THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF THE MYSTERIOUS NYMPHAEA: PART I

Blue Lotus

The blue lotus, (botanical name, Nymphaea caerulea) is a plant shrouded in three millennia of hazy mystery and equal controversy befitting such an intriguing subject. Through years of it’s being venerated and memorialized in art and architecture as much seems to have been hidden as revealed. Like the glorious golden globe, concealed by the field of blue petals  until dawn’s light awakens it to seeming life to beam along with the sun. It’s unique role in the development of medicine, religion and culture wasn’t even begun to be fully unveiled until the 1800’s. It is perhaps here that the beginnings of at least the modern academic controversy hearken back.

lotus

Even it’s nomenclature is at times confused or in dispute. the blue lotus, is in fact, a stylized lily. It’s official name in Latin,  Nymphaea Caerulea, in fact is part of our origin of the word cerulean. Indigo and several other hues of blue may have began in the form of adjectives in Proto-Indo-European. The word indigo, for instance hearkens from “nila” which meant blue (as in the color of the Nile).

The irrigation of the Nile and the early botanical marvel that was stylizing the white lily into the blue lotus are perfect symbols of the growth of civilization out of wilderness. The white lily was an unscented aquatic flower that opened and night and closed at dawn. Early Egyptian botanists were able to, from it’s literal roots create a blue-petaled flower which a strong, sweetly pungent scent that opened it’s blue petals at dawn to expose a yellow center (symbolizing the sun arising from the blue field of the sky daily).

White lily had already been an important plant to the Egyptians and continued to be featured in paintings, but the introduction of the blue lotus began the veneration of a plant that would spread in the years to come from continent to continent, whose mystery over the years would only seem to increase as more puzzle pieces are discovered. Originally, it was assumed the blue lotus was merely an ornamental flower. Egyptians with blue flowers pressed to their mouths and noses was a common sight in many ancient Egyptian portrayals of daily life, history or in religious stelae (slabs of wood or stone used to house  portrayals of things of religious and or historical importance).

Despite the fact that herbalists from as far back as the early document of medicinal history, the Ebers papyrus were using Blue lotus as an addition to recipes there has been heated debate as to whether or not the flower was merely used as ornaments. Up until the mid-1800’s (before George Moritz Ebers discovered the papyrus named after him in Luxor) blue lotus had been considered a mere ornament and any pharmacological use of the plant was considered ridiculous but evidence since then points more and more to the plant being a focal point to the development of religion, culture and yes, even a symbol of the rise of early civilization. From hunters and gatherers we became masters of our environment with basic technologies like irrigation and botany, evidenced in the breeding of these beautiful hybrid flowers that could also be used as medicine. In short, a vitally important step out of the darkness of pre-history.

The blue lotus’ importance to historical and cultural development, religion and medicine wouldn’t end in the sandy shores of the Nile. Nymphaea’s precious nature would prove to continue to play an important role in cultural development, trade and the art of multiple civilizations from it’s mention in Homer’s Odyssey in the portion on the island of the Lotus eaters and it’s resurgence in art of the 19th century when Ebers, Blavatsky and others sparked an interest in this mysteriously, exotic flower.

In our next chapter of the blue lotus saga we’ll continue along in Egypt and learn about the roots of this amazing flower that captivated revenants across the globe in it’s time.

Interview with Jane Babb and PhD, Esq. regarding Kratom

I spoke with Dr. Jane Babin, molecular biologist and patent lawyer, regarding Mitragyna speciosa, better known as kratom. Kratom is a plant in the Rubiacea family, making it a botanical cousin of the coffee plant. It has been used safely as a folk medicine for hundreds of years in its native South East Asia. Recently as it has grown more popular among users around the globe it has come under fire of both the DEA and FDA. Luckily, despite the concerted attempts of these regulatory agencies, there are a host of brilliant minds in the field of science, law, forensic toxicology, pharmacology and other areas who believe that kratom is a beneficial plant with multiple medicinal and health benefits. Dr. Babin offers her expert opinion on whether or not kratom is actually an opioid, what potential risks there may be and how they weigh against other legal substances.

war on kratom

Interview with Dr. Jane K. Babin, Ph.D, Esq. Regarding the War on Kratom

The FDA is currently waging an all-out war on kratom. A year out from the historic win against the DEA’s attempted extra-judicial ban of the South East Asian plant, the FDA seems intent on picking up where DEA left off. Despite the concerted effort of regulatory agencies like the FDA, there are a number of extraordinarily brilliant experts who support the use of kratom and its continued availability for those who can benefit from it.

Recently, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta went so far as to posit that kratom could be vital in combatting the opiate epidemic. Addiction expert and Johns Hopkins University professor, Dr. Jack Henningfield is yet another authority who has made an analytical defense of kratom’s safety. I had a chance recently to contact Dr. Jane Babin. Dr. Babin has a double doctorate in law and molecular biology and has spent 20 years as a patent lawyer in the bio-tech field. Since the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced stricter guidelines related to opiate and opioid prescription, Dr. Babin became interested in kratom as an alternative.

Last year she wrote an impassioned and impeccably researched defense of kratom addressed to the DEA. More recently, she was involved in writing up a report debunking two recent deaths supposedly attributed to kratom. The FDA is now claiming 36 deaths due to kratom. This is up from the previously debunked figure of 15 deaths. However, the FDA is somewhat reticent in sharing their data. When a Reuters reporter requested more information about the supposed 36 deaths, the FDA referred them to the Freedom of Information Act.

One of Dr. Babin’s concerns related to the attribution of death to kratom is the fact that so many other things are overlooked. In one of the last two cases, there were multiple exacerbating situations that could have singularly led to death. Taken together, a contraindicated drug combination and other conditions were likely to result in death, but since kratom was found in the coroner’s report kratom was assumed the culprit. That’s the equivalent of finding a heroin addict dead, needle still hanging from a vein and glass of lemonade in the other hand. At this point would you be prepared to assume the lethality of lemonade?

Kratom does not possess many of the dangers of traditional opiates and opioids that make them such a public health concern. Addictive potential is comparable to coffee and no respiratory depression or toxicity dangers have been currently noted. Dr. Babin wants to make sure we don’t “throw the baby out with the bathwater, which would potentially take away what is, by all accounts, very safe.”

As for addictive and dangerous, sugar kills millions and caffeine was the subject of a recent research study that analyzed 50 recent deaths due to caffeine overdose. Bacon has been shown to be addictive and the more you eat, the more you crave. Meanwhile, kratom is in possession of multiple health benefits.

Dr. Babin reviewed and endorsed Dr. Henningfield’s 8-factor analysis of kratom which ruled the plant as having a low addictive potential and favorable safety profile especially in comparison with opiates and opioids currently in use. Dr. Babin has previously taken the DEA and FDA to task for relying on contradictory opinions and ignoring some of the current scientific findings.

You literally created the opiate epidemic then want to take away a plant that HELPS with it? And we are supposed to believe the FDA has our best interest at heart. Still waiting on your 8 factor and proof of those alleged 36 deaths by the way. #kratom— Nina (@Neenahh1) November 14, 2017

At this point, Dr. Babin is advocating for kratom’s approval as a dietary supplement. This may not be easy or inexpensive though, but could still be our best bet. “With the caveat that there is a lot of opposition to it. It’s something they don’t want to approve no matter how safe it’s proven to be.”

Cooperation between vendors, importers and advocacy groups like American Kratom Association and Botanical Education Alliance is something that may be helpful at this point.

“There should be standardization across the industry and cooperation amongst vendors and importers,” Dr. Babin urges.