Identified in Ayurveda as “nature’s pharmacy”, the neem tree and its parts have been an integral a part of conventional Indian medical formulations for nearly 5,000 years.
Additionally known as Indian lilac in English, and “neemba” in Sanskrit, the plant – scientific title Azadirachta indica – teems with 130 biologically lively compounds, a few of which have antiviral and antibacterial qualities, a few of which increase immunity, and much extra.
As a toddler I keep in mind my grandfather – who lived to the age of 93 – not ever having to purchase a toothbrush or toothpaste. Each morning he’d snap a twig from a neem tree rising in our courtyard and brush his tooth with it. He would additionally chew neem leaves to spice up his immunity, apply neem oil to his hair, and sprinkle boiled neem bark water in his room to beat back pests and mosquitoes.
He knew what he was doing. Ayurvedic consultants have for hundreds of years promoted neem as probably the most versatile medicinal plant on the earth, with every of its elements brimming with well being advantages.
“From its bark to leaves, flowers, fruits, twigs, seeds and root, neem is filled with health-giving properties,” says Bharti Raghav, a yoga and Ayurvedic knowledgeable primarily based within the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
Neem’s antimicrobial properties make it efficient towards a number of sorts of micro organism, viruses and fungi, Raghav provides.
“Ayurvedic texts describe how neem treats pores and skin problems, hair issues, enhances urge for food, boosts digestion, tackles diabetes, facilitates therapeutic of wounds, relieves nausea and far more.”
Vivek Acharya, a Delhi-based third-generation yoga and Ayurveda knowledgeable, says neem is a wealthy supply of antioxidants, which can make it efficient in managing most cancers.
“Dried and powdered neem has a great shelf life, which additionally makes it supreme for carrying alongside whereas travelling or in locations the place the tree doesn’t develop. It may be preserved for months with out spoilage,” he provides.
Although the tree grows predominantly within the Indian subcontinent, it’s now being cultivated in comparable climates internationally for folks to faucet its potent therapeutic powers.
Fashionable analysis has additionally spotlighted neem’s healthful properties, particularly a 1992 report from the US Nationwide Analysis Council known as “Neem: A tree for fixing world issues” that recognised neem’s medicinal and different values.
The preface of that report is gushing in its reward of neem’s potential: “Neem is an interesting tree … it appears to be probably the most promising of all crops and should ultimately profit each individual on the planet. In all probability no different yields as many unusual and diverse merchandise or has as many exploitable by-products.
“Certainly, as foreseen by some scientists, this plant could usher in a brand new period in pest management, present tens of millions with cheap medicines, lower down the speed of human inhabitants progress, and maybe even scale back erosion, deforestation, and the extreme temperature of an overheated globe.”
Within the three a long time since that assessment there have been many research of neem’s potential medicinal worth in treating diseases, from most cancers to the coronavirus.
A 2014 examine within the journal Leukemia and Lymphoma examined neem leaf extract in treating persistent lymphocytic leukaemia and concluded it “demonstrates scientific efficacy, warranting additional investigation as a possible remedy”.
Extract from the bark of the neem tree could assist deal with and scale back the unfold of coronavirus, in keeping with a brand new examine by scientists on the College of Colorado within the US and the Indian Institute of Science Training and Analysis Kolkata.
The examine, printed in February within the journal Virology , reveals that parts of neem bark could goal a variety of viral proteins, suggesting its potential as an antiviral agent towards new coronavirus variants.
A complete assessment printed in March in Students Worldwide Journal of Conventional and Complementary Drugs concluded that neem has proven anticancer, anti-fever, anti-inflammatory, antimalarial, antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, anti-parasitic, anti-hyperglycaemic and antioxidant properties, in addition to can stimulate the immune system, and that it may increase dental well being, pores and skin safety and the therapy of ulcers – with little proof of adversarial results.
In nations the place the neem tree isn’t grown, its dietary supplements and cures are broadly obtainable on-line and in pure meals shops. Amongst these product choices are neem capsules, tinctures, powders, cosmetics, oils, lotions, shampoos, mouthwashes and toothpastes.
The various advantages of the neem tree’s elements
Neem twigs: Many Indians chew a neem twig as a make-do toothbrush. In accordance with Raghav, brushing tooth with neem twigs fights germs, maintains the fitting alkaline stability in saliva, retains micro organism at bay, tackles gum irritation, makes tooth whiter, and prevents plaque and cavity formation. Chewing the twig additionally workout routines oral muscle groups.
Neem oil: Oil extracted from neem seeds is a sought-after ingredient in cosmetics and pores and skin merchandise together with soaps, hair oil, face packs and hand washes on account of its anti-ageing properties. It might additionally deal with pores and skin illnesses and is a potent mosquito repellent. Massaged into the scalp, it may strengthen hair, stop hair fall and deal with dandruff.
Neem bark: The tree’s bark is used for therapy of malaria, abdomen and intestinal ulcers, pores and skin illnesses, ache, and fever. It might additionally deal with dental illnesses, fight dental plaque and kill oral micro organism.
“It additionally helps heal wounds within the oral cavity on account of its antiseptic and astringent properties,” Acharya says. “It helps digestive well being and accelerates metabolism.”
Neem leaves: Paste constituted of the leaves is used to deal with head lice, pores and skin illnesses, wounds and pores and skin ulcers in lots of elements of Asia. The paste can be used as a mosquito repellent. Neem leaves will be boiled in water and the water strained and saved to be used as a potent pores and skin antiseptic. Neem leaf powder will be taken internally and utilized externally to the pores and skin for allergic reactions. To make the powder, dry the leaves and blitz them in a blender.
Neem fruit: The fruit is pressed to extract oil for use as hair rejuvenator or eradicate dandruff and lice. It may also be an efficient mosquito repellent and is present in factory-manufactured room fresheners as nicely.
Neem flower: Ayurveda describes the fragile white neem flower as possessing “cooling” properties, a cause Indians incorporate it in summer time dishes to counteract the tropical warmth. The flower is used to make ugadi pachadi , a gruel constituted of neem leaves and jaggery – unrefined cane sugar. The flowers are dried and powdered to make “flower rice”, pachadi (lentil gruel), rasam (lentil soup), dals (lentil curries) and extra. They’re additionally usually dry roasted and sprinkled on high of a dish as a garnish.
Though consultants usually think about neem secure to be used, they warning that it’s potential for some folks to develop a light allergic response to it. “Do a patch take a look at by rubbing neem powder or oil on the within of the elbows to test whether or not the herb works for you or not,” Acharya advises.
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This text was first printed in South China Morning Put up.