Lotus leaf is a flowering aquatic perennial that grows widely throughout tropical regions of Asia and the Middle East. The pale green leaves are flat and broad, reaching up to 18 inches in diameter. The leaves are usually collected in the summer and autumn and dried before being cut into small pieces, powdered or processed into pills. Lotus leaves are touted to be useful in treating a variety of conditions, including heavy bleeding, diarrhea and muscle spasms.
The lotus has historically played an important role in both the religion and medicine of many cultures. According to Plant Cultures, the lotus "has been held sacred in Asia and the Middle East for over 5,000 years." Texts from India dated to the 11th and 12th centuries discuss meals that feature lotus leaves. The resilient plant was considered a symbol of immortality for the ancient Egyptians who also made use of it in their diet.
The long history and varied claims have led to extensive research on the potential use of lotus leaf. According to a study in "Nutrition & Metabolism," lotus leaf extract, when combined with L-carnitine, "might represent a treatment option for obesity-related diseases." The mixture was shown to prevent adipogenesis, the formation of fatty tissue. Research conducted by Japanese scientists had similar results. The study monitored the effects of lotus leaf extract on obese mice for five weeks. The results showed that lotus leaf slowed the absorption of fat and carbohydrates, increased energy expenditure and accelerated lipid metabolism. Lotus leaf also prevented the increase of body weight.
Lotus leaves contain high concentrations of phytochemicals, compounds produced by plants to defend themselves against bacterial and fungal infections. The substances found in lotus leaf extract include alkaloids, flavonoids and tannins. The isoquinoline alkaloids in lotus leaves have sedative and antispasmodic properties, which may aid in digestion. Both flavonoids and tannins are powerful antioxidants that have been connected with weight loss and cardiovascular health.
Dried lotus leaf can be used in preparing a meal, though it has a bitter flavor. The leaves can also be brewed into a tea. Lotus leaf is also available in capsule and pill form, which can be taken as an alternative to the bitter leaves.
There is a lack of research regarding the effects of lotus leaf in pregnant women and it should be avoided. Lotus leaf may cause gastrointestinal irritation. Lotus leaf may increase the risk of bleeding and should not be used in conjunction with blood thinners, including aspirin. Consult your doctor before beginning treatment.