on water. The flowers are always above the water surface.
The lotus flower produces heat to attract pollinators, which is just one aspect of its complicated pollination process. The plant is usually pollinated by flower beetles and sometimes by bees.
plants parts used:
Petals, seeds, stamen, leaves and roots.
Various parts of the lotus plant have been used in Ayurveda and ancient Chinese medicine. Sushruta, an ancient Indian physician and the main author of the treatise of The Compendium of Sushruta (Sushrata-samhita) around 600 BCE, is known to have used the lotus stalk as a probe in surgical procedures of that era.
Lotus seeds help in treating high blood pressure and diarrhea. They contain proteins, carbohydrates and minerals like calcium, phosphorus and potassium. The embryo of the seed also contains a medicinal compound that is an isoquinoline alkaloid, which helps in reducing blood pressure and dealing with hypertension.
The petals contain calcium and iron, which aid in blood clotting and dealing with summer heat. Symptoms of thirst and inflammation in the body can be managed by drinking a decoction of lotus tea.
The ancients used lotus leaves to wrap the body of a person having fever. Even today they are considered to be one of the best home remedies to deal with summer heat. The leaves are also known to strengthen the liver, cure stomach ailments and rejuvenate a person’s energy.
The lotus stamen has astringent properties that benefit both the kidney and the heart. It can be used to treat frequent urination and bleeding of the uterus.
The medicinal properties of the roots and rhizomes of the lotus plant are owing to the presence of flavonoids and quercetin. They are highly beneficial in controlling bleeding and relieving the human system of toxins. The roots are rich in dietary fiber and are used in the preparation of several mouthwatering dishes.
The lotus is food for several species in the food chain. The leaves provide shelter to many aquatic species and, like many water plants, it also cleanses and replenishes the waters in which it lives.
With its therapeutic properties, mystical connotations and ‘bloom against all odds’ nature, the lotus is a thriving species of the plant kingdom.
September 03, 2017
September 02, 2017
August 01, 2017