Nutritional and Health Benefits of the Lotus Plant
Latin name: Nelumbo nucifera
The lotus is the national flower of India and Vietnam. It has cultural and religious significance in many Asian traditions. In India, the lotus is considered sacred and are revered by Hindus. Some deities, including Lord Vishnu, Lord Ganesha, Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Saraswati, and Goddess Ganga, are portrayed standing or sitting on lotus flowers. Likewise, the lotus has religious significance in Chinese Buddhist traditions.
Lotus plants offer many health benefits, as well. Different parts of this beautiful plant can be used for health and nutrition. Read on for more about how to use this plant and how it grows.
Medicinal Uses of the Lotus Plant
For centuries, lotus flowers, seed, leaves, and parts of the underground stem (rhizome) have been used to make medicine.
- Lotus flowers are used to stop bleeding. Lotus seeds are used for disorders of the digestive tract, including diarrhoea.
- Lotus flowers have been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat diarrhoea.
- The seeds are used to treat inflammation and skin problems, including acne. When combined with green tea, an emulsion of lotus flower applied to the skin significantly reduced acne breakouts when used for 60 days.
- In traditional Chinese medicine, the embryo of lotus seeds is known as Lian Zi Xin. They are used to treat nervous disorders, insomnia, and cardiovascular diseases (hypertension and arrhythmia).
- Mixed with honey, a powder of lotus seeds is useful in treating cough.
- Recent studies show promise for lotus seed embryo as a treatment for lung cancer. An alkaloid present in the embryos has been shown to inhibit the growth of lung cancer cells.
A study conducted in Japan found that dietary lotus root powder may help alleviate fatty liver disease (non-alcohol-related liver disease).
Lotus Roots Nutrition Facts Profile
- Moderate in calories provides 74 cals per 100g.
- Good levels of dietary fibre, about 13% of the daily requirement.
- Low in fat and no cholesterol.
- Excellent source of Vitamin C, with 73% of RDA per 100g.
- Provides a number of B-complex vitamins and several minerals, along with good amounts of copper and iron.
- Low in sodium and high in potassium and has the optimum 1:4 ratio of these minerals.
- Seeds are rich in protein and minerals.
- Lotus contains several alkaloids and flavonoids.
Nutrient Levels Per 100g of Lotus Root
% of USRDA
Lotus Stems and Roots
If you see something called "lotus sticks" in a produce market, keep in mind that these are the stems of the plant, not the roots. The roots are fine and thin and are found below the stem in the mud under the rhizome.
The stems have a stiff exterior and have several hollow, tube-like, symmetrical canals that run their lengths in a circular fashion. These can be seen when the stem is cut horizontally into sections.
Since the stems may harbour parasites, they should be cleaned thoroughly to remove mud and then cooked before eating.
The Lotus Fruit (Seed Head)
The fruit or seed head resembles the spout of a watering can. Amazingly, the seeds remain viable, under the right conditions, for hundreds of years. Seeds as old as 1,300 years old were found in a dry lake bed in China and were still viable enough to germinate.
Cooking Uses of the Lotus Plant
All the parts of the lotus plant—the stems, leaves, flowers, seeds, stamens, and seed pods—are edible.
- The stems are eaten as a vegetable. The younger stems are also pickled. These can be used in soups or salads, stir-fried, deep-fried, or braised.
- The large leaves are used to wrap around sticky rice as they do not stick to the food. Dried leaves are used to make lotus tea.
- The seeds can be made into a paste to make soups and are also used in cooking and baking.
- Ground, roasted seeds can be used as a coffee substitute.
- The flower petals are used as a garnish. Dried lotus stamens are used to make tea.
- The seeds can be eaten as a snack when roasted, boiled, or candied. They add a lovely flavour to food. Ground into a flour, they can be used to thicken soups or to make bread.
Lotus Stem Vegetable - Indian Style
Lotus Stem Pickle (Kamal Kakdi Achar)
How Lotus Plants Grow
Lotus flowers are called "Kamal" in India. They are aquatic perennials that grow in a tropical to subtropical climate. Native to tropical Asia and Australia, they are commonly cultivated in water gardens for show, as well as, for their edible parts.
Lotus leaves float on the surface of the water, while the flowers grow on stalks that rise well above the water surface. The stem and leaf surfaces are coated with a waxy substance that makes them water-repellent.
Lotus plants are typically about five feet tall. The leaves are thin and large, sometimes as big as two feet across. The flowers too can be big, sometimes as many as eight inches in diameter. Flowers are pink and white.
Lotus plants are among the few species of plants that can regulate the temperature of their flowers within an optimal range to attract cold-blooded insects for pollination. In fact, a study conducted at the University Of Adelaide, Australia found that even when the environmental temperature dropped to 10 degrees C, the flower temperature was maintained at 30-35 degrees C.
- Fanous, S. (2016, June 16). The Power of the Lotus. Retrieved November 24, 2017, from https://www.healthline.com/health/8-uses-for-lotus#overview1
- Effects of Lotus Root (the Edible Rhizome of Nelumbo nucifera) on the Deveolopment of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Obese Diabetic db/db Mice. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2017, from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1271/bbb.110745?src=recsys
- In What Nutrients Are Lotus Roots High? (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2017, from http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/nutrients-lotus-roots-high-3520.html
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician, or health care provider before taking any home remedies, supplements or starting a new health regime.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2013 Rajan Singh Jolly