Fondly touted as the “Panacea For All Diseases”, the health benefits of the bitter neem leaves in any form have been employed for various purposes for centuries now. It would be quite uncommon to not see a neem tree in the neighbourhood, in our country. Neem, is one such wondrous plant that is widely used for treating a wide-range of health anomalies. Be it gastro-intestinal disorders, liver problems, dental problems, infections, skin conditions, hair issues or problems related to any sort of microbial infestation, the holy neem is an absolute remedy for all. Also Read: Neem Leaf Powder: Incredible Benefits For Skin, Hair And Overall Health
What Is Neem?
Call it “Holy Tree”, “Divine Tree”, “Nature's Drugstore”, “Life-Giving Tree”, or “Village Pharmacy”, the humble Neem has a strong foothold in the world of medicine and wellness. Right from the leaves, roots, stems, flowers, seeds, bark or fruits, each and every part of the neem plant has potent pharmacological properties including anti-fungal, antiviral, anti-bacterial, antihistamine as well as germ-killing qualities.
Neem which goes by the botanical name Azadirachta indica is a member of the mahogany family, Meliaceae. The scientific latinized name comes from the Persian words, where ‘Azad’ signifies ‘free’, ‘dirakht’ means ‘tree’, and ‘indica’ symbolizes ‘of Indian origin’. Hence, the scientific name indicates a free tree native to India.
Neem is of evergreen origin growing to a height ranging from about 50 to 120 feet. It has wide, spreading branches with a dense roundish crown with a diameter of about 15 – 20 mt resembling much like the chinaberry tree. It has a short, stout, straight trunk with a diameter of about 1-2 metres. The tree possesses toothed, elliptic leaves that are arranged oppositely on the twigs. These leaves are generally purple when young and become dark green when it matures. Flowers are auxiliary, arranged in drooping panicles ranging from 5-6 mm long and 8-11 mm wide and are usually small, white-tinted with a bitter aromatic fragrance. Neem bears fruits in the form of drupes that are oval to roundish in shape with a smooth exterior. The drupes are chiefly green when young, turning slowly into yellow on ripening, enclosing pulp and seeds inside.
Being a natural air purifier, it can not only withstand rising temperature but also improve soil fertility. Studies suggest, on a sweltering summer day, the temperature under a neem tree can be atleast upto 10 degrees lower. Thus, sitting under a neem tree can often help in relaxing by beating the heat.
Neem is quite compatible to grow in arid regions with little rainfall and even has the incredible ability to withstand drought making it ideal for the world we live in today. It is chiefly cultivated in the tropical climate of most of the states of the Indian subcontinent and can also be found growing widely in our neighbouring countries including Nepal, Bangladesh, Srilanka and Pakistan.
Common Names Of Neem
This bitter tree is known by different names in different parts of the world including Azadirachta indica, Neem Tree, Indian Lilac, and Margosa Tree in English, Arishta, Pavakrita and Nimbaka in Sanskrit, Neem in Hindi, Nim and Nimgacha in Bengali, Bevu in Kannada, Aryaveppu, Aaruveppu in Malayalam, Veppai, Sengumaru in Tamil, Vepa in Telugu, Kandunimba in Marathi, and Dhanujhada, Nimbda in Gujarati.
Other vernacular lesser common names of Neem include Picumandah, Picumardah, Aristah, Prabhadrah, Nim, Nimgaachh, Leemado, Turakbevu, Huchchabevu, Chikkabevu, Kadunimba, Nimb, Neemo, Vempu, Veppu, Vemu, Vepa etc.
Ayurvedic Indications Of Neem
Centuries back, neem was probably the most recognized therapeutic plant of the Indian subcontinent and hence it was mentioned time and again in several Puranic texts just like the Atharava Veda, Upanishads, Amarkosha and Ghrysutra scriptures portraying the excellent qualities of this divine herb. The holistic science of Ayurveda acknowledges this rejuvenative herb as Nimbaka and has been actively mentioned in several ayurvedic scriptures and journals for various indications which include Kustha (treats skin disorders), Deepana (enhances stomach fire), Keshya (treats hair problems), Pachana (helps in digestion), Rochana (stimulates appetite), Anulomana (improves breathing), Prameha (manages diabetes), Trutahara (relieves excessive thirst), Shwasha (relieves breathing difficulties), Amahara (treats indigestion), Vamana (prevents nausea and vomiting), Vayasthapana (prevents ageing), Dahahara (relieves burning sensation), Mehahara (treats urinary tract disorders), Arsha (treats piles or haemorrhoids), Krichra (treats painful micturition) Rasayani (rejuvenates the whole body), Balya (improves muscle strength), Hikkanigrahana (controls hiccups), Kantya (relieves sore throat), Triptighno (relieves pseudo-satiation), and Vamanopaga (treats emesis) Shonitasthapana (prevents bleeding), Jvara (useful in fever), Kasahara (Relieves cough), Pandu (treats anaemia), Sangrahini (treats diarrhoea), Kamala (prevents jaundice), Varnya (improves complexion), Krimihara (relieves intestinal worms), Hridaya (treats heart problems), and Kanthya (improves voice).
What Are The Chemical Constituents Of Neem?
Mother Nature has blessed the humble Neem tree with a wealth of bioactive components that account for the wide-range of therapeutic properties that ultimately helps in scourging the body of infections, microbes and diseases. These biochemical components include azadirachtin, nimbolinin, nimbin, nimbidin, nimbidol, nimbanene, nimbandiol, nimbolide, sodium nimbinate, gedunin, salannin, quercetin, 6-desacetylnimbinene, ascorbic acid, n-hexacosanol and amino acid, 7-desacetyl-7-benzoylazadiradione, 7-desacetyl-7-benzoylgedunin, 17-hydroxyazadiradione, ß-sitosterol, and polyphenolic flavonoids.
Formulations Of Neem
Neem, is an ultimate remedy significantly used for a host of health anomalies. Be it in the form of kwath (decoction), tailam (oil), churna (powder) or gutika (tablet/capsule), the health benefits of this wonder herb know no bounds. Let’s know how to prepare these four formulations.
4-5 twigs of neem leaves
Pluck all the leaves.
Dry them directly under sun to remove moisture.
Grind them into a fine powder.
Again, keep the powder under direct sunlight to remove the remaining moisture.
Pass it through sieve 100 to remove solid particles.
Store it in a glass container, in a cool dry place for future use.
3-4 sprigs of neem leaves
Pluck the neem leaves from the stem and wash them under running water.
Pour purified water in a large bottomed vessel.
Put the leaves in it and boil it for 20 minutes.
Now switch off the flame, put on a lid and allow the leaves to soak.
After a few hours, filter the solution in a vessel and remove the leaves.
Store it in a glass bottle for later use.
2 cups Nimbaka churna
2 tbsp gum acacia
The purified nimbaka churna is mixed properly with gum acacia which is the binding agent used here.
Now take a small teaspoon of the mixture and slowly roll them into a ball by rubbing it in between both the palms.
Once the gutikas or tablets are ready, dry them under direct sunlight to remove any remaining moisture particles.
Store them in air-tight container in a cool place for future use.
Popularly referred to as “Shea Butter of the East", Nimbaka Tailam or Neem Oil offers extensive moisturizing and nourishing properties. The abundance of fatty acids and Vitamin E makes it an ideal choice for improving skin problems and hair woes instantly. No wonder several beauty brands are coming out with their very own formula and thanks to technology, there is no dearth for beauty DIY's that incorporate neem oil as the base ingredient. It can be prepared by both hot infusion and cold compression method, but lets check out the homemade way which details on the hot infusion procedure:
2 cups of neem leaves
1 cup of coconut oil
Wash the neem leaves under running water.
Make a thick paste of it using a grinder.
Boil coconut oil in a thick-bottomed vessel until it turns transparent.
Now add the neem paste to the hot oil and stir continuously.
Allow the mixture to boil with continuous stirring until it turns green.
Switch off the flame, cover the vessel with a lid and allow it to cool.
Now strain the oil to remove the plant parts.
Pour it in a glass container and use it according to your specific needs.
Therapeutic Benefits Of Neem:
Aids In Digestion
Owing to the excellent digestive properties, neem plays a quintessential role in promoting digestion. The anti-flatulent and astringent properties of the oil or powder reduce the formation of gas in the alimentary canal, thus reducing bloating, flatulence, and abdominal distension. The abundance of fibre in the Neem powder offers a one-stop remedy for constipation and other digestive issues. The antacid quality of the plant also prevents the formation of excessive acids in the stomach thereby treating indigestion, ulcer, gastritis, heart burn and helps in promoting better absorption of nutrients in the body. Also Read: 5 Herbs For A Healthy Digestive System
A tbsp of neem juice consumed early in the morning by diluting with warm water helps to get rid of gastrointestinal problems.
Promotes Oral Health
This property of neem has been used for decades to uplift oral hygiene. Bad breath or Halitosis is not only a sign of poor oral health but also a cause of public embarrassment. The abundance of germ-killing properties, in the powder or oil helps in eliminating bad breath and bacteria from the oral cavities and thus prevents swelling, bleeding and other oral problems. This incredible germ-killing property of neem can be used in the form of tooth paste, tooth powder or mouth wash. One can even simply use the twig of neem to brush the teeth to reduce gum pain and bad breath. Also Checkout: Dental Cavities: Easy Ways To Maintain Oral Hygiene -Infographic
Thanks to the wealth of antioxidants and bioactive components, Neem confers several folk remedies for improving the immune system, fighting microbes and shielding the body against various infections. It also portrays the presence of strong anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and antifungal properties, which is extremely effective in preventing infections like fever, common cold, sore throat, and other respiratory anomalies. Also Read: Top 8 Ayurvedic Formulations That Can Bolster Your Immunity
Treats Wounds And Ulcers
The anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties of neem leaves play a crucial role in treating different types of ulcers like ulcerative colitis, peptic ulcer, canker sores or mouth ulcers, etc. The bioactive compounds in the neem leaf promote tissue regeneration, facilitates wound healing whereas the juice extracted from the leaves is also used for dressing wounds.
Thanks to the detoxifying properties of the humble neem, the herbal extract is extremely beneficial in purifying the blood. By cleansing the blood, it improves blood circulation and facilitates removal of toxins from the bloodstream.
Remedies Pain And Inflammation
The array of anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties of the bioactive ingredients in Neem makes it the ultimate choice for providing relief from pain and inflammation due to arthritis. It is also extremely effective against Rheumatoid arthritis which is known as Amavata in Ayurveda. This type of vata usually occurs due to vitiation of Vata doshas and accumulation of Ama in the joints. It also provides instant relief from burning sensations in various parts of the body.
This incredible leaf portrays strong anti-diabetic properties which play a key role in pacifying the blood sugar levels in the body. The β-pancreatic cells, which helps in the production of insulin becomes extremely active on the consumption of the leaf powder or juice. It also helps to reduce the breakdown of starch into glucose which in turn leads to low blood glucose levels in the body and maintains a balanced diabetic reading. Also Read: Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Ward Off Bugs
Insects, microbes and bugs form the root cause of several health anomalies. Being carriers of different types of viruses, bacteria, or other microbes, not only do they contaminate food and lead to food poisoning but also cause problems ranging from rashes and itching to fever and infections. Some insects can even lead to lethal infectious diseases like dengue, malaria, chikungunya, yellow fever, etc. Imbued with potent anti-microbial properties, the leaf oil or powder forms an absolute remedy for all types of insects and microbes.
Enhances Skin Quality
The antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties portrayed by neem extract offers blood purifying activity. Owing to the Tikta (bitter) taste and Pitta balancing properties, it removes toxins from the blood and hence helps to manage a host of skin diseases. It also plays a quintessential role in managing inflammatory conditions like eczema, skin eruptions, boils, psoriasis, and scabies. The leaf juice or oil when used as a face pack also helps to prevent the various signs of ageing like wrinkles, fine lines, blemishes and actively increases the radiance and bestows a rejuvenated look.
DIY Neem Face Packs:
As a Face-Pack: Ground the neem leaves into a powder and make a mixture by adding some gulab jal into a paste like consistency. Apply this paste all over the face till it dries and then remove the pack with cool water. Using it daily for a week bestows one with a glowing, crystal clear complexion.
As a Scrub: Ground the neem leaves and orange peel into a coarse powder. Add some milk, a tsp of lemon juice and a few drops of honey and make a paste of it. Apply this on the face and gently scrub in circular motions for 15 minutes. Doing it on alternative days hold high significance in removing wrinkles and pigmentation and offers a rejuvenated skin within a fortnight.
For Treating Acne/ Pimples: Take a small amount of aloe vera gel, add a drop of neem oil to it. Apply on the acne and pimple affected areas and keep it overnight. Follow this ritual twice a day to get rid of skin problems.
Relieves Hair Problems:
Neem has been a boon for promoting hair growth since ancient times. Owing to the intrinsic anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties, the plant treats various scalp and hair infections like folliculitis, itching and dandruff. It also nourishes the hair follicles with essential nutrients, improves blood circulation and strengthens the hair strands from the roots to the tips. By normalizing the secretion of the stress hormone, it also prevents hair fall and breakage due to stress and anxiety.
Make a paste of the neem leaf powder, methi powder and water. Apply this hair pack all over the scalp and strands. Wait for 30 minutes and wash off with cool water.
Although the leaves of neem, are extremely bitter, the flowers with their off-white buds have unbelievable therapeutic properties and are edible as well. Known as vepampoo in Tamil, these flowers are often used in their fresh or dry forms and added to pachadi, rasam, flower rice, lentils, curries and more. Apart from South Indian cuisines, Neem is also used to prepare several North Indian dishes like chutneys, gravies, kadhas etc that not only enhances the taste of the food but also improves digestion.
Effect On Doshas:
The holy neem is sanctified with Tikta (i.e. bitter taste) and Kashaya Rasa (I.e. astringent taste) and Laghu (i.e. light) and Rukshna Guna (i.e. dry quality). It intrinsically portrays Shita Virya (i.e. cold potency) and Katu Vipaka (i.e. pungent metabolic taste). Being light and dry, it pacifies the Pitta (fire and air) doshas and Kapha (earth and water) doshas whereas an excess of it can aggravate the Vata (air) doshas. Owing to the intrinsic properties and doshas, Neem has a positive effect on the various Dhatus (i.e. body tissues) of the body including Rasa (i.e. Plasma), Rakta (i.e. Blood), Mamsa (i.e. Muscles), Asthi (i.e. Bones) and Shukra (i.e. Reproductive Fluids). Also Read: Introduction To Ayurveda: Learn About Vata, Pitta And Kapha Doshas
The ayurvedic properties help in portraying the following main prabhabs on the body which are, Vranahara (helps treat wounds), Shramahara (relieves tiredness), Chardi (relieves vomiting and nausea), Aruchihara (treats anorexia) and Krumihara (relieves worms).
The effectual therapeutic dosage of Neem may vary from person to person depending upon the age, body strength, effects on appetite, severity, and condition of the patient. It is strictly advocated to consult an ayurvedic doctor or practitioner as he or she would evaluate the patient’s indications and prescribe an effective dose for a specific period.
Neem Leaves: 4-5 leaves once a day.
Neem Churna: ¼-½ tsp twice a day.
Neem Capsule/ Tablet: 1-2 tablets or capsules twice a day.
Neem Juice: 2-4 tsp twice a day.
Neem Syrup: 3-4 tsp twice a day after meals.
Neem Side Effects:
Although it is considered safe when consumed in measured quantities as per the instructions of an ayurvedic doctor or practitioner. The formulations of Neem shouldn't be given to newborns, pregnant women or women trying to conceive. It should also not be administered to people having any kind of history of a stomach illness, or even irregularities. Even people having kidney or liver issues should totally avoid using neem supplements since an over usage of it can cause loose stools, vomiting, acidosis, liver damage, decreased fertility, encephalopathy and even seizures in children.
Neem, which is known for its bitter taste is blessed with a myriad of health benefits. Thanks to the goodness of the essential bio-active ingredients and the array of therapeutic properties, it is widely used for improving digestion, regulating diabetes, treating ulcers and wounds, preventing oral problems, enhancing skin qualities, diminishing hair woes and many more.