What’s in a neem? Well a lot, actually.
The neem tree (Azadirachta indica) has been used in India for its many diverse medicinal benefits, for millennia. The benefits have been noted in ancient texts like the Vedas and Puranas.
The Sanskrit name of the tree, Nimba is a derivative of ‘Nimbati svasthyamdadati‘ meaning ‘to give good health’. Since Vedic times, neem has been referred to as “sarva roga nivarini“, meaning ‘one that cures all ailments and ills’.(1)
Before the advent of modern medicine, the neem tree was especially valued for its use in treating small pox and other infections. Neem trees were planted around most homes to use neem leaves for various treatments but also to purify the area and prevent the spread of communicable diseases.
The 7 Wonders of Neem
- Neem is known to kill cancerous cells. According to a 2014 review paper published in the journal Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) – Reviews on Cancer,
“The key anticancer effects of neem components on malignant cells include inhibition of cell proliferation, induction of cell death, suppression of cancer angiogenesis, restoration of cellular reduction/oxidation (redox) balance, and enhancement of the host immune responses against tumor cells… In addition, neem extracts sensitize cancer cells to immunotherapy and radiotherapy, and enhance the efficacy of certain cancer chemotherapeutic agents.
A team of researchers at the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute (CNCI) in India has shown how a purified protein from neem leaves inhibits growth of tumour cells in mice. The team is currently working on using neem protein to fight cancer in humans.(2)
- Neem taken internally, in the form of capsules or neem balls for e.g., detoxify the body and purify the blood.
- Neem balls are made with taking a little neem powder with water to form a small ball. This is best consumed first thing in the morning on an empty stomach to effectively flush out toxins. (Forewarning: neem is extremely bitter!)
- Ingestion of neem also helps to manage the bacteria in the digestive system and helps ensure that the intestinal region remains clean and free of infection.
#3 Spiritual benefits
Yogis have long known and benefitted from the wonders of neem which they have used to not only keep the intestinal tract clean but also to increase ushna (loosely translated as heat energy) in the body to aid sadhana (spiritual practices).
#4 Infections and skin problems
- Neem oil (diluted with water) or a paste made from neem leaves can be applied on the face to relieve acne, itching, blackheads and infections like eczema.
- Neem paste is also effective in treating wounds and infected skin on other parts of the body (e.g. foot fungi). It prevents septic infection.
- Taken internally, neem leaf capsules boost immunity against infections.
#5 Beautiful skin and hair
- Neem (oil or paste) is recommended as part of skin regimes to nourish the skin and prevent zits. It is also anti-ageing.
- Bathing in water in which neem leaves have been soaked, leaves the skin soft and supple.
- Neem oil applied to the scalp combats dandruff, graying and balding. It is also an antidote for head lice.
#6 Dental health
- Neem oil is used in herbal dental pastes for its potency in combating dental plaque. In earlier times, before toothpaste was invented, Indians cleaned their teeth with neem twigs.
- A herbal cure for warding off mosquitos and insects is to burn neem leaves in the affected area.
Note: Neem increases heat or ushna in the body and should not be taken by pregnant women, infants, children, anyone trying to conceive, those with allergies to plants in the mahogany family and anyone suffering from very high ‘vata dosha’, wasting (e.g. bone loss) or debilitating conditions.(3)
(4) Isha Forest Flower magazine Feb 2014