The Blue Lotus flower has been part of Egypt’s mythology, culture, and medicine for thousands of years. In the Middle East, the plant is known as Egyptian Lotus and Sacred Lily of the Nile, and images of the aquatic plant grace the walls of pharaohs’ tombs and monoliths. The history of the famed Blue Lotus is not only medicinal, but also mystical, in nature. Finding its way out of Egypt, around 300 BCE, the lotus landed in Greece where the prevailing culture incorporated it into the religion of Isis and Serapis. Near the close of the Roman Empire, Blue Lotus was being traded to the far corners of the known world, from Brittania to India. The lotus even features prominently in Mayan religious art, costumes, and ceremonies.
The Lotus in Buddhist Philosophy
While the Blue Lotus was well-placed on ancient Egyptian monuments, pillars, and headdresses, it also served as a featured symbol in India throughout antiquity. Buddha referred to the lotus in his teachings as a powerful metaphor: “As a lotus flower is born in water, grows in water and rises out of water to stand above it unsoiled, so I, born in the world, raised in the world and having overcome the world, live unsoiled by the world.”
The lotus is unusually rooted in the mud, deep beneath the water’s surface, where it eventually breaks through to the air and sunlight, then blossoms into a beautiful flower, symbolizing purity, enlightenment, and resurrection. The flower has long been a metaphor for the human being mired in the egoic sense of self before waking up to its self-created darkness and being born in the light. For this reason, the lotus plays a central role in Indian religious art of the Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains. Lotus thrones commonly adorn the pedestals of most important figures in Buddhist art. During the Pala period (1000 B.C.E.), the Blue Lotus adorned a statue of Tara, a leading advocate of Buddhist philosophy in eastern India.
In recent times, renowned Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh said, “There is the mud, and there is the lotus that grows out of the mud. We need the mud in order to make the lotus.”
It is difficult to say whether the Blue Lotus is more revered for its symbolism of the universe, or for its healing properties and powers. Or perhaps the two are inseparable. The Hindus consider the lotus seed to be especially sacred because it contains a complete template for the adult plant as the divine form in the process of manifesting into physical expression. The eight- petaled lotus common to Buddhist mandalas speaks to cosmic harmony.
The Magical Ingredients of Blue Lotus
The Blue Lotus was integral to many early societies, both medicinally and spiritually, including for the Mayans and Egyptians, who researchers believe used the plant as an aid to sexual activity. Not until the advent of modern science had it become known why Blue Lotus was so esteemed as medicine in the ancient world. The plant’s active ingredient, apomorphine, is quite effective in cases of erectile dysfunction, as it initiates a cascade of events resulting in smooth muscle relaxation and vasodilation.
Apomorphine is also imbues Blue Lotus with properties that make it a gentle sleep aid and an anxiety reliever. Both the nuciferine and apomorphine constituents of the plant activate serotonin and dopamine receptors, which contribute to its calming effect.
Blue Lotus Remains a Viable Herb
The lotus plant has been revered through the millennia because of its usefulness as an herb, but has also been praised as a beauty agent and a balm for the senses. Since its earliest uses, Blue Lotus has held a place in aromatherapy, as a ritualistic drug, as an aphrodisiac, and as a symbol of the transcendent. Today, it remains a beneficial herb for altering the mood and promoting a feeling of well-being. For those with a spiritual bent, Blue Lotus is said to enhance meditation and ease tension. The flower and its parts are used in personal care products, including perfumes and skin moisturizers, especially in improving the regulation of oils that exist in overabundance and often lead to breakouts.
With all of its health and beauty benefits, the Blue Lotus still offers humankind a unique and enduring symbolism. It is impossible to separate the spiritual from the physical benefits we garner from the plant world. Actress Goldie Hawn explained, “The lotus is the most beautiful flower, whose petals open one by one. But it will only grow in the mud. In order to grow and gain wisdom, first you must have the mud — the obstacles of life and its suffering…. The mud speaks of the common ground that humans share, no matter what our stations in life…. Whether we have it all or we have nothing, we are all faced with the same obstacles: sadness, loss, illness, dying, and death. If we are to strive as human beings to gain more wisdom, more kindness and more compassion, we must have the intention to grow as a lotus and open each petal one by one.”