Species: A. indica
Part Used: seeds, leaves, flowers and bark
| PLANT DESCRIPTION |
|Neem products have been observed to be anthelmintic, antifungal, antidiabetic, antibacterial, antiviral, contraceptive and sedative. Neem products are also used in selectively controlling pests in plants.
|Indian scientists were the first scientist to bring the plant to the attention of phytopharmacologists. In 1942, while working at the Scientific and Industrial Research Laboratory at Delhi University, British India, he extracted three bitter compounds from neem oil, which he named nimbin, nimbinin, and nimbidin respectively. The seeds contain a complex secondary metabolite azadirachtin.
In India, the tree is variously known as "Sacred Tree," "Heal All," "Nature's Drugstore," "Village Pharmacy" and "Panacea for all diseases." Products made from neem tree have been used in India for over two millennia for their medicinal properties. It is considered a major component in Ayurvedic and Unani medicine and is particularly prescribed for skin disease.
All parts of the tree are said to have medicinal properties (seeds, leaves, flowers and bark) and are used for preparing many different medical preparations.
Part of the Neem tree can be used as a spermicide.
Neem oil is used for preparing cosmetics (soap, shampoo, balms and creams, for example Margo soap), and is useful for skin care such as acne treatment, and keeping skin elasticity. Neem oil has been found to be an effective mosquito repellent.
Neem derivatives neutralise nearly 500 pests worldwide, including insects, mites, ticks, and nematodes, by affecting their behaviour and physiology. Neem does not normally kill pests right away, rather it repels them and affects their growth. As neem products are cheap and non-toxic to higher animals and most beneficial insects, they are well-suited for pest control in rural areas.
Besides its use in traditional Indian medicine, the neem tree is of great importance for its anti-desertification properties and possibly as a good carbon dioxide sink.
Practitioners of traditional Indian medicine recommend that patients suffering from chicken pox sleep on neem leaves.
Neem gum is used as a bulking agent and for the preparation of special purpose food (for diabetics).
Aqueous extracts of neem leaves have demonstrated significant antidiabetic potential.
Traditionally, slender neem branches were chewed in order to clean one's teeth. Neem twigs are still collected and sold in markets for this use, and in India one often sees youngsters in the streets chewing on neem twigs.
A decoction prepared from neem roots is ingested to relieve fever in traditional Indian medicine.
Neem leaf paste is applied to the skin to treat acne, and in a similar vein is used for measles and chicken pox sufferers.
Neem blossoms are used in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to prepare Ugadi pachhadi. "Bevina hoovina gojju" (a type of curry prepared with neem blossoms) is common in Karnataka throughout the year. Dried blossoms are used when fresh blossoms are not available. In Tamilnadu, a rasam (veppam poo rasam) made with neem blossoms is a culinary speciality.
A mixture of neem flowers and bella (jaggery or unrefined brown sugar) is prepared and offered to friends and relatives, symbolic of sweet and bitter events in the upcoming new year.
Extract of neem leaves is thought to be helpful as malaria prophylaxis despite the fact that no comprehensive clinical studies are yet available. In several cases, private initiatives in Senegal were successful in preventing malaria. However, major NGOs such as USAID are not supposed to use neem tree extracts unless the medical benefit has been proved with clinical studies.
Uses in pest and disease control
Neem is deemed very effective in the treatment of scabies, although only preliminary scientific proof, which still has to be corroborated, exists, and is recommended for those who are sensitive to permethrin, a known insecticide which might be an irritant. Also, the scabies mite has yet to become resistant to neem, so in persistent cases neem has been shown to be very effective. There is also anecdotal evidence of its effectiveness in treating infestations of head lice in human. The oil is also used in sprays against fleas for cats and dogs.
As a vegetable
The tender shoots and flowers of the neem tree are eaten as a vegetable in India. Neem flowers are very popular for their use in Ugadi Pachhadi (soup-like pickle), which is made on Ugadi day in the South Indian States of Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Karnataka. A souplike dish called Veppampoo Rasam (Tamil) (translated as "neem flower rasam") made of the flower of neem is prepared in Tamil Nadu.
Neem is also used in parts of mainland Southeast Asia, particularly in Cambodia, Laos (where it is called kadao), Thailand (where it is known as sadao or sdao), Myanmar (where it is known as tamar) and Vietnam. Even lightly cooked, the flavour is quite bitter and thus the food is not enjoyed by all inhabitants of these nations, though it is believed to be good for one's health. Neem Gum is a rich source of protein. In Myanmar, young neem leaves and flower buds are boiled with tamarind fruit to soften its bitterness and eaten as a vegetable. Pickled neem leaves are also eaten with tomato and fish paste sauce in Myanmar.