Neem – another miracle of India. Another panacea. It is said that it has the same benefits as Echinacea and Goldenseal. While it is mainly used for skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, eczema, dryness, itchiness, wrinkles, warts, skin ulcers, it is also considered to help a lot with diabetes, arthritis, chronic fatigue, and more.
Botanical name: Azadirachta indica A. Juss
Other names: Neem, Margosa, Neeb, Nimtree, Nimba, Vepu, Vempu, Vepa, Bevu, Veppam, Aarya Veppu or Indian-lilac
Native to: India, Nepal,Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, islands located in the southern part of Iran. It usually grows in tropical and semi-tropical regions.
In Sanskrit neem tree means ‘”reliever of sickness” (“Arishtha”)
The neem tree is a fast-growing evergreen tree that can reach a height of 15–20 metres (49–66 ft), rarely to 35–40 metres (115–131 ft). The branches are wide and spreading. The fairly dense crown is roundish and may reach a diameter of 15–20 metres (49–66 ft) in old, free-standing specimens. The tree looks a lot like its relative, the Chinaberry (Melia azedarach).
All parts of the tree (leaf, flower, fruit, seed, kernel, bark, wood, and twig) are biologically active, but the maximum activity is associated with the seed kernel.
Neem is used in medicines, soap making, pest control, nitrification inhibition, slow nutrient release manure, cattle feed, fuel, energy etc. It is also an most important source of pesticides and allied products. Biopesticides based on neem are endowed with features of diverse activity and relative safety to non-target organisms.
In Ayurvedic and Unani systems of medicines various pans of the neem tree have been employed to obtain medicinal preparations. There is hardly a disease where the use of neem is not mentioned!
Neem is used a lot in agriculture as a pest control agent.
It has multi-pronged effects against insects, is repellent, antifeedant, oviposition deterrent, molting or growth disrupt or, sterilant, ovicide and oviposition deterrent, helping to effectively control a variety of farm and household insect, pests and pathogens infesting agricultural, plantation and cash crops. Neem products are valued for their effect as slow N-release materials and as nitrification inhibitor also.
Water suspension of neem seed kernel was observed to be antifeedant against the migratory and desert Locusts, Locusta migratoria and Schistocerca gregaria. The suspension sprayed at a concentration of 0.001 per cent on standing crops at the Institute’s farm during the locust swarm in 1962 successfully protected the crops. The desert locust settled on the treated khari! crops but left without feeding. The swarm also spared neem trees standing in the vicinity. (according to Indian Agricultural Research Institute)
From very old time, Indians place neem dried leaves between folds of clothes to ward off moths, insects and other pests in stored rice, wheat and other grains.
What is Neem good for?
There is a hilariously long list. It seems that this tree is good for everything! So why would we need other medicine if we have neem? I honestly don’t know. Why aren’t all Indians healthy as a rock? Again, I don’t know. But considering their rather poor living conditions, I’d say they manage to live a lot.
Here is the list: it combats tiredness, cough, fever, loss of appetite, and worm infestations. It is used in vomiting, skin diseases, and excessive thirst. It heals wounds, reverses gum disease, reduces high blood pressure, and is used to treat arthritis, malaria, diabetes, liver disease, and cancer. Neem leaves reportedly remove toxins, purify blood, and prevent damage caused by free radicals in the body by neutralizing them. Neem seeds and leaves are also claimed to be spermicidal.
In the book Neem: Benefits for Health and the Environment, the author Author Pamela Paterson makes a summery of the scientific side of neem, trying to present the evidence for the claim that neem is a miracle plant. It is purportedly used for over 100 ailments.
Indians chew neem leaves in the morning to protect the body from diseases like hypertension and diabetes. They also use 5 ml juice of the neem tree mixed with equal amounts of honey to reduce oozing from ears and to remove inflammation. The ash of the dry neem leaves is used to remove urinary stones.
To these days, in India the neem tree is regarded as ‘village dispensary’.
What does science say?
The 2002 study: “Biological activities and medicinal properties of neem (Azadirachta indica)”, by Kausik Biswas; Ishita Chattopadhyay; Banerjee, R. K.; Uday Bandyopadhyay, published on 10th of June 2002 by Current Science VOL. 82, NO. 11,: 1336-1345, summarizes studies and trials done by that point in time, and give us a list with some components of neem and their biological activity (see table 1) and also some medical uses of it, as it is mentioned in Ayurveda (see table 2). It shows the biological activities of some of the neem compounds isolated, pharmacological actions of the neem extracts, clinical studies and plausible medicinal applications of neem along
with their safety evaluation.
Their conclusion? “A drug-development program should be undertaken to develop modern drugs with the compounds isolated from neem.” It’s a way of saying “come on, people, let’s use this neem and make some drugs”.
Their conclusion: Neem has:
Anti-inflammatory, antipyretic and analgesic activities,
Effects on central nervous system.
What do clinical trials say?
• Dried neem leaf extract was effective to cure ringworm, eczema and scabies.
• Lotion derived from neem leaf, when locally applied, can cure these dermatological diseases within 3–4 days in acute stage or a fortnight in chronic case.
• A paste prepared with neem and turmeric was found to be effective in the treatment of scabies in nearly 814 people. In 97% of cases, the paste was found to cure scabies within 3–15 days of treatment without any adverse effect.
• Dried neem leaves in the form of tea are used by the people of Nigeria and Haiti to treat malaria. Recently, a clinical trial has been carried out to see the efficacy of neem extract to control hyperlipidemia in a group of malarial patients severely infected with P. falciparum. The lipid level, especially cholesterol, was found to be lower during therapy when compared to non-malaria patients.
• Application of neem oil on the hair has been shown to kill head lice.
• Reports are available regarding the use of neem to treat patients suffering from various forms of cancer. One patient with parotid tumour and another with epidermoid carcinoma have responded successfully when treated with neem seed oil.
• Although in trials neem oil has been shown to have antimicrobial effect to inhibit many species of pathogenic bacteria, including S.aureus and Salmonella typhora, it has not been considered as antibiotic due to some limitations.
• Considerable clinical trials have been done on the antifertility effect of neem oil. NIM-76, a refined product from neem oil, was studied in 10 human volunteers, where intravaginal application before sexual intercourse could prevent pregnancy with no adverse effect on vagina, cervix and uterus. After demonstrating the antifertility effect of
intrauterine neem oil treatment in bonnet monkeys with no apparent side effects, phase I clinical trials were conducted on Praneem Vilci (PV), a purified neem oil preparation on eighteen healthy tubectomized women to evaluate the safety after a single intrauterine instillation of PV and to determine the effects of its coadministration on anti-hCG response to the heterospecies dimer (HSD) hCG vaccine. Haematological and biochemical profiles, mid-luteal serum progesterone level and ovulatory status were determined before and after intrauterine treatment with PV. Except one woman showing nonspecific endometritis, no significant adverse effect was observed in other women and all women receiving PV and HSD vaccine produced antibodies against hCG.
The data suggested that intrauterine treatment of PV is safe.
• A poly-herbal pessary (Praneem polyherbal pessary) has been developed using some purified ingredients from neem leaves, Sapindus mukerossi and Mencitrata oil, which shows spermicidal action in vitro on human sperm and in vivo on post-coital tests in women. The formulation also has antimicrobial activity. There are clinical trials completed in India, Egypt and the Dominican Republic that indicate the safety of its use with beneficial action in invaginosis due to microbial infection.
In most women, the pessary also prevented migration of sperm into the cervical mucus. Praneem pessary has thus potential for the development of contraceptive devices.
Why don’t we have medical drugs with neem?
Because a drug can only be developed after extensive investigation of its bioactivity, mechanism of action, pharmaco-therapeutics, toxicity and after proper standardization and clinical trials. It takes lots of time and resources, we must be very patient. Nature is so offering, so full of unbelievable plants that can treat everything. We only need time to understand them all. (Too bad our lives are so short!)
But there are plenty of supplements on the market. Give them a try.
Neem oil and the bark and leaf extracts have been therapeutically used in folk medicine to control leprosy, intestinal helminthiasis, respiratory disorders, constipation and also as a general health promoter.
It was also used for the treatment of rheumatism, chronic syphilitic sores and indolent ulcer, skin infections.
Bark, leaf, root, flower and fruit together cure blood morbidity, biliary afflictions, itching, skin ulcers, burning sensations and phthisis.
It is not produced by domesticated honey bees, but by wild bees. Traditional groups of tribal honey foragers, honey hunters take the honey from their hives, up in the trees. These foragers collect the honey during nigh time, while the bees are sleeping. They claim to never use smoke or any other process that could cause harm to the bees, their hives, or the forest vegetation.
A similar honey, Tualang honey from the Malaysian rainforest, is also harvested from very high trees, hunters using smoldering torches to get the wild bees out of their hives over night, so they can take the honey. The health benefits of tualang honey are widely popularized.
Neem honey is as organic as a honey can possibly be. It comes from the deep forest of central India (usually it is collected from there, rather than other countries), away from any type of pollutants. It is not 100% pure neem honey, because the forest has a variety of flowers and trees.
Where can we find Neem honey?
Neem honey is a dark honey, with a rich natural dark toffee, gingerbread taste and the distinctive essence of honey itself, warm and enveloping and wildly floral. People say it has a bouquet like chai tea and all exotic spices. “…This honey will transport you to another place and time, infusing your body and soul with a bit of wild sweetness and amazing healing properties. It’s hard to go back to farmed honey after you’ve tasted wild, the dimensions of flavor are so explosive, and the health benefits so much more profound.”
I could say the same happened to me after tasting forest honey, I never went back to monofloral honeys.
Highly valued in Ayurveda for its medicinal properties, Neem honey is as appreciated as Maharishi honey. It is known to be anti-inflammatory, anti-coughing and antiseptic. Folk medicine uses it in lowering high blood pressure and to treat diabetes (!), skin problems, dental diseases, infected throat, and allergies.
We can assume that all properties of the flowers are found in honey. Thus, according to table 2 from above, it can be useful for bile suppression, elimination of intestinal worms and phlegm.
Plus, it can be use to treat skin infections, just like any any other honey.
Have one teaspoon just before bedtime (to also enjoy the benefits honey brings to our sleep) or in the morning before breakfast, to boost your energy level and immunity during the day.
You can also eat it at breakfast, on bread, toast, pancakes, wafers or sweeten your coffee or tea. Only make sure they are not too hot and thus destroy all the good enzymes of honey. It can also be poured over warm grain cereals, nuts or paired with blue cheeses.
Or, why not? Simply eat it from the jar!
Where can we find neem honey?
Representative for this type of honey is All Heavenly Organics, an Indian producer that buys honey from hunters and farmers and pack it under strict organic standards of purity. The honey is kept raw and unheated, preserving all the delicate enzymes and health-promoting qualities derived from the flower essences.
The company has the 100% organic certification by Ecocert, in accordance with the organic standards of the USDA. (We need to remember that in 2016 the FDA found that most U.S. honey contains glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide!)
Buying honey from the hunters which live in the forest, the company helps them support their living and continue their traditions.
All Heavenly Organics produces three wild honeys from northern and central India.
1. The white all-flower honey is made by wild bees foraging in the wildflower fields of the Gangotri, Jammu and Kashmir regions of the Himalayan Mountains. You can find it on Amazon: Heavenly Organics Organic Himalayan Raw Honey, 12 oz;
2. Acacia honey: Heavenly Organics 100% USDA Certified Raw Acacia Honey Certified Kosher, 12oz, 2 pack
3. Neem honey: Heavenly Organics Organic Wild Forest Raw Neem Honey — 12 oz – available on Amazon
• Amazon. co. uk also sells it: Heavenly Organics, Organic Wild Forest Raw Honey, Unheated, 12 oz (340.2 g)
Here we can also find some books on the benefits of neem:
If you are interested in neem powder, here is a very good product: Sevenhills Wholefoods Organic Neem Powder 500g, Soil Association certified organic.
References and picture credits:
“Neem (Azadirachta indica) in Hyderabad W IMG 7006” by J.M.Garg – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons
“Neem tree” by No machine-readable author provided. Mamun2a assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims).. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons
“Unripe Neem fruits” by Hayavadhan – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons
“Neem (Azadirachta indica) in Hyderabad W IMG 6976” by J.M.Garg – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons