Many herbs seem to be very promising from the point of view of medicine. People hope to find the possibilities to use these natural remedies for curing many health conditions. However, none of all the known plants looks more attractive for the modern scientists as the “Wonder tree” – Neem, which is also called “Village pharmacy”, “Panacea for all diseases”, and “Heal-all”. This tree is so miraculous, because it can be helpful and handy nearly in every aspect of human life. Products containing Neem extracts can be used in agriculture, horticulture, cosmetics, medicine, as well as for manufacturing candles, incense sticks, tea, etc.
Azadirachta Indicais a botanical name of the well-known Neem. It belongs to Meliaceae, the mahogany tree family. Indian Lilac, Margosa Tree, Crackjack are the other names of the plant.
This fast-growing evergreen tree can live as long as 200 years, sometimes reaching up to 40 m in height. Its trunk is usually short, but it can reach 1 m in diameter. The rough scaly bark is of whitish or grayish color; it is odorless, but with bitter taste. A strong taproot and well-developed lateral roots form a root system of the tree.
Neem dense round or oval crown is made of spreading branches and alternate, pinnate leaves (20-40 cm long). Each leaf is composed of 20-30 leaflets, which are 3-8 cm long, and attached to the branch with the help of a short petiole.
Panicles of the Neem star-shaped and fragrant flowers are long (up to 25 cm) and drooping. Tiny white flowers are gathered into luxuriant inflorescences (150-250 flowers).
Neem tree should be at least 3 years old to produce edible bitter-sweet fruits. They look much like olives. Fruits’ skin is thin, but the pulp is thick and fibrous. The seeds are not numeral: usually one to three kernels can be situated in the fruit.
Neem tree is indigenous to tropical and subtropical regions (Burma, Sri Lanka, India). It can also grow in Australia and Indonesia.
Bearing no cold temperatures, Neem can, however, perfectly tolerate hot weather and little rainfall. To survive such climatic conditions, the tree can shed almost all of its leaves.
Neem can grow on different soils, preferring though well-drained deep and sandy ones.
Neem leaves, seeds, twigs, bark of the trunk and roots are used in herbal medicine. It is natural that herbalists call it the “Divine tree”, taking into account that they discovered healing properties of almost any part of Neem long time ago.
The popularity of Neem grows more and more every day. No wonder that modern market is full of different products: decoction of Neem leaves, its powdered bark, oil, infusion, extracts, tinctures, capsules, etc. There is also a great number of creams and lotions containing Neem extracts.
Availability of a wide spectrum of ingredients may be the explanation of the tree healing properties. Recent scientific studies report that the highest concentration of Neem active ingredients is found in the seeds and oil; bark and leaves also contain them, but in lesser quantities.
The most prominent compounds are:
- nimbin: helps reduce inflammation and fever, fight fungi; it also works as anti-histamine preventing inflammation and allergic symptoms;
- nimbidin: kills bacteria and fungi; serves as anti-ulcer, anti-arrhythmic and analgesic agent;
- ninbidol: anti-tubercular, anti-protozoan, anti-pyretic;
- gedunin: dilates narrowed blood vessels, fights fungi and protects from malaria;
- sodium nimbinate: effective diuretic, spermicide, and anti-arthritic agent;
- quercetin: anti-protozoal;
- salannin: insect repellent;
- tannic acid.
The ingredient, which is of special interest for the scientists, is azadirachtin, isolated not so long time ago. Its investigation showed that this component is an effective insect repellent, anti-feedant, and anti-hormonal agent. It may be of great help in the fight against insects and fungi. These days, researchers are seeking for ways and possibilities to use this component beneficially in medicine to treat different illnesses and diseases.
People in such countries as India, Burma, and Sri Lanka have known about Neem healing powers since ancient times. For centuries they have used it for the treatment of multiple health disorders. Actually, this tree is considered to be one of a kind, because there is no other specie in the world, which can effectively lessen the symptoms of so many diseases.
Traditional uses of Neem preparations include skin disorders (acne, eczema, psoriasis), dental problems, diabetes, leprosy, gastrointestinal illnesses (ulcers, constipation), fever, etc. Neem extracts are also an effective contraception, anti-helmintic, anti-fungal, and antiseptic means. Soaps, shampoos, toothpastes, diverse cosmetic products manufactured in southern Asia always contained Neem extracts.
Malaria, herpes, heart diseases, high blood sugar levels, hepatitis, rheumatism, cancer, haemorrhoids… Herbalists proved the efficacy of Neem usage for the treatment and relieving of symptoms of so many diseases that some scholars claim all these benefits to be purely anecdotal, being unable to believe in the multiple health benefits and powerfulness of a single herb.
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