Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2021 Nov 30:1-34. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2021.2009436. Online ahead of print.
Different parts of lotus (Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn.) including the seeds, rhizomes, leaves, and flowers, are used for medicinal purposes with health promoting and illness preventing benefits. The presence of active chemicals such as alkaloids, phenolic acids, flavonoids, and terpenoids (particularly alkaloids) may account for this plant’s pharmacological effects. In this review, we provide a comprehensive overview and summarize up-to-date research on the biosynthesis, pharmacokinetics, and bioactivity of lotus alkaloids as well as their safety. Moreover, the potential uses of lotus alkaloids in the food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic sectors are explored. Current evidence shows that alkaloids, mainly consisting of aporphines, 1-benzylisoquinolines, and bisbenzylisoquinolines, are present in different parts of lotus. The bioavailability of these alkaloids is relatively low in vivo but can be enhanced by technological modification using nanoliposomes, liposomes, microcapsules, and emulsions. Available data highlights their therapeutic and preventive effects on obesity, diabetes, neurodegeneration, cancer, cardiovascular disease, etc. Additionally, industrial applications of lotus alkaloids include their use as food, medical, and cosmetic ingredients in tea, other beverages, and healthcare products; as lipid-lowering, anticancer, and antipsychotic drugs; and in facial masks, toothpastes, and shower gels. However, their clinical efficacy and safety remains unclear; hence, larger and longer human trials are needed to achieve their safe and effective use with minimal side effects.