All about Neem
Neem or Margosa is a botanical cousin of mahogany. It belongs to the
family Meliaceae. The latinized name of Neem - Azadirachta indica -
is derived from the Persian, which literally means: "The Free Tree
In India, the tree is variously known as "Divine Tree," "Heal All,"
"Nature's Drugstore," "Village Pharmacy" and "Panacea for all
diseases." Products made from neem have proven medicinal properties,
being anthelmintic, antifungal, antidiabetic, antibacterial,
antiviral, anti-fertility, and sedative. It is considered a major
component in Ayurvedic medicine and is particularly prescribed for
The National Research Council (NRC), Washington, USA, has released a
report with title as " Neem: Tree for Solving Global Problems." (view
the video). The NRC Panel considers the Neem to be " one of the
most promising of all plants and the fact that it may eventually
benefit every person on this planet. Probably no other plant yields
as many strange and varied products or has as many exploitable
United Nations has declared Neem as the tree of the 21st Century
The Indian neem tree is considered as one of the
most promising trees of the 21st century. It shows great potential
in the fields of medicine, pest management and agriculture. The neem
tree has been known as a wonder tree in India for centuries.
As this remarkable tree begins to reveal its secrets to modern
science, it should be pointed out that there was a lot of hype
created around neem in the early 1990s, especially in America and
Europe. American companies like W.R. Grace and Agridyne tried to
register over 50 patents related to neem. Such action caused
widespread criticism as it would have colonized the use of neem in
India by first world corporations. In the meantime, courts have
overturned earlier acceptance of such patents because legally, one
cannot protect the rights to a plant.
Neem (Azadirachta indica) is not only known for its herbal medicines
and environmental friendly organic pesticides but also for its
capabilities to balance ecological problems like deforestation,
erosion and global warming. Owing to its capabilities, United
Nations has rightly declared neem as "Tree of the 21st Century".
Thanks to neem that has served our mankind from almost of the very
beginning of known human history.
The neem tree exemplifies Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of Economy of
permanence and has much to offer in solving global, agricultural,
environmental and public health problems. The commercial and
Industrial prospects of Neem are unlimited and exciting. Speedy
realization of its economic potential should be a priority for all
those involved in the Green movement.
The history of the Neem tree
Neem – the legendary medicinal tree of India, has
grown with the human settlement all over the country and has been an
integral part of the Indian way of life for centuries. The history
of the Neem tree is inextricably linked to the history of the Indian
The Neem tree has for a very long time been a
friend and protector of the Indian villager. For ages Indians have
trusted this tree to fortify their health and remedy scores of
diseases. In addition, it has been used for protecting food and
stored grains and as a fertilizer and natural pesticide for the
fields. It has been used for a far wider array of uses than any
The Neem tree (Azadirachta indica A. Juss) was probably India’s best
kept secret ! Ancient India was envied for its Black Pepper,
Cardamom, Saffron, Turmeric, Sandalwood, Silk etc. and these prized
ingredients were sought after and taken across the seas to Europe
for centuries. The British Raj also failed to grasp the significance
of the presence of this tree in every nook and corner of India
(barring the Himalayas and the costal regions). Perhaps, if they had
known about the wonderful array of uses of the Neem Tree, it would
have become a worldwide phenomenon ages ago !!
For Indians, the Neem tree had many fascinating aspects. For
the children this evergreen, attractive tree was a haven from sun
and rain - they spent hours in its cooling shade, plucked the sweet
ripe fruit for a snack and built tree houses, which they shared with
butterflies, birds and bees. This tree was the chosen one because
its shade is known to be cooler than any other tree's, and also, no
bugs or insects are to be found under it because of its repellant
For the women, the neem was the mainstay of the
herbal beauty tradition. It was also a source of medicine to treat
more than a 100 health problems, from scratches and skin rashes to
malaria and diabetes. The women also used it to protect their stored
grains and pulses through the year.
For the men folk the tree provided seeds, leaf and bark which could
be converted into fertilizer and pest control material. It also
provided medicinal potions for their cattle and livestock. Besides,
the breeze that blew through the boughs of the tree kept their homes
free of bacteria and viruses and cool through the summer.
For centuries Indians planted this tree in the vicinity of their
homes and practiced gentle and daily interaction with this
extraordinary plant. For women in particular, the Neem proved an
invaluable source of health, hygiene and beauty that was freely
available. Having a bath with a decoction of neem leaves kept their
skin supple and healthy. Neem leaf powder or crushed leaves
incorporated into their face packs provided emollient and anti
ageing action. The antiseptic properties of neem leaf extracts
helped in controlling pimples and acne.
In some parts of India, it was a regular practice to apply coryllium
(lamp black) along the side of the eye, particularly by young ladies
as a beauty aid to make eyes conspicuous. The common method employed
to make lamp black was to take an earthen lamp and put neem oil and
a cotton wick in it. When ignited, the wick liberated copious smoke
from which lamp black could be collected, by placing a brass cup
containing water for cooling, some distance away from the flame. The
lamp black deposit was then scraped from underneath the cup and
mixed with a small quantity of mustard oil to form a thick paste
Neem oil was believed to prevent baldness and greying of hair and
was used as anti-lice and anti-dandruff treatment. A teaspoon of
dried neem leaf powder, mixed with the same quantity of ghee
(clarified butter) and honey was known to help control skin
A mixture of equal quantities of neem seed powder, rock salt and
alum mixed well was used for maintaining healthy teeth and gums.
Nimba, the great medicine
for the cure of pitta - aggravations and
for blood purification
- Priyanighantu Harotakyadivarga
All these practices have been validated by modern science. We know
today that this extraordinary tree can do all that it can do because
of the sheer range of compounds present in it. A 132 to be precise
have been identified to date. Modern research has uncovered the
secret of its effectiveness. Its powerful antibacterial,
anti-fungal, antiviral and antiseptic properties make it
particularly effective in treating anything from dandruff to acne,
eczema to malaria and cold sores to warts! Ironically, it is this
very versatility that for so long has kept this tree and its amazing
properties from taking center stage. The mindset that consumers have
been shaped into dictates that there has to be a specialist solution
to each problem, in order for the solution to be effective. That one
tree can solve so many diverse problems is simply suspect in today's
The word NEEM is derived from Sanskrit Nimba which means ‘bestower
of good health’. It has also been known as Ravisambha – sun ray like
effects in providing health. The Neem tree has been venerated
through the ages in the Indian countryside as it provided hope in
any situation and the faith in the miraculous healing powers of this
amazing tree led patients with incurable diseases to adopt neem as
way life. They lived in the shade of the tree, drank infusion of
various part (Leaf, bark, etc) as advised by Ayurvedic tradition.
They used young twigs for oral hygiene first thing in the morning,
ate tender leaves as salad or cooked leaves with vegetable as food.
Neem gums was used as lozenges for dryness of throat and allay
thirst. In summer, sweet, ripe fruit were sucked for their sweetish
pulp. All this together, probably strengthened their immune system
to meet any challenge!!!
Its medicinal properties are documented in the ancient Sanskrit texts –
puranas and it is estimated that Neem is present, in one form or
another, in 75% of Ayurvedic formulations.
The ancient Indian found many therapeutic uses for the tree and also
observed that the tree could survive and grow almost anywhere as
long as it was warm and dry. In due course of time, migrating
Indians carried it to distant lands ie: Africa, Fiji, Mauritius,
Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, plantations are reported to
be making headway in USA, Mexico, Australia and China and several
countries of Latin America.
Neem Oil is generally recommended for skin diseases while neem
leaves are used for beauty purposes.
The Neem leaf extracts have a powerful antiseptic, antifungal,
antiviral and anti-bacterial effect. unlike synthetic chemicals that
often produce side effects such as allergic reactions, rashes etc.
Neem is gentle and does not create any complications.
Unlike Neem seed oil, Neem leaves have a pleasant odour. An extract
from neem leaves can be prepared as an alcoholic tincture or as tea.
The alcohol extract has a dark green colour and is effective for
several weeks. It can be used in anti ageing nourishing formulas,
mouthwashes, facewashes, shower gels, soothing gels, face masks,
skin toners etc
Did you know?
• The Vedas called Neem sarva roga nivarini, which means ‘one that
cures all ailments and ills’.
• This tree is considered to be of divine origin, According to
Indian mythology, amrita (ambrosia or the elixir of immortality) was
being carried to heaven and a few drops of it fell on the Neem tree.
• Another story tells of the time the Sun took refuge in the Neem
Tree to escape from the awesome powers of the demons.
• Planting three or more Neem trees during one’s lifetime was
considered a surefire ticket to heaven.
Neem Foundation, Mumbai, India. "Neem: History of Usage".
Neem & acne
Neem - contraceptive
Neem & cholesterol
Neem & diabetes
Neem & herpes
Neem & hypertension
Neem & malaria
Neem & pets
Neem & psoriasis