10 Benefits of the Neem Tree

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10 Benefits of the Neem Tree

The neem tree (Azadirachta indica) is a member of the mahogany family native to the Indian subcontinent. Neem is known as ‘sarva roga nivarin’ or ‘healer of all ailments’. The bark, seeds, leaves flowers and roots have been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and traditional Indian medicine. Parts of the tree also play a role in agriculture and industry. Here are ten ways the neem tree can benefit people around the world.

1. Fungicide

Neem is an effective treatment for various fungi that infect the human body. Laboratory tests have shown that neem preparations are toxic to cultures of 14 common fungi. These include the Candida fungi that cause vaginal yeast infections, the Epidermophyton fungi that cause ringworm and the Trichophyton fungi that cause athletes foot, toenail fungal infections and jock itch.

2. Antibiotic

One of the most promising medicinal uses for neem is for treating ‘Staph infections’ produced by the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium. S. aureus can cause a range of illnesses from minor skin complaints to life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia, toxic shock syndrome and sepsis. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a major cause of hospital-acquired infections. In laboratory tests neem leaf extract has suppressed strains of Staphylococcus aureus including MRSA.

3. Psoriasis treatment

Neem oil applied to the skin can help control the symptoms of psoriasis. The oil acts as an emollient to soothe and moisten dry, scaly areas. Its anti-inflammatory effects help to relieve redness and irritation and its antiseptic properties work to prevent infections. Neem can also treat psoriasis when taken orally. One clinical study involved 44 psoriasis patients receiving coal tar therapy. Psoriasis symptoms cleared up faster in those who took a neem leaf extract supplement than in those given a placebo pill.

4. Ulcer treatment

In the Ayurvedic tradition peptic ulcers and duodenal ulcers are treated with neem leaf extract. A compound in neem called nimbidin inhibits acid secretion which can damage the lining of the stomach. Taken orally, nimbidin provides significant reductions in acid output and gastric fluid activity. Neem could provide a safe and affordable alternative to prescription drugs such as ranitidine and omeprazole.

5. Dental treatment

In India and Africa, many people pluck their toothbrushes from the neem tree. They clean their teeth and massage their gums by rubbing them with neem twigs or bark. Dentists have found that this ancient practice is effective in preventing periodontal disease. Antiseptic extracts released from the plant fibers while brushing could help to combat the bacteria that cause gum disease and tooth decay. Neem toothpastes are now commercially produced.

6. Diabetes treatment

Ayurvedic physicians use neem for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Studies on diabetic rats have shown that neem oil reduces blood glucose levels and improves glucose tolerance. In a clinical trial, non-insulin dependent diabetic patients were given neem leaf powder supplements. After three months they showed significant improvement in diabetes symptoms (such as excessive thirst and increased urination) and a reduction in blood pressure.

7. Arthritis treatment

Neem has a long history of relieving painful inflamed joints. Rat studies have shown that neem extract has significant analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. Neem relieves pain by acting on the prostaglandin mechanism. It contains phenolic compounds and polysaccharides which act to reduce swelling. Many anti-inflammatory medications can cause side effects such as stomach ulcers. Neem could offer a safe and effective alternative.

8. Contraceptive

In the first century B.C., an Indian physician called Charaka recommended neem oil as a form of contraception. Animal studies and tests on human volunteers have shown that neem oil does indeed act as a powerful spermicide. It kills sperm in the vagina within 30 seconds and remains active for five hours. There is increasing interest in the promotion of neem as a safe, cheap and easily available contraceptive in third world counties where the trees can be grown.

9. Pesticide

Organic farmers use neem to protect their crops from insects. Neem seeds are ground into a powder which is added to water and sprayed onto growing plants. Compounds in neem approximate the shape and structure of hormones vital to the lives of insects. These compounds block the pests’ endocrine systems, affecting their ability to feed and reproduce. Research has shown that neem extracts can influence almost 200 insect species, including many that are resistant to conventional pesticides.

10. Fertilizer

In India oil extracted from neem seeds goes into soaps, waxes, lubricants and fuels for lighting and heating. The residue left after the oil has been removed from the seeds is widely used to fertilize sugarcane and vegetables. It contains more nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium than manure. When plowed into the soil, it protects plant roots from nematodes and white ants.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19140119 http://www.ijdvl.com/article.asp?issn=0378-6323;year=1994;volume=60;issue=2;spage=63;epage=67;aulast=Pandey