Ahh…this is probably the top product question we receive here at the shop. Before I offer my explanation, I want to let you know that the information I am presenting is from several reliable sources; one of them the premier authority on Blue Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) and Blue Lily (Nymphaea caerulea).
More often than not, this is the most common error: People referring to Blue Lily (also known as the Sacred Lily of the Nile or “Water Lily”), have mistakenly called it a Blue Lotus instead. Countless depictions of the floral symbol of Upper Egypt is, without question, a Nymphaea caerulea plant, and NOT a Blue Lotus plant, although both plants are in the lily family. Water Lily’s (Nymphaea caerulea) have a very distinct petal pattern, which is longer and thinner than Lotus petals.
See the long, narrow petals of the Blue Lily here…
Where Blue Lotus petals tend to be “plump” in appearance…
The Blue Lily, along with the papyrus flower, was clearly shown throughout Egypt in tombs and temples to symbolize the union of Upper and Lower Egypt. This sacred plant has often been thought, by many scholars, to be one of the ingredients of the mysterious visionary drink called Soma. (There are several books devoted to this line of thinking; just check our bookstore for several titles.)
In terms of active alkaloids that each of these plants possess, they have very similar nuciferine content. In Egypt, this is why Blue Lily was extracted into wine; it provided a euphoria for the royalty to enjoy, and it was even thought to possess magical powers of insight and depth of understanding.
This was true, as well, of the infamous LOTUS EATERS, found in many stories, and made famous in Odyssey by Homer. We all know the Cyclops and the Sirens, but in a chapter that is rarely spoken of and certainly not taught in schools, is the chapter in the myth of Odysseus where he visits the Land of the Lotus eaters. It’s actually one of the first stopping off points of the voyage after leaving Troy. On arriving at the island, Odysseus sends some of his sailors to investigate the place. They find a land where the inhabitants are fond of ingesting a plant called the Lotus. The result of eating this strange plant is that the lotus eaters are put into a kind of sleepy euphoric state. When Odysseus’s sailors eat the Lotus, they succumb to the plants power as well, and do not want to leave the island. Odysseus has to free his sailors from the lure of the lotus plant, so the can set sail for the next destination.
So, the Blue Lotus that is one of the world’s most celebrated flowers, the one in in folklore, religion and the arts in one form or the other, which are found in temperate regions of Asia, Africa, Europe and North America, are actually Blue Lily, and NOT Blue Lotus. Any plant that has “Nelumbo” as part of its name is a LOTUS, and any plant that as “Nucifera” as part of its name is a lily.
Later, Buddhism borrowed the flower from Hinduism, but their plant looks far more like a Lotus than it does a Water Lily, like those of the Nile. In Buddhist painting and sculpture, whenever Buddha is shown delivering an important sermon, he is shown sitting on a lotus pedestal. Buddhist scriptures enumerate fragrance, purity, delicateness and beauty as the attributes of lotus. The 2nd image above looks far more like the traditional Lily of Buddhism than the 1st image above, from Egyptian times.
There is still much confusion about these plants, even in literature, historical documents, and even encyclopedias! – Know that it is your connection to the plant that matters most, because both are from a similar family of flora, and both contain almost the same amount of alkaloids, although Blue Lotus flowers have consistently shown, in our independent tests, to have slightly higher levels more often.