Addictive Potential: Unkown
Emergency Room Visits Yearly: Unkown
Mandatory Minimum Sentence: Unknown
Mechanism of Action: Unknown
Nymphaea caerulea, also known as the Egyptian blue lily or sacred blue lotus, is a blue water-lily in the genus Nymphaea that grows along the Nile, amongst other locations (eg. Thailand). It can be confused with Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera, as they can both be known by this name.
Recent studies have shown Nymphaea caerulea to have psychoactive properties, and may have been used as a sacrament in ancient Egypt and certain ancient South American cultures. Dosages of 5 to 10 grams of the flowers induces slight stimulation, a shift in thought processes, enhanced visual perception, and mild closed-eye visuals. Nymphaea caerulea is distantly related to, and possesses similar activity as Nelumbo nucifera, the Sacred Lotus.
These psychoactive effects make Nymphaea caerulea a likely candidate (among several) for the lotus plant eaten by the mythical Lotophagi in Homer’s Odyssey.
According to Shaman Australis, (2009), “Nymphaea nouchali has featured heavily in Egyptian history. The goddess Isis is said to have pointed out that the rhizomes were edible. Pharaohs wre buried with them and their pyramids adorned with images of them. There is also evidence, in the form of a painting in a tomb dating back to 3000-2500 BCE, that nymphaeas were deliberately cultivated in square, evenly spaced beds fed by canals. The blooms were in great demand for religious festivals, offerings of the flowers being made to the dead or to the gods, as well as for gifts to visiting noblemen as a gesture of friendship and goodwill. Both Amenhotep IV and Ramses III (1225 BCE) are known to have had them growing in their palace gardens. It is commonly assumed that this was purely for ornamental purposes, but given what we know now about their psychoactivity, there may have been more to this. Many ancient paintings depict the Sacred Blue Lotus in conjunction with wine symbols and among the consumed items rather than the decorative items. It has also long been cultivated by the Chinese and Japanese.
In modern times, the name lotus is used almost exclusively for Nelumbo nucifera. Nelumbo nucifera is not a native of Egypt. It actually comes from south-east Asia where it is often found near temples and is regarded as sacred in China and Japan. It was introduced to the Nile by the Romans, probably for food. The true Egyptian lotus is Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea (syn. N. caerulea) and Nymphaea lotus. In in South Africa (c 1800), the rootstock of the blue water lily was collected and eaten, either raw or in curries, in particular by the Cape Malays and farming communities in the Cape.”
According to Shaman Australis, (2009), “The story of the sacred Blue Lotus makes a mockery of modern science. It has been known for several years now that this species is psychoactive to some degree, but little concrete knowledge exists in the scientific arena and the psychoactive effect is vigorously disputed by conservative scientists. So a couple of wiseguy pharmacologists decided to make a name for themselves by researching the active constituents and making a documentary about it. It is shown on the discovery channel and other media, and once you’ve experienced the effects of Blue Lotus you will understand just how ridiculous their research is. In years to come it will be better suited for the comedy channel.
First they compared the Mass Spectrometer analysis of a mummy with that of some Blue Lotus flowers with the result that they matched. This indicated that the mummy had consumed Sacred Blue Lotus not long before his death. They also looked for narcotics in the mummy and found none. The substances found were listed as phosphodiastrates, bioflavonoids and phytosterols. The first is similar to viagra, the second group is common in many fresh foods, and the last is similar to the known active constituent of Ginko biloba. At no stage in the research did they bother trying to consume a flower or an extract and this is where one has to wonder what the purpose of science is if it only serves to prove the absolute. The result of their expensive and drawn out study was that the “mild” activity of sacred Blue Lotus is due to the phytosterols. It is obvious that this conclusion can be dimissed as poor science, poor logic and above all poor representation of the lily itself.
Blue Lotus was assumed to contain nuciferine (1,2-dimethoxy-aporphine) just like Nelumbo nucifera, but this does not appear to be so according to the MS data. Aporphine and Apomorphine (6a-beta-aporphine-10,11-diol) have also been excluded.
Essentially this means that at this time no one knows what is causing the Blue Sacred Lotus to be a potent narcotic and inebriant. All we know is that 2-4 flowers soaked in wine for 24 hours will give a noticable and very pleasant synergy with the wine. Seed extracts and flower extracts can be consumed orally with or without alcohol, while dried flowers are easily dosed by smoking. All product forms will produce noticable effects. These can range from mild sedation to a fairly strong narcotic state”.
So, what are the psychoactive constituents?
More research is needed, but according to Kandeler and Ullrich, “Nymphaeas have long had a particular significance as intoxicants for shamans because of their alkaloid and glycoside content. They contain compounds similar to atropin and papaverin (nupharin, nymphalin, ellagic acid)(Roth et al., 1994).”
Also, Nymphaea caerulea could still contain Apomorphine (6a-beta-aporphine-10,11-diol) and Nuciferine (1,2-dimethoxy-aporphine). The sample used in the Shaman Australis MS study could have been the wrong plant, harvested at a bad time, had less than optimal growing conditions, etc.
Nymphaea Caerulea (Blue Lotus)