The Neem tree (Azadirachta indica) is native to India and has been referred to as the 'curer of all ailments' and the 'blessed tree' by both the Hindu and Muslim population in India.
The neem tree is a tropical evergreen, related to the mahogany, that mainly grows in arid regions of India and Burma and Southwest Asia and West Africa. When temperatures do not drop below freezing, it may grow up to 50 feet tall. They are estimated to live up to 200 years.
According to some, the neem tree – one of the most promising of all plants – may eventually benefit every person on the planet. Probably no other plant yields as many varied products or has as many exploitable by-products. Indeed, as foreseen by some scientists, this tree may usher in a new era in pest control; provide millions with inexpensive medicines; cut the rate of population growth; and perhaps even reduce erosion, deforestation, and the excessive temperature of an overheated globe.
The neem is known to Indians as a virtual living pharmacy. Daily, millions of people brush their teeth with neem twigs. Dentists confirm that this practice guards against periodontal disease. A crude antiseptic soap is made from the pulp of the olive-like fruit. A paste made from the leaves has been found to successfully treat skin lesions. Small portions of leaves mixed with regular feed seem to affect intestinal parasites in livestock.
It was not until the 1920s that formal research was begun on neem trees. It was noted that during periodic locust plagues, while acres of foliage were stripped bare, neem were left unscathed. Simply derived "tea" solutions made from the neem seed were effective in protecting foliage crops. Additionally, several compounds were isolated from the seeds of neem. One of these, azadirachtin, was found to both repel and disrupt the growth and reproduction of many destructive insect species. Unlike many synthetic insecticides, low dozes of azadirachtin were found to have little or no mammalian toxicity, and insects showed little resistance to the compound even through several generations. The range of insects affected by neem extracts is impressive and includes beetles, flies, mosquitoes, caterpillars, true bugs, locusts and grasshoppers, aphids, weevils, moths, and roaches.
The most valuable part of Neem for modern scientific research is the oil produced from pressing the Neem kernel. Scientists call the active ingredient in this oil Azadirachtin – and the strength and quality of this is central to using Neem as a pesticide or fungicide. It has a strong and unpleasant odor, which has held back its popularity as a treatment.
Many ancient and traditional medical authorities see neem as a vital resource for pharmacy. They mention the usefulness of the leaves, bark, flowers, seeds and fruit for treating several diseases such as diabetes, ulcers and skin disorders. For example, some people chew neem leaves in the morning for 24 days to protect the body from diseases like hypertension and diabetes. The juice of the neem tree (5ml) mixed with equal amounts of honey reduces oozing from ears and also removes inflammation. The ash of the dry neem leaves is used to remove urinary stones.
Neem twigs have been used by millions of Indians as an antiseptic tooth brush. Its oil is used for preparing soap and toothpaste. The oil of neem is a potent spermicide. When a child has a fever or chickenpox, Neem leaves are put on the bed. For eczema, psoriasis, ulcers or any other skin problems, a paste of Neem bark or leaves is made up and applied directly to the skin.
Psoriasis: Neem contains a very powerful analgesic and relief from itching and general soreness is said to be virtually instantaneous. Neem will slow growth rate of skin making the disease manageable and giving a normal appearance. This effect becomes obvious normally within 4-7 days. Neem also prevents cell adhesion which seems to be very helpful in disposing of hard, dead skin. IT has been found that with ongoing treatment the dead skin literally peels away after two to three weeks.
Arthritis: The different types of arthritis ailments can be attributed to autoimmune disorders, infections, the result of wear and tear on the joints or inflammation. It is the inflammation or the pain with arthritic conditions that is generally treated. Neem, used topically, may aid in treating arthritis in many ways. Neem's antibacterial properties can help kill infectious causes while its inflammation reducing properties and pain suppressing properties may alleviate the symptoms.
Cold Sores: Tests in Germany show that neem extracts are toxic to the herpes virus and can quickly heal cold sores (Schmutterer, 1992). At the first indication of an eruption treat with topical application of a neem-based cream or ointment to the affected area, is recommended. Continue topical applications until the eruption has peaked and until the sore has healed.
Cuts: Neem has been used for centuries to treat problems of the skin and to prevent infection. Neem may reduce the pain, kill the bacteria that may cause infection, and aids in healing with reduced scarring.
Massage: Neem oil has numerous remarkably proven medicinal properties also stimulative and antiseptic effect when used for massage of the body.
Sprains and bruises may be treated with Neem as a topical application which may help increase blood flow to the bruised area. This helps remove the discoloration and promote healing.
Wrinkles: Neem oil may have an effect in preventing or softening the appearance of wrinkles by providing a natural skin protectant and moisturizer to the skin. Antibacterial compounds that we find naturally in neem oil work to protect the skin while immune stimulating agents may work in the deeper layers of the skin below the surface. These neem compounds help healthy skin retain its suppleness that we lose as we age. After washing and drying the skin, rub a few drops of neem based cream or oil on areas that are prone to drying and wrinkles.
Neem is a most effective gum disease treatment. In a German study of 70 patients with pyorrhea of varying stages, after just 5 to 10 treatments with a neem-based toothpaste and mouthwash there was significant improvement. Bleeding gums had healed and the secretion from pockets around the teeth had stopped. The bluish-colored gums returned to a healthy pale pink color. [Zeppenfeldt, undated].
Neem bark extracts can reduce the ability of some streptococci to colonize tooth surfaces [Wolinsky and Mania, 1996; Patel and Venkatakrishna, 1988]. Gingivitis has been prevented or even reversed with regular use of neem toothpaste and mouthwash [Elvin-Lewis, 1980].
One patient even reported a reversal of the loss of gum tissue by chewing fresh neem leaves. Scientists believe that antibacterial compounds and neem's ability to improve the immune response in the gums and tissues of the mouth account for these results.
Neem is a gentler scabies medication than prescription remedies. In the Ayurveda and Siddha system of medicine (Indian system of medicine) Azadirachta indica ADR ('Neem') and Curcuma longa ('Turmeric') has been used for healing chronic ulcers and scabies. The 'Neem' and 'Turmeric' was used as a paste for the treatment of scabies in 814 people. In 97% of cases cure was obtained within 3 to 15 days of treatment. It is a very cheap, easily available, effective and acceptable mode of treatment for the villagers in the developing countries.
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