Lotus leaves

Chinese: 荷叶

Pinyin: Hé Yè

Parts used: Dried leaf

TCM category: Herbs that clear Heat and purge Fire and/or clear Summer Heat

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachLiver

Scientific name: Nelumbo nucifera

Other names: Indian lotus, Sacred lotus, Bean of India, Egyptian bean, Héyè

Use of lotus leaves (Hé Yè) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: The leaf is slightly moistened with water, shredded and dried

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Relieves Summer Heat. Lifts the Spleen Yang. Halts bleeding caused by Heat or Stagnation.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which lotus leaves may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Diarrhea Fever Summer Heat Nosebleed Hematochezia Bloody sputum

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used when there is a Cold Deficiency pattern.

Common TCM formulas in which lotus leaves are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind lotus leaves' properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), lotus leaves are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that clear Heat and purge Fire and/or clear Summer Heat' category. Herbs in this category are used to clear inflammatory and infectious conditions, referred to as 'Internal Heat' in TCM. This is why most of the herbs in this category will have both antibacterial and antiviral properties. In TCM one has too much 'Heat' in their body as a result of a deficiency of 'Yin' (which is Cold in nature, see our explanation on Yin and Yang) or, more commonly, an excess of Yang (Hot in nature). Herbs that clear Heat and purge Fire treat the latter and as such tend to be Cold or Neutral in nature.

As suggested by its category lotus leaves are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that lotus leaves typically don't affect the balance in your body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Eating too many "Hot" (Yang) ingredients can lead to an imbalance whereby one has a Yang excess. The inverse is true as well: too many "Cold" (Yin) ingredients can lead to a Yin excess. The Neutral nature of lotus leaves means that you don't have to worry about that!

Lotus leaves also taste Bitter. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like lotus leaves tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing heat, drying dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such lotus leaves are thought to target the Spleen, the Stomach and the Liver. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, blood coagulation and fluid metabolism in the body. The Stomach on the other hand is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. The Liver is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and body fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on lotus leaves

Some benzylisoquinoline alkaloids and flavonoids were isolated from the leaves of Nelumbo nucifera (Lotus), and identified as anti-HIV principles. These compounds can serve as new leads for further development of anti-AIDS agents.1

The pharmacological mechanism of the anti-obesity effect of Nelumbo nucifera leaves extract (NNE) were investigated on mice and rats. NNE impaired digestion, inhibited absorption of lipids and carbohydrates, accelerated lipid metabolism and up-regulated energy expenditure. Consequently, NNE is beneficial for the suppression of obesity.2

Sources:

1. Y Kashiwada, A Aoshima, Y Ikeshiro, YP Chen et al (2005). "Anti-HIV benzylisoquinoline alkaloids and flavonoids from the leaves of Nelumbo nucifera, and structure–activity correlations with related alkaloids" Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry. Volume 13, Issue 2, Pages 443-448

2. Y Ono, E Hattori, Y Fukaya, S Imai, Y Ohizumi (2006). "Anti-obesity effect of Nelumbo nucifera leaves extract in mice and rats" Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Volume 106, Issue 2, Pages 238-244

Use of lotus leaves as food

Lotus leaves are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Lo Mai Gai (Steamed Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf).