Neem is considered to be having great medicinal values. Due to its effective medicinal values, it plays a prominent role in Ayurvedic medicine. It is scientifically known as Azadirachta indica. It belongs to the Kingdom of ‘Plantae’ and its division is ‘Magnoliophyta’. Its Order is ‘Sapindales’. It comes under the genus ‘Azadirachta’ and it belongs to the family ‘Meliaceae’. Neem is native to India and the Indian subcontinent including Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, Malaysia, Pakistan, Thailand and Sri Lanka. Neem grows in tropical and semi-tropical regions. Neem trees are now also grow in islands in the southern part of Iran.
In Indian languages it is known by the names such as Vembu, Hing Niryasam, Varathvasa, Kagahabalam, Keereshtam, Viseereanaparnam, Peethasagaram, Suklasalam, Chirathasakam, Pisumatham, Aristam, Thickthagam, Sardanam, Puyari, Sarthicknam, Seetham, Maghadicktham, Himathrumam and Paarvatham.
There are three types of Neem namely Ordinary neem, wild neem and Kari neem.
The main chemical constituents of neem are Nimbin, Nimbindin, Azedirachitin, Nimbolin and Salannin. Neem flower contains Volatile oil. The component found in neem seed oil is oleic acid, lineolic acid, palmitic acid and lignoceric acid. Neem leaves and its bark contain alkaloid and Margosigne. It is found that neem contains anti-malarial, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic and antifungal agents.
It is a tree and grows fast up to a height of 15-25 metres. Its branches are wide spreading. Its crown/ stem are roundish and normally grows from 1 feet to 3 feet diameter. Its branches are strong covered with thick layer of bark. The leaves are green and grown 1 to 2 inches.
The flowers are white in colour with strong fragrance. An individual flower is 5–6 mm long and 8–11 mm wide. Protandrous, bisexual flowers and male flowers exist on the same individual tree. The fruit skin namely, exocarp is thin and the bitter-sweet pulp namely, mesocarp is yellowish-white and very fibrous and it is 0.3–0.5 cm thick. The white, hard inner shell (endocarp) of the fruit encloses one, rarely two or three, seeds having a brown seed coat.
1. When neem juice is mixed in bathing water and taken a teaspoon regularly, it cures leprosy.
2. The neem bark is boiled and its juice is consumed for curing skin diseases such as eczema, psoriasis, etc.
3. The neem is used as anti bacteria and anti fungal agent and hence used in bathing water and also boiled in drinking water.
4. When neem juice is mixed with pure honey and consumed regularly, it purifies the blood.
5. When neem root is boiled and goggled in mouth, it cures toothache and acts as mouth freshner.
6. Neem seed and its oil are used to clean the stomach and it improves disgestive system.
7. Neem leaves are placed in the entrance of a house to purify the atmosphere of the house.
8. Neem bark juice when taken daily with pure honey on empty stomach, it cures jaundice.
9. The neem smoke acts as mosquito repellent.
10. Neem oil is used to grow healthy and long hair, to detoxify the blood, to improve liver function and balance blood sugar levels.
11. In Ayurveda, neem is used as anthelmintic, antifungal, antidiabetic, antibacterial, antiviral, contraceptive and sedative agent.
12. Indian traditional medicine recommends patients with chicken pox sleep on neem leaves.
13. Neem leaves with small onion and turmeric is made into a paste and applied in the chicken pox affected area and a teaspoon of such paste is also given for the patient to recover quickly.
14. Traditionally, slender neem twigs were chewed as a toothbrush and then split as a tongue cleaner. It has been found to be equally effective as a toothbrush in reducing plaque and gingival inflammation.
15. Taking bath using neem leaves regularly cures most of the skin diseases and infections.
16. Planting a neem tree near your house would purify your entire residential atmosphere.
17. A teaspoon of dried neem leaf powder along with pure ghee on empty stomach for a month helps in curing anaemia.
Note: Excessive use of neem is dangerous and it may lead to infertility and low blood sugar level and may harm liver and kidney.
The neem tree has high drought resistance capacity. Normally it thrives in areas with sub-arid to sub-humid conditions, with annual rainfall 400–1,200 millimetres (16–47 in). It can grow in regions with an annual rainfall below 400 mm, but in such cases it depends largely on ground water levels. Neem can grow in many different types of soil, but it thrives best on well drained deep and sandy soils. It can tolerate high to very high temperatures and does not tolerate temperature below 4 °C (39 °F).
Neem is one of a very few shade-giving trees that thrive in drought-prone areas e.g. the dry coastal, southern districts of India and Pakistan. The trees are not at all delicate about water quality and thrive on the merest trickle of water, whatever the quality. In India and tropical countries where the Indian diaspora has reached, it is very common to see neem trees used for shade lining streets, around temples, schools & other such public buildings or in most people’s back yards. In very dry areas the trees are planted on large tracts of land.
Neem oil is used for preparing cosmetics such as soap, shampoo, balms and creams as well as toothpaste.
Traditionally, slender neem twigs (called datun;) are first chewed as a toothbrush and then split as a tongue cleaner.This practise has been in use in India, Africa, and the Middle East for centuries. Many of India’s 80% rural population still start their day with the chewing stick, while in urban areas neem toothpaste is preferred. Neem twigs are still collected and sold in markets for this use, and in rural India one often sees youngsters in the streets chewing on neem twigs. It has been found to be equally effective as a toothbrush in reducing plaque and gingival inflammation.
Besides its use in traditional Indian medicine, the neem tree is of great importance for its anti-desertification properties and possibly as a good carbon dioxide sink.
•Practitioners of traditional Indian medicine recommend that patients with chicken pox sleep on neem leaves.
Neem gum is used as a bulking agent and for the preparation of special purpose foods.
•Neem blossoms are used in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to prepare Ugadi pachhadi. A mixture of neem flowers and jaggery (or unrefined brown sugar) is prepared and offered to friends and relatives, symbolic of sweet and bitter events in the upcoming new year, Ugadi. “Bevina hoovina gojju” (a type of curry prepared with neem blossoms) is common in Karnataka throughout the year. Dried blossoms are used when fresh blossoms are not available. In Tamil Nadu, a rasam (veppam poo rasam) made with neem blossoms is a culinary specialty.
Neem is perceived in India as a beauty aid. Powdered leaves are a major component of at least one widely used facial cream. Purified neem oil is also used in nail polish and other cosmetics.
Neem oil is non-drying and it resists degradation better than most vegetable oils. In rural India, it is commonly used to grease cart wheels.
Neem has demonstrated considerable potential as a fertilizer. Neem cake is widely used to fertilize cash crops, particularly sugarcane and vegetables. Ploughed into the soil, it protects plant roots from nematodes and white ants, probably as it contains the residual limonoids. In Karnataka, people grow the tree mainly for its green leaves and twigs, which they puddle into flooded rice fields before the rice seedlings are transplanted.
An exudate can be tapped from the trunk by wounding the bark. This high protein material is not a substitute for polysaccharide gum, such as gum arabic. It may however, have a potential as a food additive, and it is widely used in South Asia as “Neem glue”.
Neem bark contains 14% tannin, an amount similar to that in conventional tannin yielding trees (such as Acacia decurrens). Moreover, it yields a strong, coarse fibre commonly woven into ropes in the villages of India.
In parts of Asia neem honey commands premium prices, and people promote apiculture by planting neem trees.
80% of India’s supply of neem oil is now used by neem oil soap manufacturers. Although much of it goes to small scale speciality soaps, often using cold-pressed oil, large scale producers also use it, mainly because it is cheap. Additionally it is antibacterial and antifungal, soothing and moisturising. It can be made with up to 40% neem oil. Well-known brands include Margo. Generally, the crude oil is used to produce coarse laundry soaps.