HomeCultureBlue Lotus Flower; History and Benefits

Blue Lotus Flower; History and Benefits

Since time immemorial, humans have used certain compounds to achieve psychoactive effects. The array of psychoactive plants includes the cultivation of grain alcohol (present in civilizations across the world) and hallucinogenic plant medicines during Indigenous spiritual ceremonies, among countless others. One integral psychoactive plant for the ancient Egyptians was the Blue Lotus flower. Blue lotus goes by several other names: Nymphaea nouchali carulea, blue water lily, sacred blue lily of the Nile, and Egyptian Lotus. Regardless of the title, the blue lotus flower is a type of water lily that grows in the freshwater lakes, ponds, and rivers of Eastern Africa. Blue lotus was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians for its psychoactive compounds and religious associations. When discussing psychoactive compounds, the mind may immediately think of powerful hallucinogenics or hard street drugs. However, a psychoactive compound is simply a substance that affects how the brain functions and may result in changes in mood, perception, and behaviour. Several normalized psychoactive compounds exist in our culture, such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. The psychoactive properties of blue lotus come from two compounds found in the flower: aporphine and nuciferine. When ingested, the alkaloid of aporphine is metabolized into apomorphine – a dopamine agonist that can instill a happy and euphoric feeling. Similarly, nuciferine induces feelings of calmness when ingested. The psychoactive compounds found in the plants have been researched thoroughly; modern research linked apomorphine and nuciferine with calmness and increased muscle control. Though little direct research on blue lotus exists, people claim that blue lotus can aid in sleep and relaxation, reduce anxiety, act as an aphrodisiac, and even reduce symptoms of erectile dysfunction (although research has yet to support these claims). Furthermore, there is no official data on the safety or accepted dosage of blue lotus; therefore, due to the unknown effects on human health, I will not be sharing the ways to consume blue lotus. Any medical or health advice should come from a licensed medical professional. In ancient Egypt, the blue lotus flower held political and religious significance. Frequently depicted with the papyrus flower in Egyptian tombs and temples, it is believed that the blue lotus and papyrus flower together represented the union of upper and lower Egypt. Aside from the political association, the blue lotus was primarily a religious and spiritual symbol. It was associated with the Sun God, Ra, as the petals would open upon the first light of day and close at sundown. The use of the plant in Egyptian shamanic rituals dates back to the 14th century B.C. when Egyptians would consume blue lotus to induce a trance-like, altered state of consciousness. Especially, the blue lotus was connected to the Egyptian creation story: In the beginning, there was just water, chaos and darkness, until the Primeval Water Lily burst from the abyss. When the flower opened its blue petals, the Sun God and Creator of all life was sitting in the golden centre. He was lonely in the Waters of Chaos; his lonely thoughts became everything that exists – his mind shaped the world and his tongue gave each creature life by naming them. When ancient Egyptians saw the majestic blue lily open each morning, they saw it as an imitation of the sky greeting the Sun. The blue lotus flower was firmly linked with the rising and setting of the Sun and, therefore, the Egyptian creation story. The blue lotus flower is just one of the thousands of other plant compounds that have been cultivated for their psychoactive properties. The use of blue lotus was popularized in Egyptian shamanic rituals, but modern utilization of the plant’s compounds persists globally. Due to its spiritual association with the Egyptian creation story, the blue lotus has a fascinating and rich past; perhaps, it could also provide unique medical uses in the future.

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