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Neem Leaves and Oil: Health Benefits, Uses for Skin and Hair, and Side-Effects

Updated on April 19, 2014
Neem is quite useful for curing various diseases
Neem is quite useful for curing various diseases | Source

What is Neem?

The neem tree belongs to the mahogany family Meliaceae. The botanical name of this tree is Azadirachta indica and it is native to countries such as India and Pakistan. You will find neem trees growing throughout these countries.

The word neem is derived from the Sanskrit word nimba. The word itself is derived from nimbati syasthyamdadati, which means "to give good health". In Sanskrit, it is also known as arista, which means “perfect, complete, and imperishable".

Neem leaves are often consumed by people for various health and medicinal purposes. The bark is often used to brush one's teeth. The leaves of the tree have a slightly bitter taste. Neem oil is extracted from the fruits and seeds of the tree and has a very strong garlic-like odor. Neem leaves and flowers are also eaten as a vegetable in certain parts of India.

Ayurveda has been using neem for more than 4,000 years for the purpose of treating various diseases. The medicinal uses of the plant have been documented in Charak Samhita and Susruta Samhita, the foundation books of the traditional Indian medicinal practice of Ayurveda. Considered to be a plant which can cure all ailments, research has also found that the seeds and leaves have antiseptic, antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties.

Neem is considered to have the cure for all ailments
Neem is considered to have the cure for all ailments | Source

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The Health Benefits and Medicinal Uses of Neem

While the bark, leaves, flowers, fruits, roots and seeds of the neem have been extensively used in Ayurveda as well as the Unani forms of medicine, modern science is beginning to realize its medicinal and health uses as well. Nearly 140 compounds have been isolated from the different parts of the tree, however, there is no doubt that the leaves and oil extracted from the seeds and fruits offer the most medicinal benefits.

Neem extract has been found to have anti-ulcer properties and inhibits acid secretion. This makes it quite an effective digestive plant for curing stomach and intestinal ulcers. It is also useful for treating gastrointestinal infections and is effective for intestinal worms.

Neem contains chemicals that reduce blood sugar levels, which makes it quite useful for diabetics as well.

It is quite useful for allergies, coughs, colds and other respiratory ailments.

Neem extracts prevent plaque formation and prevent dental caries. It is also quite effective in curing gum disease or gingivitis. This is why many people stick to chewing a branch of the tree rather than using the common toothpaste and toothbrush for cleaning their teeth. In India, you will find people buying neem-based toothpastes for keeping their teeth healthy.

Neem leaf has contraceptive properties and is, therefore, often used for birth control. Consuming neem oil in the form of capsules daily can work as an effective birth control for men. Although more research is required to ascertain how it works, it is believed that neem may reduce the motility (movement) of the sperm. This means that the sperm is not able to reach an egg and impregnate a woman.

Women can also use this as a perfectly safe birth control measure. Neem oil can be applied inside the vagina as a contraceptive. Neem's spermicidal action may kill the sperms in the vaginal area, making sure that it does not enter a woman's body.

Since it is a powerful antimicrobial herb, neem is quite effective against several sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia. It can also be used to fight candida and other fungal infections in the vagina as well. Simply apply the oil in the vagina to cure infection or prevent its recurrence.

Neem is an effective blood cleanser and is often used for improving liver function and detoxifying the body. It is also believed to offer cardiovascular benefits by improving blood circulation, dilating blood vessels, and controlling high blood pressure.

Consumption of neem leaves has also been found to be effective for treating malarial fever. It may also offer anti-cancer benefits. Its anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce pain and swelling in joints affected by arthritis.

Home-made Neem Face Pack

Keep your skin soft and blemish-free with this face pack:

  • Grind neem leaves and make a paste with plain water.
  • Add a pinch of turmeric
  • Apply the face pack on your face for about 30 minutes and wash it off.
  • You can apply this paste on the whole body as well to keep it glowing and youthful.

Neem Uses for Skin and Hair Care

It's antimicrobial and detoxifying properties make neem quite useful in treating various skin and hair problems.

Neem leaves consumed early in the morning may purify the blood and cure acne and pimples. Regular consumption is believed to remove infections from the body and give you glowing and blemish-free skin from within. A paste of neem leaves applied to the face can also help in reducing acne and removing its scars. Try the home remedy given on the right side for getting a beautiful face and body.

Neem leaves are quite effective for wounds as well as skin ulcers. It is also quite useful for skin diseases such as psoriasis, eczema, and scabies. When applied directly on the skin, neem oil is quite an effective mosquito and insect repellant.

When applied on the hair, neem oil can get rid of head lice. Boil a handful of neem leaves in water and use it for washing your hair to get rid of dandruff. This home remedy can also be used to reduce hair growth due to bacterial or fungal infection in the scalp.

Applying a paste of neem leaves and olive oil will help keep your hair healthy, soft, silky and shiny.

How to Use Neem

If you can grow a neem tree in your house or neighborhood, nothing can be better than that. You can use the fresh leaves of neem and consume it early in the morning or use a branch of the tree to brush your teeth. This is the best way to enjoy the health and medicinal benefits of neem. You can also make neem tea and add some useful herbs to this. You can learn how to make neem tea in the next section.

You can also purchase neem products. It is available in the form of dried neem leaves, powder, oil and capsules. These can easily be bought online from renowned stores such as Amazon.

For skin and hair problems, the easiest way to use neem is to boil the neem leaves in water and take a head or body bath. You can also apply a paste of neem powder on the hair and skin to use it effectively. Other ways to use neem for acne and hair are mentioned above in the section "Neem Uses for Skin and Hair Care".

How to Make Neem Tea

Neem tea is another way to get the health benefits of this plant. Boil about five to six leaves in two cups of water for about ten minutes. You can add lemon juice, honey, cinnamon or cardamom to this mixture to reduce the bitterness. Neem can also be brewed with your regular cup of green or black tea to reduce its bitterness and yet use it medicinally.

Side-Effects of Neem

Neem has a beneficial effect on the livers and kidneys. However, when taken in large doses for a long time, it may instead prove harmful. So, make sure to consult your doctor, especially if you suffer from any liver or kidney disorder. Neem is an effective birth control method, but may cause miscarriages in pregnant women. Use neem oil with caution since it may cause skin allergies, especially in children. Make sure to do a patch test before using it on a regular basis.

Make the Best Use of Neem

Now that you know all about the various uses of neem, it is time to incorporate this traditional plant into your life. Use it to get glowing skin or improve the condition of your hair and scalp. Use it to get healthy teeth or make it a part of your life for treating various diseases. Just make sure that you promote the uses of this completely natural and effective herbal remedy.

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