Uses as food: The seeds
are eaten; unripe and raw, or ripe and cooked. They are a popular ingredient
in local desserts like "cheng teng". The rhizomes are also eaten.
These are long sausage shaped with hollow portions and are connected like
sausages on a string. They are boiled in soup; candied as a dessert; or
pickled. The petioles and young roots are also eaten. The large circular
leaves may be used to wrap food such as in lotus rice. The plant
has been cultivated in China since the 12th century BC.
The rhizomes or leaves are used
with other herbs to treat sunstroke, fever, diarrhoea, dysentery,
dizziness, vomiting of blood, haemorrhoids. The whole plant is used
as an antidote to mushroom poisoning.
Seeds: The embryonic seeds for
high fever, cholera (Chinese), nervous disorders and insomnia; the
seeds to stop vomiting, relieve indigestion and diarrhoea or just
as a tonic.
Flowers: pounded petals for syphilis;
for cosmetic unguents (Java); the flower stalk with other herbs to
treat bleeding from the uterus.
Fruit: the pods contain alkaloids
that stop bleeding.
To Buddhists, the flower represents the perpetual cycles of reincarnation.
Buddha is said to be born in the heart of a lotus flower and he is
often depicted sitting in a lotus flower or on its leaf. The Hindus
associate the flower with the creation of the world. In Japan, it
is also held as a symbol of purity and beauty. In Ancient Egypt, another
species (Nymphaea lotus) was also a strong symbol in daily
and religious life.
in the habitat: Lotus leaves shade the water keeping it cool
and thus allowing for more dissolved oxygen. The plant also provides hiding
places for small aquatic creatures, which in turn attract predators such
as Bitterns (see right).
- Ivan Polunin,
"Plants and Flowers of Singapore", Times Editions,
1987 (p. 68: description, habitat, distribution, photo).
- Wee Yeow Chin,
"A Guide to Medicinal Plants", Singapore Science Centre,
1992 (p. 108: description, chemical compounds, uses).
- Dr E Soepadmo
(ed.), "The Encyclopedia of Malaysia: Plants", Aquatic
Flowering Plants by Cheksum Supiah Tawan, Editions Didier Millet, 1998
(p. 72-73: traditional medicinal uses)
- Prof S. Talalaj,
"The Strangest Plants in the World", Hill of Content,
1991 (p. 120-121: description, history, distribution, photo).