Water Lilly (English)

Nymphaea sp. (Nymphaeaceae)

Characteristics

Water lilies are aquatic, rhizomatous, perennial herbs. Leaves grow from the rhizome on long petioles. Most of the leaves float on the surface of the water. Flowers are pollinated by insects, often beetles. Plant reproduce by root tubers and seeds.

Distribution

The genus has a cosmopolitan distribution. Many species are cultivated as ornamental plants and many cultivars have been bred.

Natural Medical Properties

The Water Lilly has a long history of traditional medicinal use and modern research has shown the presence of several medically active compounds in the plant.
The alkaloid nymphaeum is found in all parts of the plant, other than the seed, whilst coclaurine has been found in the leaves and stem.
The plant contains several flavonoids such as kaempferols, quercetins and myricetins – these are found especially in the flowers.
The plant also contains a glycoside, nymphalid, which has a digitalis-like action upon the heart.
Alcoholic extracts of the rhizome, containing the alkaloid nymphaeum, have a mild sedative and spasmolytic action. They do not significantly depress the heart; in large doses though, they have a paralysing effect on the medulla.
The rhizomes are astringent, demulcent, diuretic, emollient and tonic.
A decoction is given in the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery, stomach-ache, colic and dyspepsia.
An infusion of the fresh rhizomes is used for treating blennorrhagia and infections of the urinary tract.
The powdered rhizome is used as a demulcent for treating piles.
The slightly bitter juice of the leaves and petioles is used in the treatment of gonorrhoea.
The juice possesses mildly narcotic properties and is rubbed on the forehead and temples to produce sleep.
The juice from the leaves, or the macerated leaves, are an ingredient of a lotion applied to the skin for fever.The flowers are taken as a cardiotonic because of their astringent properties.

Did you know?

Water lilies are not only decorative but also provide useful shade which helps reduce the growth of algae in ponds and lakes.

Water lilies have several edible parts. The young leaves and unopened flower buds can be boiled and served as a vegetable.

Further reading:

Literature

World Flora Online
WorldChecklist of Selected Plant Families
A working list of all plant species