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Herbal Explorations

A Brief Overview of the Lotus

by Wilson Lau

Lian (Nelumbo Nucifera) commonly known as Lotus in the United States, is an amazing aquatic perennial native to a large area spanning from modern Vietnam to Afghanistan. In Chinese culture, its uses range from religious symbolism to tasty foods.

The Chinese have long known of the healthy benefits of the many different parts of this plant. According to Chinese Medical Herbaology and Pharmacology, "the lotus and its various parts are among the most versatile herbs in Chinese herbal medicine. Every part of the plant has separate and distinct properties." The most widely used parts of the lotus in Chinese Medicine are lian zi (lotus seed), lian fang (louts root receptacles) and lian ye (lotus leaf).

Texts on Chinese Medicine as far as the Divine Husbandman’s Classic of the Materia Medica, state lotus seed "primarily tonifies the middle, nourishes the spirit, augments the power of the qi..." Its key characteristics according to the Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica are that it "tonifies and stabilizes the spleen, heart, and kidneys; calms the spirit."

Zhong Zi Wan is another popular formula lian zi is used in. Most people know it by the name Fu Ke Zhong Zi Wan, used primarily to aid fertility in women by warming the uterus and strengthening the kidney yang. Zhong Zi Wan, a variation of Fu Ke Zhong Zi Wan primary, has lian zi to augment the power of the qi, while helping tonify and stablize the kidneys.

This wondrous plant of many uses has abundant unique properties in addition to being a powerful herb in Chinese Medicine. Its seeds are able to germinate after being dormant for over a millennium. Scientists believe this is due to a special enzyme, L-isoaspartyl, found in its seed. This enzyme allows the lotus seed to repair damage to proteins within its cell. Another interesting fact about the lotus is the "lotus effect" - a natural cleaning ability unique to the lotus plant. The surface structure of the leaf allows drops of water to roll off, taking dirt and insects with it while leaving the leaf clean and dry at all times. Most incredible is that each part of the lotus plant has a use: the flower, the rhizome, the leaves, the stems, the seeds, the heart of the lotus seed, the root, and that is just a few of its uses!

This article only touches on a few of the many parts and uses of the lotus plant. If you wish to explore this wondrous plant and its many uses in greater depth, you can do so by using the informative texts mentioned in this article.