Blue lotus (Nymphaea caerulea), also known as blue Egyptian lotus or blue water lily, is an aquatic plant that mostly grows in Egypt and certain parts of Asia. It contains two alkaloids (apomorphine and nuciferine) that stimulate dopamine receptors (which affect movements, rewards, and emotions in the brain). Some historians have described the use of the blue lotus flower by ancient Egyptians during rituals to achieve a sense of euphoria due to its ability to produce feelings of happiness and calmness. Anecdotal evidence suggests blue lotus has a psychoactive effect similar to a “high” from cannabis.

Blue lotus is on the DoD Prohibited Dietary Supplement Ingredients list.

Blue lotus is currently not approved for human consumption in the United States, nor is it regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, it is not currently listed as a controlled substance, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), so it can be sold legally in most states.

In states where it is legal, it can be purchased in the form of dried plant material, as a tea or beverage, in extracts for use in electronic cigarettes or vaping devices, and in dietary supplement products. It is marketed for a variety of health benefits, such as improved sleep, anxiety relief, improved sexual performance, and antioxidant activity. However, no reliable scientific evidence supports the safety or effectiveness of this plant in any form for any specific purpose in humans.

Can blue lotus negatively affect your health and performance?

Blue lotus has been reported to cause hallucinations and euphoria when used as a liquid in vaping devices or when the dried flower is infused in alcohol. Several active-duty Service Members have reported to an emergency room with symptoms of paranoia, anxiety, slurred speech, decreased responsiveness, “bizarre behavior,” chest pain, rapid heartbeat, and even seizure after using blue lotus.

Can Service Members and other DoD personnel use blue lotus?

Blue lotus is on the DoD Prohibited Dietary Supplement Ingredients list, which means it is prohibited for use by Service Members and other DoD personnel. In addition, blue lotus plant material has been reported to be commonly laced with synthetic cannabinoids, which are controlled substances and would show up on a drug test.

Bottom line

Blue lotus is promoted for a variety of health benefits and is readily available in many forms. However, it is currently not approved for human use and could cause serious side effects. In addition, no reliable scientific evidence supports any of the marketed benefits. Blue lotus is prohibited for use by Service Members and other DoD personnel.

 

Posted 24 January 2023

References

Bertol, E., Fineschi, V., Karch, S. B., Mari, F., & Riezzo, I. (2017). Nymphaea cults in ancient Egypt and the New World: A lesson in empirical pharmacology. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 97(2), 84–85. doi:10.1177/014107680409700214

Coleman, D. (2010). New order bands ‘designer’ drugs. Retrieved 19 January 2023 from https://www.dvidshub.net/news/62419/new-order-bans-designer-drugs

Commanding General, U. (2013). Marine Corps Installations East Bulletin 5800, Prohibited Substances. (MCIEASTBul 5800). U. S. Marine Corps. Retrieved 19 January 2023 from https://www.mcieast.marines.mil/Portals/33/Documents/Adjutant/Bulletins/MCIEASTBUL/MCIEASTBul%205800%20CANC%20FEB%2013.pdf.

Corazza, O., Martinotti, G., Santacroce, R., Chillemi, E., Di Giannantonio, M., Schifano, F., & Cellek, S. (2014). Sexual enhancement products for sale online: Raising awareness of the psychoactive effects of yohimbine, maca, horny goat weed, and Ginkgo biloba. BioMed Research International, 2014, article 841798. doi:10.1155/2014/841798

Fattore, L., & Fratta, W. (2011). Beyond THC: The new generation of cannabinoid designer drugs. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 5(article 60). doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2011.00060

Kesselring, J. R. (2021). Blue lotus flower. U. S. Army, Army.mil. Retrieved 19 January 2023 from: https://home.army.mil/wiesbaden/application/files/7016/4336/9082/Blue_Lotus_IP.pdf

Louisiana State Legislature. (2011). 2011 Louisiana Laws Revised Statutes TITLE 40 — Public health and safety RS 40:989.2 — Unlawful production, manufacturing, distribution, or possession of prohibited plant products. legis.la.gov: Louisiana State Legislature. Retrieved 19 January 2023 from http://legis.la.gov/legis/Law.aspx?d=726196.

McDonald, J. (2018). Influences of Egyptian lotus symbolism and ritualistic practices on sacral tree worship in the Fertile Crescent from 1500 BCE to 200 CE. Religions, 9(9). doi:10.3390/rel9090256

Office of Fort Meade Staff Judge Advocate. (2012). Army prohibits use of marijuana substitutes.   Retrieved 19 January 2023 from https://www.army.mil/article/83415/army_prohibits_use_of_marijuana_substitutes

Officer, L., Moss, J., & Brock, M. (2021). Blue lotus-induced seizures in active duty soldier.   Retrieved 19 January 2021 from https://www.aesnet.org/abstractslisting/blue-lotus-induced-seizures-in-active-duty-soldier

Peace, M. R., Smith, M. E., & Poklis, J. L. (2020). The analysis of commercially available natural products recommended for use in electronic cigarettes. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, 34(11), article e8771. doi:10.1002/rcm.8771

Poklis, J. L., Mulder, H. A., Halquist, M. S., Wolf, C. E., Poklis, A., & Peace, M. R. (2017). The blue lotus flower (Nymphea caerulea) resin used in a new type of electronic cigarette, the re-buildable dripping atomizer. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 49(3), 175–181. doi:10.1080/02791072.2017.1290304

Polom, C. D. (2010). Marine Corps prohibits legal substances. Retrieved 19 January 2023 from https://www.cherrypoint.marines.mil/News/Article/524742/marine-corps-prohibits-legal-substances

Powell, A. (2010). MCO lists banned substances. Retrieved 19 January 2023 from https://www.albany.marines.mil/News/News-Article-Display/Article/508199/mco-lists-banned-substances

Schimpf, M., Ulmer, T., Hiller, H., & Barbuto, A. F. (2021). Toxicity from blue lotus (Nymphaea caerulea) after ingestion or inhalation: A case series. Military Medicine, online(4 August), article usab328. doi:10.1093/milmed/usab328

Secretary of the Navy. (2005a). SECNAV Instrucation 5300.38D - Military substance abuse prevention and control. (SECNAVINST 5300.28D). Department of the Navy, Office of the Secretary. Retrieved 19 January 2023 from https://www.mcasyuma.marines.mil/Portals/152/Docs/Legal/5300.28D.pdf.

Secretary of the Navy. (2005b). SECNAV Instrutions 5300.28D - Military Substance Abuse Prevention and Control. (SECNAVINST 5300.28D). Department of the Navy, Office of the Secretary. Retrieved 19 January 2023 from https://www.mcasyuma.marines.mil/Portals/152/Docs/Legal/5300.28D.pdf.