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.
Neem, Skin Care And Skin Disorders
Neem is currently used in preparation of skin products like soaps and shampoos as it has proven effective in following ways;
- they relieve redness and itching of irritated skin,
- they can lighten scars and pigmentation,
- they soothe and moisturize dry and cracked skin,
- and if the skin problem is due to some infection, fungus or parasite, neem deals with that as well.
Neem And Skin Disorders/Skin Problems
An overview of the antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties of neem.
- Neem Oil And Acne
- Dry Skin
- Oily Skin
Research on neem as a natural repellant
Neem oil has many complex active ingredients. Rather than being simple poisons, those ingredients are similar to the hormones that insects produce. Insects take up the neem oil ingredients just like natural hormones.
Neem oil works is different from other insecticides, Neem enters the system and blocks the real hormones from working properly. Neem oil does not hurt beneficial insects. Only chewing and sucking insects are affected. Insects "forget" to eat, to mate, or they stop laying eggs. Some forget that they can fly. If eggs are produced they don't hatch, or the larvae don't moult.
How precisely it works is difficult for scientists to find out. There are too many different active substances in neem oil, and every insect species reacts differently to neem insecticide. Natural repellent properties are an important weapon in the fight against malaria, dengue and chikungunya virus' in third world countries. These diseases have risen to epidemic proportions in various parts of the world and is a big problem in tropical regions, and that is where neem grows best.
Here are results of some of the field studies that were done on the natural mosquito repelling action of neem oil:
- In 1994 the the Malaria Research Centre of Delhi, India, tested whether kerosene lamps with 1% neem oil can protect people from mosquito bites. For that test they burned the lamps in living rooms, and from 6 pm to 6 am caught the mosquitoes sitting on the walls and those attracted to human bait (i.e. volunteers).
Neem oil clearly reduced the number of bites on the volunteers and also the number of mosquitoes caught. The protection was greater against anopheles species (the ones that transmit malaria) than against culex.
- A 1995 study at a field station the Malaria Research Centre in Ranipur, Hardwar, India, tested a mix of 2% neem oil mixed in coconut oil.
They showed that applying that mixture to the skin provided significant protection from various mosquitoes. It worked best against anophelines, offering 96-100% protection! (The malaria transmitting anopheles mosquitoes fall into this group). The numbers for other species were 85% for Aedes (carries dengue fever), 61-94% for Culex spp. (can carry West Nile virus) and 35% for Armigeres.
- In 1996 the Malaria Research Centre of Delhi, India did another field trial with kerosene lamps in an Indian village. Kerosene lamps with 1% neem oil were kept burning from dusk to dawn in living rooms.
They found that the lamps kept the mosquitoes out of the living rooms and that the malaria incidents of the population dropped dramatically (from about ten cases per thousand people to only one in thousand). Once the lamps were removed, the mosquitoes returned and so did the malaria.
Neem is a plant, but that does not automatically mean it is safe. Some of the world's strongest toxins are herbal. only use neem seed oil externally,
Don't take any neem products internally if you are trying to conceive a child (this applies to women and men!) or pregnant (applies mostly to women).
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.