COMMON NAMES: Blue Lotus Flower, Blaue Lotusblume, Lotus (Roman), Nymphaea (Roman), Ssn (Egyptian), Utpala (Sanskrit), Blue Water Lily, Egyptian Lotus, Sacred Lily of the Nile, Nenuphar Bleu de Ciel, Djaberi Djongel
One of the most important ritual plants of ancient Egypt, the blue lily flower grows wild in ponds and the lowlands of the Nile, and was planted in natural and man-made bodies of water. The flowers are highly valued for their exquisite beauty, their intoxicating lilac-like scent, their symbolism, and their inebriating effects. The plant has dark to sky blue flowers, sometimes tinted with purple, that sit on long stems four to five feet above the water’s surface. The long-stemmed, floating leaves are round. Blue lily is only found in the Nile delta, the wetlands along the Nile, and, less frequently, Palestine. Today, the plant has almost completely disappeared from around the Nile and is seriously endangered. The plant may be propagated by placing pieces of the rhizome (or roots), in still bodies of water (Ratsch 1998, 399).
The identity of plants known as ‘blue lily’ can be confusing at times. Nymphaea caerulea is often confused with Nelumbo nucifera, the Blue Lotus, but these two plants are from completely different genera. N. caerulea is sometimes referred to as Blue Lotus as well, but for the sake of clarity, we will refer to the plant as Blue Lily in the context of this article.
So, to clarify, Nymphaea caerulea is a water plant that grows on the shores of lakes and rivers. It creates a feeling of well being, euphoria and ecstasy when consumed. Agapanthus africanus (also called Blue Lily, but containing no medicinal or psychoactive properties) is a drought tolerant plant which is commonly used in landscaping in the Americas. Nelumbo nucifera is the famed plant of the “Lotus Eaters” spoken of in The Odyssey, and is a revered and sacred plant, still used today in meditation practice in Tibet.
TRADITIONAL USES: The Sacred Blue Lily of the Nile was found scattered over Tutankhamen’s body when the Pharaoh’s tomb was opened in 1922. Many historians thought it was a purely symbolic flower, but there is mounting evidence that suggests that ancient Egyptians used the plant to induce ecstatic states, stimulation, and visions, as well as as a medicine (Voogelbreinder 2009, 247).
Azru is an Egyptian mummy who was donated to the Manchester Museum in England, in 1825. Living on the Nile in 2700 B.C., Azru was royalty – a noblewoman of Thebes, later called Luxor (a former capital of Egypt), and a chantress for Khonsu, the moon god. The main temple at Karnak is dedicated to him. Three times a day, Azru came bearing food as well as wine fortified with Nymphaea caerulea tincture; she fetched garments for the gods, the priests, and the Pharaoh; and she danced and sang for the royal court. She had wealth and her own home with servants, where she stayed until summoned to the temple. Her mummy was the first to undergo mass spectroscopy. There was no evidence of any narcotics or painkillers in her body. But researchers did find phytosterols, bioflavonoids, and phosphodiastrates, all compounds found in Nymphaea caerulea (Schuster 2001).
There is evidence to suggest that Egypt was a very sexually oriented society based on their pictures, writings, and religious beliefs. This evidence also suggests that Blue Lily was traditionally and effectively used to relieve pain, increase memory, improve circulation, promote sexual desire and create a feeling of euphoria and ecstasy without the use of narcotics. It is Nymphaea caerulea which was used in ancient Egypt as an essential key to good health, great sex, and rebirth. Because of the mythological, astral, representational and artistic significance of the water lily, it has been suggested that the elite priesthood of ancient Egypt used the blue lily for its narcotic effects to produce a state of shamanic ecstasy (Ratsch 1998, 398-399).
The blue lily was well represented in ancient Egyptian art and lore; for example, a portrait of Tutankhamen shows his head emerging from a blue lily flower. In one variation of the ancient Egyptian story of Horus (the god of light) and Seth (the god of chaos), the lily flower appears as a symbol of the divine, all-seeing eye. Seth rips out Horus’ left eye and buries it in the sand, whereupon it is transformed into a lily flower (Emboden 1989).
Ancient Egyptian women wore blue lily buds and flowers as fashionable head and hair adornments. Traditionally, both the living and the dead were bedecked with garlands made from the plant. The garlands in the grave of Pharaoh Ramses II were made almost entirely of blue lily leaves. The flower was first cited in the Egyptian Book of the Dead as follows: “[It is] that lily flower which shines in the earth.” Another incantation from the same text mentions the desire of Ani to “transform himself into the sacred blue water lily so that his body might have new birth and ascend daily into heaven” (Dassow 1994).
Since the blue lily is often portrayed in ancient art and hieroglyphics alongside mandrake (Mandraga officinarum) and poppy flowers (Papaver somniferum), it is possible that these images represent an iconographic recipe – a psychoactive ritual drink consisting of lily buds, mandrake fruits, and poppy capsules has been suggested by academics and researchers. Nymphaea caerulea was recently identified as the “Tree of Life” that is found in much of the mythology and artwork of the Middle East, and it has also been proposed as a potential identity for the sacred Soma of the Aryans (Emboden 1989).
TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: To this day blue lily is used as a tonic for good health. It may be consumed as an extract in doses of 6-12 drops. 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of extract may be taken in juice or wine, 1 to 3 times daily.
Fresh Nymphaea caerulea flowers are made into a tea or soaked in wine, then consumed, followed by a cigarette made of the dried plant material. The buds and flowers are the psychoactive parts of the plant. Details are speculative and difficult to come by, but a noted, ancient method to extract the psychoactive properties from the blue lily is to boil six buds or flowers that have already opened and closed again in water. The flowers are squeezed in a linen cloth so that the greenish brown juice runs into the water (Ratsch 1998, 399). The psychoactive extract that results is said to create a feeling of well being, euphoria and ecstasy. Details are speculative and difficult to come by, as this is a plant that deserves to be researched a great deal more than it has been.
One report recommends using seven grams of flowers in one bottle of wine. One gram of flowers may also be soaked in a cup of cranberry juice. Smokeable extracts of the flowers have similar effects to liquid extracts (Voogelbreinder 2009, 247).
MEDICINAL USES: In ancient Egypt, water lily preparations were taken to treat the liver, relieve constipation, neutralize poison, and regulate the urinary system. The petals were applied both externally and internally, often in the form of enemas (Ratsch 1998, 399).
In Guinea, an extraction of the flowers is taken as a narcotic, and in Tanganyika the root is consumed along with the root sap of Ipomoea aquatica to treat mental illness. The plant is consumed in Zimbabwe to “arouse spirits”. An infusion of the root and stem is diuretic and emollient, and the seeds may help to treat diabetes (Voogelbreinder 2009, 247-248).
TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: Nymphaea caerulea contains apomorphine, a dopamine agonist, as well as nuciferine, nupharine, and nupharidine. The flowers have also yielded a variety of alkaloids, including kaempferol, which has MAOI properties (Voogelbreinder 2009, 247).
There is evidence to suggest that blue lily was historically, traditionally and effectively used to relieve pain, increase memory, increase circulation, promote sexual desire and create a feeling of euphoria and ecstasy. Ancient Egypt was a highly sexually-charged society, as one can understand from pictures, writings and religious concepts. Blue lily was used as a tonic much like ginseng, as a pain reliever akin to arnica, as a circulation stimulant richer than Ginkgo biloba, and as a sexual stimulant more powerful than Viagra.
When consumed as a wine infusion, 3-10 unopened Nymphaea caerulea flowers have aphrodisiac, narcotic, euphoric and antitussive effects. The effects are also sometimes considered empathogenic (Voogelbreinder 2009, 247).
Dassow, E., ed. The Egyptian Book of the Dead. San Fransisco: Chronicle Books, 1994.
Emboden, W. “The Sacred Journey in Dynastic Egypt: Shamanistic Trance in the Context of the Narcotic Water Lily and the Mandrake.” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 21, no. 1 (1989): 61–75.
Ratsch, Christian., The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and its Applications. Rochester: Park Street Press, 1998.
Voogelbreinder, Snu, Garden of Eden: The Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Flora and Fauna, and the Study of Consciousness. Snu Voogelbreinder, 2009.