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The History of Neem
Despite its origins as part of Ayurvedic medicine more than 4,500 years ago, Neem remains largely unrecognized in Western civilization. Scientifically known as Azadirachta indica, The Neem tree in India is variously known as "Divine Tree", "Heal All", "Nature's Drugstore", "Village Pharmacy" and "Panacea for all diseases".
The sanskrit word “Neem” first appeared around 500 B.C. in religious writings and translates to “the healer and illness reliever”. Neem continues to play a large role in Indian healing and cosmetics today, and scientific research continues to validate many of the ancient Ayurvedic practices and recipes.
In India Neem is often a part of daily life; neem leaves neem oil or neem extracts are used to treat mosquito bites and other skin wounds. Neem teas are used to treat fever, stomach or intestinal problems, viral infections and Malaria. Neem soaps, shampoos, lotions, creams, and oils are used to treat pests and parasites like scabies, lice, mites, fleas. Used as a pesticide Neem oil can protect plants and crops from over 200 different insects. Toothpaste, lotions, creams, and cleaners containing neem are used for daily personal care.
The Anthelmintic, Anti-fungal, Anti-diabetic, Antibacterial, Antiviral, Anti-Fertility, and Sedative properties of Neem oil and extracts continue to be studied by scientists today. Neem’s abilities to help the physical body are leading to its recognition as something of a wonder plant. In 1992 in order to “marshal the various facts about this little known species, to help illuminate its future promise, and to speed realization of its potential” the National Research Council produced a report, NEEM: A Tree for solving Global problems outlining the various uses and benefits of Neem, the current scientific efforts to understand it, and the its promising future.
Along with a growth in scientific study, neem also continues to gain popularity in cosmetic and health and personal care products. Consumers now have access to high quality domestic brands like Organix South, Neem Tree Farms, and NeemAura Naturals and Products that may have once been limited to very specialized health shops can now be readily found online and shipped across the globe. In February of 2013 Neem made its debut on national television as Dr. Oz made it of of his herbs of the month and had a segment devoted to the benefits of Neem on oral and skin care. At present Neem may still be a lesser known natural wonder but with continued scientific research, commercial availability, and a growing natural products and natural cosmetic market Neem’s popularity will continue to expand both domestically and across the globe.
The Benefits of Neem
The health benefits of neem are numerous and varied. There are over 500 research reports from universities across the globe exploring the benefits of neem on a variety of disorders. The all-natural properties of neem make it especially attractive to those people who want to keep their bodies clean of insecticides, strong prescription medications, and other chemical products. Neem Lotions, Oils and Gels are used for a wide range of skin disorders. Neem has been said to be equal or even superior to aloe in its healing properties. Neem seed oil is a gentle alternative to tea tree oil sharing many therapeutic benefits, and with the added advantage of a high fatty acid and low terpene content, making Neem oil especially attractive for sensitive and irritated skin and scalp conditions. Neem Shampoo is used to alleviate dry or itchy scalps, dandruff, and other scalp conditions. Many people use Neem soap for problematic skin, or for a healthier and more vibrant complexion. Neem soap is often used by people with problematic skin conditions such as psoriasis, vitiligo, eczema, wrinkles, acne, dry skin, skin ulcers and warts. Neem toothpaste and mouthwash are used to help prevent periodontal diseases, gingivitis, pyorrhea, cavities and toothaches. All forms of Neem (Neem Oil, Neem Bark, Neem Leaf, Neem supercritical extract) are extraordinarily high in antioxidants. ORAC tests (Oxygen radical absorbance capacity) show Neem to have antioxidant levels many times higher than blueberries, broccoli, and cranberries.
Neem is often taken internally to help enhance overall health and improve immune system response. This means shorter and less frequent downtime from being sick. It is also used to help a number of disorders, such as circulatory, digestive and nervous disorders. Historically, neem has been used to rid the body of all sorts of parasites as well. Neem leaf has been used internally for thousands of years to support healthy skin and immune system function and is renowned for its broad spectrum activity and antioxidant benefits.
Taken Internally Neem is thought to have the following actions:
- Act as a blood purifier and tonic
- Help maintain healthy liver function
- Maintain an optimum balance between HDL and LDL cholesterol and promote a healthy cardiovascular system
- Boost antioxidant levels to help prevent damage from environmental toxins and pollutants and protect vision
- Enhance immune system function
- Strengthen mental balance
- Aid in a healthy response to minor inflammation
- Improve joint health and mobility
- Stimulate proper bile flow to help maintain healthy digestion, assimilation and elimination.
- Promote respiratory and sinus health and support the bronchial system
- Improve the appearance of skin and help prevent non-cystic acne
- Promote healthy teeth and gums
- Help support healthy blood sugar levels
Animals can also benefit from the properties of Neem, neem shampoo, neem oil, and neem extracts can help to prevent irritation from fleas, ticks, mites and other skin disorders. Neem is a natural solution that is safe for all animals, including puppies and kittens over four weeks. Neem oil is also great for gardens, as it helps get rid of those pesky insects without having to worry about toxic poisons hurting your pets or children who come in contact with it.
In summary Neem can provide alternative treatments for dozens of common ailments, including skin problems, parasite infestations, liver dysfunction, and poor immune systems. Neem possesses powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-tumor, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-parasitic properties that can help accelerate healing across a wide range of health problems and at the same time research indicates Neem has few side effects and is considered relatively non-toxic.
The Different Parts of the Neem Plant
Native to Burma and other areas of India, neem has spread to many other climate around the world. Its versatility and practicality have made it a favorite among healthcare professionals and home-health growers. Each part of the neem plant has a different application, but all the parts are useful.
Neem seeds – In fruit that appears similar to an olive, neem seeds can be singular or grouped in twos and threes. The seeds themselves are not overly useful, but they are typically pressed into neem oil, the most common neem product. Neem seed oil is valued by organic farmers as a safe and natural insecticide, and many organic gardeners depend on neem oil as an insect repellent around their homes. In addition, neem oil is the main ingredient in many skin care products, soaps, shampoos, and lotions.
Neem Oil - Made from pressed neem plant seed kernels, neem oil has a broad range of applications. However, the quality of the oil is largely dependent on the methods used to extract it from the kernels. Neem seeds that are cold pressed produce the best levels of oil since heat typically destroys the plant’s active ingredients. In addition, the purification of the neem oil should be done as naturally as possible. Adding chemicals during the purification process can damage the final product and reduce the effectiveness of the oil.
Neem seed oil is most popularly used in hair and skin care products. The moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties of neem oil make it perfect for restoring damaged skin and hair. Fresh pressed neem oil has a strong odor that does not make it pleasant to rub on the skin or hair. Most of these products that feature neem oil add rose, lavender, and other perfumes to reduce the strong odors.
Garden sprays made with neem oil deter many pests. Over 200 types of insects as well as worms, fungi, bacteria react to compounds in Neem oil. Unlike traditional pesticides Neem does not kill organism immediately, rather the compounds in Neem disrupt the feeding and/or reproduction cycle of insects keeping them from eating and procreating. Neem has the added benefit of being non-toxic to humans and the environment and is benign to spiders, butterflies, bees, and ladybugs that help pollinate crops or or consume crop pests.
Neem oil is best applied topically for any skin aliment. It is not suggested to take Neem oil internally. Extensive research has shown that neem oil may be safe for internal use in small doses for limited periods of time, manufacturers in the United States universally indicate Neem oil is not for internal use and recommend a leaf or extract form of Neem instead. Pregnant women, or those trying to conceive should avoid ingesting Neem oil.
Neem leaves – As the most readily accessible part of the neem plant, the leaves are highly versatile. Neem leaves contain 50% carbohydrates, 20% fiber, 15% proteins, 8% ash, 5% fat, 2% calcium, and contain essential amino acids. The leaves contain the same ingredients as the seeds, but the leaves have smaller quantities of it. Neem trees are evergreen, meaning that their leaves are available year round, whereas the seeds are only available one season a year. This makes the leaves a much more likely remedy than the seeds. Because neem leaves have smaller quantities of the active neem ingredients, they can be ingested in small quantities and under the advisement of a qualified herbalist. The majority of the bitter active compounds in neem leaf are soluble in alcohol and water and can be easily captured with a tea using hot but not boiling water.The medicinal properties of the neem leaf cannot be ignored. They can be used in a variety of applications, from insecticides to skin care. As with any time of medicine, leaves should be ingested carefully to prevent an allergic reaction, and herbalists should be consulted prior to starting a regular neem regimen.
Neem bark – In the Ayurvedic system Neem bark is considered equal to Neem leaves. Neem bark is renowned for its ability to help prevent and heal gum disease and other dental care problems. Neem bark contains a large amount of catechins and powerful immunomodulatory and immuno-stimulating compounds. Polysaccharides obtained in Neem bark extract have been found to possess anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory properties.
Neem twigs – Most frequently used in rural areas, neem twigs are useful as toothbrushes for treating gum diseases. The supple branches move easily and can be chewed to improve dental care.
Neem cake – When neem seed oil is extracted from the seed kernels, pulp is left behind. This pulp is known as neem cake, and while it is not very useful for human treatment, animals sometimes eat it for its healing powers. Additionally, neem cake can be mixed into soil as a strong fertilizer.
Neem flowers – The sweet smell of neem flowers make them attractive to honeybees. They are also used in aromatherapy for their calming odor.
Although neem is safe to use on a regular basis, most people use it for short periods of time to boost their immune systems or treat ailments. Despite being taken for thousands of years as an Ayurvedic medicine, neem is still relatively untested and unknown. For these reasons, there are very few recommendations for using this natural product. However, there are a few general guidelines that anyone new to neem can use to begin using this powerful medicine.
Neem extracts – Most extracts are made by using carbon dioxide to extract the positive qualities from the plant. Extracts should always be shaken well before use, and they are generally safe to use up to three times a day. Diluted extracts work well when they are mixed in water or juice, whereas undiluted extracts are typically placed under the tongue for faster absorption.
Neem capsules – Most capsules are ingested in pairs twice a day as treatment for acute or chronic ailments. Capsules can be taken for fast-acting results during the onset of the flu or food poisoning. For chronic conditions, such as ulcers and arthritis, capsules are a simple and effective daily method of taking neem.
Neem tea – A more tasty alternative for ingesting neem is through a mixed tea made from either fresh or dried neem. Leaves of neem can be placed directly into boiling water or neem tea bags are also available. Even better, neem tea can be mixed with sweeteners and flavorings to produce a good-tasting, soothing drink.
Neem oils – Pressed neem seed oil is safely extracted and can be rubbed directly on the skin or in the hair for medicinal effects. However, the pungent odor of this oil makes it more difficult to use directly. Many products combine neem oil with ingredients to produce better-smelling lotions, creams, and salves that are equally effective.
Neem pesticides – Neem oil is typically mixed at a ratio of one ounce of oil per gallon of water to create an effective insecticide and pesticide. Another alternative is neem cake spread directly around an outdoor area to prevent pests. Neem leaves can be ground and combined with water to create an effective mulch.
The Safety of Neem
Neem may help prevent or treat a wide variety of disorders, including many that are not successfully addressed by modern pharmaceuticals. Using neem also offers a cost-effective and non-toxic alternative to chemical pest control in both home gardens and agricultural settings. The information in this website is presented for informational purposes only. It is not to be used to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any illness or disorder, or to control any insects on plants, people, or pets. None of the research and anecdotal evidence presented here substitutes for consultation with an appropriate healthcare professional. Any statements represent opinions, based on research and/or personal experience, but results may not be typical.
Neem oil should be used only on the skin. Neem leaf and bark—in capsules, extracts or teas—can be used either externally or internally.
People with autoimmune diseases—including lupus and multiple sclerosis—should use neem only under close supervision of a healthcare professional to avoid the risk of worsening their disease. People who are taking immunosuppressive drugs (e.g., transplant patients or patients on the new biologic anti-inflammatory drugs) cannot take neem because it would counteract those essential drugs.
Neem is used to treat diabetes in Ayurvedic medicine, insulin-dependent diabetics must monitor their blood sugar levels carefully when using neem. For the same reason, anyone diagnosed with hypoglycemia must be extremely cautious and use neem only for brief periods.
Neem has contraceptive effects, couples—women and men too—trying to conceive a child should not use it. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also avoid using neem internally.
Neem contains aspirin-like compounds that may increase the risk of Reyes Syndrome. Children who weigh less than 100 pounds should NOT take Neem internally if they are running a temperature or have been exposed to a fever-causing illness. External use is safe at all ages, so lotions, creams and salves are appropriate even for very young children.
Neem products should never be used internally by anyone who is pregnant or trying to conceive a child (male or female). Neem also has compounds related to those found in aspirin and should not be used to treat children under the age of 19 with fevers or other flu-related symptoms.
These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The research presented on this page is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and