Found growing in the lowland Nile, Nymphaea caerulea is a revered plant that was once used during ritual in ancient Egypt. The lotus would grow wild in ponds and was prized for its beauty, its seductive scent, and their symbolism, as well as for their consciousness altering effects. The sky blue and sometimes purple flowers are day-blooming, and star-shaped with upright pointed petals that grow atop a long stem, sometimes 4-5 feet above the water. It grows along rivers and lakeshores, and its leaves are round and flat, which sit atop the waters surface. At one time, the plant only grew in the wetlands of the Nile delta, with some found in Palestine, however the wild blue lotus has become an endangered species.
When the Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s tomb was opened, they discovered blue lotus flowers had been scattered over his body. Initially, it was thought that these flowers were purely symbolic, however there is a growing body of research that is pointing towards the Egyptians using this Nymphaea caerulea to induce ecstatic states, euphoria, feelings of wellbeing, and for medicine and visions. Some evidence also suggests that N. caerulea had been used to relieve pain, increase memory, promote sexual desire, and to improve circulation, while it was also used in Egypt to enhance sexual desire, and was viewed as an essential key to good health.
The Blue Lotus has also been found in representations of Egyptian art and hieroglyphics. The women would wear the buds in their hair and as adornments.
Traditionally, the flowers extracts were taken as drops. The flowers can also be made into tea or soaked in wine. Smoking the dried flowers was also common practice.
The flowers were used to treat the liver, constipation, to neutralize poison, and to regulate the urinary system. N. caerulea contains the chemical constituent apomorphine, which acts as a dopamine antagonist, as well as nuciferine, nupharine, and nupharidine. The flowers also contain other alkaloids such as kaempherol, which acts as a type of MAOI.