Sacred Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)
Sacred Lotus has been used throughout Egypt, the Middle East, India, and China since ancient times, primarily as a food, but also for gastrointestinal and bleeding related disorders. It's known by a number of names including Sacred Lotus, Indian Lotus, Bean of India, and Lotus. The flowers, seeds, leaves, and rhizomes of the lotus are all edible.
The roots of Nelumbo nucifera are planted in the soil of a pond or river bottom. The leaves eventually float on top of the water surface. The flowers usually bloom on top of the thick stems that rise several centimeters above the water. The average plant grows to a height of 150 cm and a horizontal spread up to 3 meters. They grow in semitropical climates and originated in India. The whole plant is harvested in late summer when the seeds have matured.
Research as shown that the lotus has a remarkable ability to regulate the temperature of it's flowers within a narrow range just as humans and other warm blooded species do. Researchers suspect the flowers may be doing this to attract cold blooded insect pollinators.
Species: N. nucifera
Nelumbium speciosum (wild)
The distinctive dried seed heads are widely sold throughout the world for decorative purposes and for dried flower arranging. The flowers seeds, young leaves and roots are all edible. Sometimes the petals are used in herbal tea. Companies such as L'Oreal use an extract from the Sacred Lotus in some of their makeup products like pressed powder and foundation.
The lotus flower has been used as a medicinal herb for generations in Asia. The bitter lotus leaf (heye) juices are used for diarrhea and sunstroke when mixed with licorice. The flower is used for abdominal cramps, bloody discharges, bleeding gastric ulcers, excessive menstruation, and post-partum hemorrhage. The flower stamens (lianxu) are sweet and astringent and are used in urinary frequency, premature ejaculation, hemolysis (the breakdown of red blood cells), epistasis (gene interaction) and uterine bleeding. This part of the lotus contains flavonoids and a small amount of alkaloids. The fruit or nodes (oujie) are astringent in taste and are used for agitation and fever. Lotus seed has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and to relax the smooth muscle of the uterus. It has been used for poor digestion, enteritis (inflammation of the small intestine), chronic diarrhea, insomnia, and palpitations. Lotus seeds are classified as astringents, as they have a sweet taste.
From ancient times in Asian culture the lotus has been a divine symbol of beauty, virtues of sexual purity, and non-attachment. In Buddhist symbolism the lotus represents purity of the body, speech, and mind as if floating above the muddy waters of attcment and desire. In classical written and oral literature of many Asian cultures the lotus is present in figurative form representing elegance, beauty, perfection, purity and grace. The Hindu dieties Vishnu and Lakshmi are often portrayed on a pink lotus in iconography. Vishnu is often described as the "Lotus-Eyed One". Goddess Sarasvati is portrayed on a white-colored lotus. Ganga and Ganesha are also often depicted with lotus flowers as their seats.
Unfolding petals suggest the expansion of the soul or consciousness. The growth of its pure beauty from the med of its origin holds a benign spiritual promise. In the Bhagavad Gita 5.10 the lotus is mentioned:
"One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus is untouched by water."
A famous statement made by the Confucian scholar Zhou Dunyi said:
"I love the lotus because while growing form mud, it is unstained."
The international Baha'i community designed the Lotus Temple in New Delhi, India.