Indian Lotus Flowers (Nelumbo nucifera) are edible, being widely used in tea and cuisine. White Lotus (Nymphaea lotus) flowers, on the other hand, are often considered poisonous and only the rhizomes (roots) are eaten. Blue Lotus (Nymphea caerulea) is also considered poisonous but is widely consumed for medicinal purposes.
What does Lotus flower taste like?
Lotus flower has a mild, sweet flavour. Sometimes it has overtones of anise, or earthy flavours that may or may not be due to what it is cooked with.
Though Indian Lotus is widely used in cuisine, the flowers themselves aren’t a bulk ingredient. Instead, they are usually used sparingly, much like an herb. To make this easier, these flowers are often dried so that they can be sprinkled into recipes.
Whilst you can eat them raw, it is often more convenient to store them dried, and a better way of keeping them for a long time. After all, not everyone can go out and collect them on a regular basis.
For more substantial Lotus flavour, and to add volume to a recipe, you should also include the rhizomes, which are not unlike tubers and contain a lot of starch. For fresh salads, you can use slices of raw Lotus stem or rhizome.
Types of lotuses and whether you can eat them:
|Indian Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)||Flowers, leaves, stem, roots (rhizomes), seeds|
|White Lotus (Nymphaea lotus)||roots (rhizomes) edible, flowers may have medicinal benefits|
|Blue Lotus (Nymphea caerulea)||no parts edible, flowers may have medicinal benefits|
What does Lotus flower tea taste like?
One thing that is true of flowers is that they often contain higher levels of beneficial chemicals than other parts of a plant. This is also true of Lotus flowers. In Korea, Japan, and Vietnam Lotus tea is widely appreciated for its health benefits.
The benefits of drinking Indian Lotus tea are numerous, but mainly associated with helping bowel health. Thanks to this, the drink has long had a place in both traditional eastern medicine and Ayurvedic medicine.
Indian Lotus tea is often mixed with Green Tea and even fruit to enhance its flavour. This usually results in a light, floral taste, with hints of fruit and sometimes anise.
White and Blue Lotus Tea has a more earthy, and less sweet flavour. Many people claim that it is similar to beetroot (beets). What it has in common with the Indian Lotus tea is that it often has a hint of anise.
Conversely, most of the effects of Blue and White Lotus tea are psychoactive, or mood-altering. They are particularly useful for treating problem anxiety.
All types of Lotus tea can be made with fresh flowers or dried leaves/powder. If you use fresh flowers, make sure that they are washed thoroughly to reduce the risk of catching waterborne disease.
Health benefits of Indian Lotus tea:
- Improved digestion
- Laxative effect
- Lowering blood sugar levels
- Traditionally, said to help treat Cholera
Health benefits of Blue and White Lotus tea:
- Anxiety relief
- Sleeping aid
- Relief from tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease
Are Lotus flowers poisonous?
Indian Lotus flower is widely consumed in salads, soups, teas, and eastern medicines. It is not poisonous.
Blue and White Lotus flowers, on the other hand, are classified as poisonous by the American Food and Drug Association (FDA), which advises against buying or consuming them. This is mainly because they have yet to approve them for human consumption.
In the future, the FDA may either approve Blue and White Lotus flowers for consumption or declare them a controlled substance. The main reason for this would be that they contain two psychoactive substances: Apomorphine and Nuciferine.
These chemicals are loosely referred to as ‘hypnotics’ and are the reason behind the anxiety and insomnia relieving effects of the plants. Their overall effect is to induce sleep, though they are sometimes also associated with feelings of euphoria and positivity.
Is Lotus flower a drug?
Lotus flower is not technically a drug. Nonetheless, Blue and White Lotus flowers do contain psychoactive alkaloids, and may have the potential for abuse. So far, they have not been declared a prohibited substance, except for in the State of Louisiana. For now, many people consume them for their medicinal benefits, and feel that it is safe to do so.
As with any herbal supplement, it is always advised to seek medical advice if you are unsure.
What happens if you eat a Lotus flower in real life?
If you eat an Indian Lotus flower, nothing will happen to you as far as poisoning goes. You will be completely fine, and you may in fact gain some health benefits. In eastern cultures, Indian Lotus has long been recognised as a healthy food and the flower is widely regarded as having benefits for bowel health.
Conversely, if you eat a Blue or White Lotus flower, you could suffer ill effects. Although people have been consuming them for centuries, there is still limited scientific data on how poisonous – or not- they may be.
As a general rule, it is best to only consume plant products that are deemed safe by a regulatory body, such as the FDA. Check with your doctor before using anything that is not yet labelled for human consumption.
It isn’t just the flowers of Lotus that can be eaten. The root is also widely favoured as a starch-based food ingredient. Another aspect in their favour is that they are high in fibre and many vitamins.
The roots and stems of Indian lotus are more correctly referred to as Rhizomes. They anchor the plant to the floor of the pond or river that it grows in. In China, Sri Lanka, India, and Japan these rhizomes are a popular vegetable, and can be bought in any supermarket, either fresh or canned.
In India in particular, they are a popular ingredient in curries. Texture wise, Lotus root is similar to potato. It can also be made into flour for baking, which is gluten-free and has a low glycaemic index.
The roots of Blue and White Lotus are no longer harvested or eaten, and little is known about their potential as a food.
Can Lotus stem be eaten?
Most uses for Lotus involve the flower or the root (rhizome). That said, Lotus stems can also be added to recipes, from salads to curries. Asides from a subtle, earthy flavour, the stems have some incredible health benefits. They are exceedingly high in vitamin C, and contain essential minerals such as magnesium, copper, and iron.
In traditional medicine, Indian Lotus stem is said to have similar benefits to the flowers. Namely, to help digestion and lower blood pressure.
Though more research is needed, it is now known that the leaves and roots of Lotus are rich in antioxidants, so it is possible that these are found in good concentrations in the stem as well.
Infographic: Infographic: Lotus Flowers and their uses
Other uses of Lotus flower
On the most important uses for Lotus flowers is decorative. Even if you never want to eat them, they certainly make a statement in an ornamental pond. As long as your climate is reasonably mild, Lotuses will become perennial and flower regularly.
The Blue Lotus in particular is very striking, as there aren’t many blue or baby blue flowers that grow in water. Aquatic pink flowers, as you see on the Indian Lotus are also uncommon and very attractive.