Neem is one of the most valuable plants available in India with amazing medicinal values. Hailed in Sidhha and Ayurvedic medicine for its potent benefits, Azadirachta indica, as the tree is botanically known, is known as “Vembu” in Tamil and is a fast-growing tree held sacred in Tamilnadu and other places in India. Neem is known as Nimm in Punjabi, Arya Veppu in Malayalam, Vepa in Telugu, Bevu in Kannada, and Tamar in Burmese.
It is also found in Africa, Central and South America. There are also some trial plantations in the United States and Australia.
In India, this herb has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for more than 2,000 years. People in Tamilnadu use Neem not only for its medicinal values but also for its sacred image, during functions and festivals. For instance, during the Koozh (a porridge made from millet) festival to the Hindu deity Amman in the month of Aadi (August), neem is added to the flavor of koozh and other food items shared along with it.
There is a superstitious belief in villages that men and women are sometimes captured by evil spirits. Neem leaves are used to drive away the ‘evil spirit’ from their body.
The genus Azadirachta has two recognized species:
Azadirachta excelsa – grows mainly in Malaysia and Philippines. It has a number of uses including making furniture and home construction.
Azadirachta indica – called as Neem, economically important tree with multiple functions.
Neem tree is a fascinating and a versatile plant, each part offering a variety of benefits.
Both Neem oil and the Neem leaf are fantastic skin care ingredients curing various diseases – relief from dry skin, soothing itchiness, redness and irritation. They also improve body metabolism and develop immunity, combating against bacterial infections protecting from acne, boils, ulcers, psoriasis, eczema, scabies, head lice and more. It’s oil also promotes shiny, healthy hair, combats dryness, prevents premature graying and may even help with some forms of hair loss.
It improves liver function, detoxifies the blood, promoting a healthy circulative, respiratory and digestive systems. It is also used by diabetics to balance blood sugar levels. It is also used as an insect repellent and it is used in malarial treatment. Devoid of any insecticides and corticosteroids, Neem has no side effects.
Teeth and gums can benefit from the toothpastes, mouth wash and other oral products containing Neem as ingredient.
It is good to wash the dogs with Neem soaps/Neem shampoos as it is believed to control the dog from biting insects, ticks and fleas, ringworms and protects the animals from any skin diseases or fungal infections.
Neem spray is also used as a popular organic insecticide. It kills the insects that eat the crops and also protect the plants from fungal infections. The greatest benefit of Neem is that the insects cannot become Neem resistant unlike other chemical insecticides.
Neem seed oil and extracts, Neem leaf extract, Neem leaf paste, Neem toothbrush, Neem shampoo, lotion, soap and cream are some of the Neem tree’s home remedies.
Some other uses of Neem plant parts
1. Neem Twigs – Used as a tooth brush in villages; good for teeth and gums.
2. Neem cake – it is the pulp left after extracting Neem seed oil. It can be used as fodder for animals, or can be used as a fertilizer.
3. Neem Flowers – they have good sweetening smell that is loved by bees. It is used by Telugu people for preparing Ugadi Pachadi, a special item prepard on Ugadi festival.
Research is also being done on the effect of Neem in the treatment of some other diseases like HIV, various forms of cancer, malaria, diabetes, hepatitis, duodenal ulcers, kidney disorders, fungal infections, yeast infections, STDs, all kinds of skin disorders, periodontal disease, mononucleosis, blood disorders, heart diseases, nerve disorders, and allergies.
Traditional Indian/Tamil medicine though, advises caution in the use of Neem and prescribes using Neem with certain other substances that can counterbalance Neem’s intensity.
In Siddha, two other varieties of Neem – Malai vembu (Melia Dubia) and Nilavembu (Andrographis paniculata) – are being used for curing dengue.
(1) Malai Vembu Juice
Malai Vembu leaf juice is a traditional home made natural medicine. Fresh Malai vembu leaves should be mixed with little cold water, grounded and filtered. Consume 10 ml of this extract 2-3 times a day and the fever will subside on consumption for five days. It is advisable to continue the medicine for two more days even after recovery.
(2) Nilavembu Kudineer
10 grams of Nilavembu Kudineer powder should be boiled in 100 ml of water until the water level gets reduced to half. Consume 50 ml of this juice 2-3 times a day in the morning and evening. Prepare the juice freshly for each dose. Fever will subside on consumption for five days. Even after recovery from fever, this may be continued for another two days.
Nilavembu Kudineer powder is available in all Siddha wings in Government Hospitals and Primary Health Centres at free of cost.
Neem has been popular in India for more than 2,000 years and it is called the “Village Pharmacy” as it is an essential ingredient in Ayurvedic medicines that is popular in villages.
The herb is also slowly gaining its popularity in western countries. Neem tea is promoted to boost the immune function and cleanse the body of impurities. Neem also has a great effect as a contraceptive. But, it is advisable that pregnant women consult their doctors before taking Neem in significant quantities.
In India, Neem leaves are more often used than Neem oil. The extract of the Neem leaves are used most of the times. Neem leaves are considered safe to take orally on a regular basis as it kills the worms present in our digestive system. Sometimes, the bark/fruits/flowers are also used as therapeutic agents. The bark contains a higher concentration of active ingredients than the leaves, and is especially high in ingredients with antiseptic and anti-inflammatory action.