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NEEM (Azadirachta indica) tree: Medicinal properties and worldwide uses

Updated on July 12, 2015

Neem, known as the wonder tree, is very rich in medicinal and bio-pesticide properties. Almost all its parts viz., bark, leaves,seeds etc., are used for medicinal and plant protection purposes. Neem is also known as Nim, Neemgachh, Nimb, Bevu, Veppu, Limba, Nimbu and Veppa.

Neem is used in various preparations like cosmetics, toiletries, pharmaceuticals and medicinals. Chemical analysis of various plant parts shows that leaves contain a flavonoid, known as Quercetin, a steroid 'Beta-sitosterol' and various liminoids like nimbin and its derivatives.

Antibacterial and antifungal characteristics of neem leaves are mainly due to presence of Quercetin. Neem seeds contain lipids, azadirachtin, nimbin and salannol etc. Insecticidal properties to neem seeds are imparted to it due to presence of Azadirachtin.

Bark: Hot water extract of the bark of the neem tree is used by Indians as a tonic, refrigerant, anthelmintic, emmenagogue (promotes menstrual discharge in adult females), and antiperiodic besides using it for fever and diabetes.

Hot water extract of bark is used with water to treat of leprosy. Chinese use it in fever and diabetes.

In addition to use of decoction of dried bark for fever, Nigerians infuse decoction of dried bark orally for treatment of malaria.

Residents of Senegal take the hot water extract of the dried bark orally for gingivitis and healing of wounds.

In India, a mixture of juices of the bark of Andrographis paniculata, Azadirachta indica and Timospora cordifolia is taken orally as a treatment for filariasis.

Oil: In India, women consume the hot water extract of the dried fixed oil orally to promote menstrual discharge

Mixed plant parts: Indians use hot water extract of the flower and leaf orally as an antihysteric remedy and anthraquinone fraction of the dried flower, fruit and leaf to treat leprosy besides using it externally to treat wounds.

Fruit, leaf and root, ground and mixed with dried ginger and “Trifala” (a preparation consisting of the powdered fruit of Terminalia bellerica (Gaertn.) Roxb., T. Chebula Retz, and Emblica Officinalis Gaertn.) is taken orally with lukewarm water to treat common fevers in India.

General uses:

  • A combination of dried neem oil with vaseline (1:5) is used for minor cuts, burns and wounds.
  • Water extract of neem leaves (boiled) acts as antiseptic and protects skin against infections.
  • Massage with neem oil mixed in coconut oil helps against dandruff and head lice.
  • pure neem oil is used as nasal drops to provide relief from sinusitis
  • Burning neem oil (5%) with any other oil ward of mosquitoes.
  • People suffering from hyperacidity and diabetes may find chewing 2-3 neem leaves regularly very useful. Chewing of neem leaves is believed to purify the blood.
  • Extract of 10 fresh leaves (boiled) in a litre of water may be used as eyewash in case of itching in the eyes or conjunctivitis.
  • Soaking feet in the aqueous extract of neem leaves provides relief in foot problems.
  • Gargle with honey added aqueous leaf extract (boil 2-3 neem leaves in water and cool) provides relief in soar throat.

Flowers: The dried flowers are taken orally for diabetes in India and extract of these is taken orally as a bitter tonic in Thailand.

Fruits: Indians use hot water extract of dried fruit for piles, skin diseases and ulcers whereas fresh fruit is used externally for leprosy.

In Thailand, hot water extract of dried fruit is consumed orally as an anthelmintic, laxative, bitter tonic and also for control of fever while dried unripe fruit is taken orally as a bitter tonic and for fever.

Hot water extract of the fresh leaf and bark, is taken orally to treat jaundice, malaria and also as a cathartic by the Nigerians

Hot water extract of the entire plant is consumed orally as an anthelmintic. Hot water extract of the entire plant is reportedly used as an insecticide and a purgative in India

Hot water extract of the entire plant is used externally for wounds and ulcers, skin diseases, leprosy and rheumatic disorders. The extract is taken orally for fevers, malaria, jaundice, and syphilis by Sri Lankans.

Leaf: Leaf juice is administered by intravenous infusion for chronic skin diseases, and taken orally as an anthelmintic in India.Hot water extract of leaf, taken orally as a treatment of malaria both in India and China

Gum: Dried gum is used as a bitter tonic in Thailand. Above uses of various plant parts of the neem suggest that neem is a valuable plant due to its medicinal and insecticidal properties. It has been used worldwide as folk remedies and also in numerous drugs by pharmaceutical companies.

© 2010 C V Singh


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    C V Singh 7 years ago

    Thanks soumyasrajan. Its true that composition of Indian traditional dishes is so formulated that it protects us from several diseases.

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    soumyasrajan 7 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

    Very nice article cv!. Neem is used in so many of our salty dishes, curries to give slightly sour flavor touch.That tradition also must be also because of its health aspect?