Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) is an aquatic plant cultivated in Asia.
It has culinary uses in many Asian countries, and parts of the plant and its extracts have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years.
Today, research continues to explore its possible benefits. For example, some compounds in lotus may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects (1).
Here are 5 possible benefits of lotus, plus precautions to consider.
Lotus is scientifically known as Nelumbo nucifera. It’s also called sacred lotus and Indian lotus.
It’s cultivated in many parts of the world but especially in Asia, including India and Southeast Asia. It grows in water and is often confused with water lilies, featuring a bowl shape with petals and green leaves. Its flowers can be white, pink, red, or blue.
Lotus flowers are popular ornamental plants in Asia. They symbolize longevity, purity, and beauty in Buddhism and Hinduism, giving background to the nickname sacred lotus (
Additionally, its stems, seeds, leaves, and flowers have long been used in traditional medicine preparations. Lotus was used to treat diarrhea, infection, cough, high blood pressure, and fever, among other ailments (1,
Lotus is available in many preparations, including dried root, teas, powders, capsules, and extracts.
Today, it’s studied for its possible health benefits. Researchers are particularly interested in the plethora of beneficial compounds found in the plant, including flavonoids and alkaloids (4).
Lotus is an aquatic plant mainly cultivated in Asia. It’s used as a food, ornamental plant, and traditional medicine.
The lotus plant contains many flavonoid and alkaloid compounds that may act as antioxidants (4).
Antioxidants help neutralize reactive molecules known as free radicals. If free radicals build up in your body, they can cause oxidative stress, which damages cells and contributes to disease development (
Some of the antioxidant compounds in lotus include kaempferol, catechin, chlorogenic acid, and quercetin. The antioxidant activity of lotus appears to be most concentrated in its seeds and leaves (
While there’s limited research on the human health effects of consuming lotus, it’s thought that these antioxidant compounds might protect against diseases that stem from oxidative stress.
One test-tube study found that the leaves, petals, and stamen — the pollen-producing part of the plant — had strong antioxidant activity and inhibited enzymes involved in Alzheimer’s disease (
Still, more human studies on the antioxidant and disease-preventing effects of lotus are needed to better understand its potential benefits.
Many parts of the lotus plant are loaded with antioxidants. Some studies suggest that these compounds can protect against diseases associated with oxidative stress, but more human research is needed.
The compounds in lotus may also have anti-inflammatory properties.
Chronic inflammation can result from a long-term infection, exposure to harmful substances, a poor diet, smoking, and a lack of exercise. Over time, inflammation can damage tissues and contribute to diseases like clogged arteries and heart disease, cancers, and diabetes (
Studies show that some of the compounds in lotus, like quercetin and catechin, may help prevent or mitigate these inflammatory pathways (
Extracts from both the leaves and seeds of lotus may exhibit these anti-inflammatory properties (14).
One test-tube study found that lotus leaf extracts could inhibit pro-inflammatory compounds, including tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interleukin 6 (IL-6), nitric oxide (NO), and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) (
Another test-tube study using mouse cells found that both lotus seed and leaf extracts decreased the expression of pro-inflammatory genes (14).
While these results suggest that parts of the lotus plant help fight inflammation, studies in humans are needed.
Compounds in lotus leaves and seeds have been shown to suppress inflammatory processes. However, it remains unknown whether they would exert this effect in humans.
Lotus has been studied for its antibacterial effects, including against bacteria in your mouth.
How lotus exhibits antibacterial properties is not clear, but the many beneficial compounds it contains likely play a role.
Studies suggest that lotus leaf extract can fight bacterial species that cause cavities and gum infections. Thus, it has potential as an ingredient in toothpaste and other oral hygiene products (
However, it’s important to note that these studies were conducted in test tubes. Research in humans is needed to better understand the potential of using lotus to treat oral infections.
Extracts from lotus seed pods and leaves have antimicrobial effects against bacteria, including some that can cause dental issues. Still, it’s unclear whether they’d exert these properties in humans.
Animal studies suggest that compounds in lotus could help lower blood sugar levels. High blood sugar can be common in individuals with diabetes and lead to complications.
One study found that lotus leaf extract reduced blood sugar levels in rabbits with diabetes significantly more than a standard diabetes medication (17).
Another study showed that mice who received lotus seed extract experienced reduced blood sugar levels (
Although it remains unclear, it’s speculated that the anti-diabetes effects of lotus extracts could stem from the antioxidants they contain (
Keep in mind that, like most of the research on lotus, more human studies are needed when it comes to the plant’s effect on blood sugar.
Animal studies promisingly suggest that lotus extracts may help lower blood sugar. As such, it has potential for diabetes management, although more research, especially in humans, is warranted.
Given lotus’ possible health benefits, you can add it to many of your recipes to boost their nutritional content.
In many cases, adding lotus to foods can transform them from normal to functional foods, which are those that contain ingredients with positive health effects.
For example, scientists have tried adding lotus stem powder to sausages to boost the fiber and antioxidant content without decreasing quality or acceptance (
Similarly, lotus seed flour has been used in place of wheat in cookies to add health-promoting properties. One study found that cookies made with this flour were well tolerated and had a high level of acceptability among participants (23).
The use of lotus in functional foods continues to be explored.
You can also use fresh lotus in home cooking in dishes like stir-fries and soups.
Lotus is being explored as a possible addition to foods to boost their health benefits. You can also use fresh lotus in home cooking.
There are no standardized dosages for the many preparations of lotus.
Eating lotus in amounts typically used in foods, such as when lotus root is used in Asian dishes, is generally considered safe.
Dosages for lotus powders, capsules, and extracts vary widely. Recommendations range from 1–2 grams of lotus capsules to up to 15 grams of lotus root powder per day.
There’s also a lack of research on the safety of lotus preparations. Be sure to consult your healthcare professional before trying any lotus supplements. If you take medications, ask about possible interactions.
Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid taking lotus supplements, as its possible side effects in these populations remain unknown.
Using lotus in cooking is considered safe, but there’s limited information about the safety of other lotus preparations and supplements. Consult a healthcare professional before trying lotus, and avoid lotus supplements if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
The lotus plant has a long history of use in Asian cuisine and traditional medicine.
It contains many compounds that exhibit health benefits, including antioxidant and antibacterial effects. However, more research is needed to better understand how consuming parts of this plant or its supplements may benefit human health.
If you’re curious about trying a lotus supplement, discuss it with a healthcare professional first, as the safety and side effects of doing so remain largely unknown. That said, using lotus in cooking is generally considered safe.
Just one thing
Try this today: Want to try cooking with lotus? If you live in the United States, look for lotus root at Asian markets or online. You can prepare it similarly to other root vegetables, adding it to stir-fries or soups. Simply browse online for a recipe and get cooking.