Medicinal properties of neem have been known to Indians since time immemorial. The earliest Sanskrit medical writings refer to the benefits of neem’s fruits, seeds, oil, leaves, roots and bark. Each of these has been used in the Indian Ayurvedic and Unani systems of medicine.
In Ayurvedic literature neem is described in the following manner: ‘Neem bark is cool, bitter, astringent, acrid and refrigerant. It is useful in tiredness, cough, fever, loss of appetite, worm infestation. It heals wounds and vitiated conditions of kapha, vomiting, skin diseases, excessive thirst, and diabetes. Neem leaves are reported to be beneficial for eye disorders and insect poisons. It treats Vatik disorder. It is anti-leprotic. It’s fruits are bitter, purgative, anti-hemorrhoids and anthelmintic’.
It is claimed that neem provides an answer to many incurable diseases. Traditionally neem products have been used against a wide variety of diseases which include heat-rash, boils, wounds, jaundice, leprosy, skin disorders, stomach ulcers, chicken pox, etc. Modern research also confirms neem’s curative powers in case of many diseases and provides indications that neem might in future be used much more widely. Some important medical and veterinary application of neem is given on this website
Some of the best news is that neem may help in the search for a prevention or a cure for AIDS.
So far, the National Institutes of Health reports encouraging results from in vitro tests for an AIDS prevention and possible cure using extracts from the tree. Professionally administered neem solutions are currently being studied for their effects on cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and AIDS. In 1993, in a preliminary study, the National Institutes of Health reported positive results from in vitro tests where neem bark extracts killed the AIDS virus. Using extracts made by soaking neem bark in water, Dr. Van Der Nat of the Netherlands found that the extract produced a strong immune stimulating reaction. Studies reported in 1992 and 1994 showed neem’s ability to enhance the cell-mediated immune response may be used to provide protection from vaginal contraction of the disease if neem is used as a vaginal lubricant preceding intercourse. AIDS may possibly be treated by ingesting neem leaf extracts or the whole leaf or by drinking a neem tea.
Neem contains immune modulating polysaccharide compounds; the polysaccharide may be responsible for increasing antibody production. Other elements of neem may stimulate immune function by enhancing cellular mediated response. This dual action can help the body ward off the frequent infections that generally accompany AIDS.
Neem has a long history of relieving inflamed joints, supported by recent scientific studies. Most anti-inflammatories, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, irritate the stomach and may be the major cause for upper GI bellding.
Ulcers sometimes occur as a result of taking too much of these over-the counter drugs. Neem is comparably effective, anti-inflammatory and does not adversely affect the stomach. The active constituents in its leaves relieve pain by acting on the prostaglandin mechanism and significantly reduce acute derma.
Several studies have shown its usefulness with the disease. Some studies have looked at the ability of neem leaf extracts to reduce inflammation. One suggested that the phenolic compounds containing catechin (which possess anti-inflammatory properties) may produce the anti-inflammatory effects. Another investigation found that quercetin, an antibacterial compound, exists in neem leaves. Other studies have shown that the polysaccharides in neem reduce the inflammation and swelling that occur in arthritis. Not only does neem help reduce inflammation; it also has pain suppressing properties. Neem can also help create a balance in the immune system, directly affecting the progression of arthritis.
Throughout Southeast Asia neem has been used successfully by herbalists for hundreds of years to reduce tumors. Researchers are now supporting these uses. Neem has been tested on many types of cancers, such as skin cancers, using neem-based creams and lymphocytic cancer, using the herb internally. In India, Europe and Japan scientists have found that polysaccharides and limonoids in neem bark, leaves and seed oil reduced tumors and cancers and were effective against lymphocytic leukemia.
In Japan, several issued patents included hot water neem bark extracts; these were effective against several types of cancer. Several extracts were tested at different doses and were compared to standard anticancer agents. Many extracts were equal or better than the standard treatments against solid tumors. Results of tests performed with a more purified extract of the bark produced even better results. Further studies using pure active compounds are hoped to produce even more impressive results.
In another study, one researcher used an extract of neem leaves to prevent the adhesion of cancer cells to other body cells. If cancers can’t stick to other cells, the cancer can’t spread throughout the body and is more easily destroyed.
Neem’s success has been noticeably remarkable with skin cancers. A number of reports have been made by patients that their skin cancers have disappeared after several months of using a neem-based cream on a daily basis. Injections of neem extract around various tumors have shown sizable reduction in a few weeks’ time.
People in both India and Africa have used neem twigs as tooth brushes for centuries. Neem twigs contain antiseptic ingredients necessary for dental hygiene. Neem powder is also used to brush teeth and massage gums.
In Germany many researchers have shown that neem extracts prevent tooth decay and periodontal disease.
Infections, tooth decay, bleeding and sore gums have all been treated successfully with daily use of neem mouth rinse or neem leaf extract added to the water. Some people have reported a total reversal of gum degeneration after using neem for only a few months.
Because neem is a tonic and a revitalizer, it works effectively in the treatment of diabetes, as well. More than a disease that requires change of diet, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in people ages twenty-five and seventy-four; it also damages nerves, kidneys, hear and blood vessels; it may even result in the loss of limbs.
Incurable, it can be treated in a variety of ways. One recommendation is to take one tablespoon (5ml) of neem leaf juice daily on an empty stomach each morning for three months. An alternative is to chew or take in powder form ten (10) neem leaves daily in the morning. Some studies have shown that oral application of neem leaf extracts reduced a patient’s insulin requirements by between 30 and 50 percent for non-keytonic, insulin fast and insulin-sensitive diabetes.
Because neem has been found to reduce insulin requirements by up to 50 percent, without altering blood glucose levels, the Indian Government has approved the sale of neem capsules and tablets through pharmacies and clinics for this purpose. Many of these pills are made of essentially pure, powdered neem leaves.
Karnim, one medication that contains neem and a number of other herbs, available in many countries for treating diabetes, was found to lower blood sugar by more than 50 percent in twenty weeks and to maintain that level thereafter.
Major causes of a heart attack include blood clots, high cholesterol, arrhythmic heart action and high blood pressure. Neem has been helpful in these conditions too. Its leaf extracts have reduced clotting, lowered blood pressure and bad cholesterol, slowed rapid or abnormally high heartbeat and inhibited irregular heart rhythms. Some compounds may produce effects similar to mild sedatives, which reduce anxiety and other emotional or physical states that may prompt a heart attack. The antihistamine effects of the nimbidin in its leaves cause blood vessels to dilate. This may be why the leaves help reduce blood pressure.
A recent study proved that, when a patient took either neem leaf extract or neem capsules for a month, her high cholesterol levels fell subsequently. In another study, alcoholic extract of neem leaves reduced serum cholesterol by approximately 30 percent two hours after its administration. The cholesterol level stayed low for an additional four hours until testing ceased.
Another study showed that an intravenous alcoholic extract of the leaf produced a large, immediate decrease in blood pressure, lasting for several hours. A neem leaf extract, sodium nimbidinate, given to those with congestive cardiac failure, was successful as a diuretic. Regarding arrhythmic heart action, neem leaf extract exhibited anti-arrhythmic activity, which returned to normal within eight minutes of administration.
According to the Neem Association, an international nonprofit organization, malaria affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide and kills more than two million every year. Malaria is quite common in India and throughout the tropics.
Neem has been shown to be effective in a number of ways against this deadly disease. Both water and alcohol based neem leaf extracts have been confirmed as effective. It has been shown to block the development of the gamete in an infected person.
Neem leaf extract greatly increases the state of oxidation in red blood cells, which prevents normal development of the malaria virus. Irodin A, an active ingredient in the leaves, is toxic to resistant strains of malaria; 100 percent of the malaria gamete are dead within seventy-two hours with a 1 to 20,000 ratio of active ingredients. Other experiments have used alcoholic extracts of neem leaf, which performed almost as well.
Gedunin and quercetin, compounds found in the leaves, are also effective against malaria. Several studies show that neem extracts are effective even against the more virulent strains of the malaria parasite. Some scientists believe that stimulation of the immune system is a major factor in neem’s effectiveness against malaria. The plant also lowers the fever and increases one’s appetite, enabling a stronger body to fight the parasite and recover more quickly.
Even though neem may be effective against the parasites that carry malaria, it has not been shown to prevent the malaria infection once it’s in the body.
Neem leaves have anti-inflammatory activity, similar to that in drugs such as phenyl butazone and cortisone. They can relieve pain and reduce acute pain edema. For rheumatism, tropical applications of a warmed neem cream that contains neem oil and perhaps a mild neem tea will help lessen pain.
Relatively new scientific findings indicate that neem may even be useful for reducing anxiety and stress. An experiment was done on test animals to see what, if any effect neem leaf extract had on these conditions. Fresh leaves were crushed and the liquid squeezed out to produce a leaf extract. The extract was given orally to three main sets of animals, in two standard stress tests.
One group received salt water as a base control; another received Valium; another received the neem leaf extract. The third group was subdivided into sets that received ever larger doses. In the elevated plus maze test, doses of neem leaf extract upto 200 mg/kg showed important antianxiety activity equal to or greater than Valium. The test doses of neem leaf extract upto 100 mg/kg were equal to Valium in their antianxiety effect. At 800 mg/kg the effects of the neem totally disappeared. Neem extracts apparently only work in small doses for this application.
The explanation of neem’s antianxiety effect may be its ability to increase the amount of serotonin in the brain. Because it works well in small amounts, it could be safer than drugs currently used for stress, which may cause many side effects.
In the Ayurvedic medical tradition, neem is considered a useful therapy for ulcers and gastric discomfort. Compounds in neem have been proven to have antiulcerative effects. Throughout India, people take neem leaves for all sorts of stomach problems.
Some scientific evidence exists for its effectiveness for these problems. Peptic ulcers and duodenal ulcers are treated well with neem leaf extracts; nimbidin from seed extracts taken orally prevents duodenal lesions and peptic ulcers, and provides significant reductions in acid output and gastric fluid activity. Low doses of 20 to 40 mg/kg bring the most relief; increased dosages reduce the effectiveness of neem’s antiulcerative effects.
Neem is also useful in treating other problems in the stomach and bowels. The herb promotes a healthy digestive system by protecting the stomach, aiding in elimination, and removing toxins and noxious bacteria. Its leaves are often used to treat heartburn and indigestion. Some neem extracts reduce the concentration of hydrochloric acid in the stomach.
Neem extracts are also used to treat gastritis. The extracts reduce the amount of acid in the stomach; their antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties can relieve the effects of this condition.
Finally, neem has also been shown to be effective for treating digestive disorders such as diarrhea, dysentery, hyperacidity and constipation. For diarrhea and dysentery one solution is to take one tablespoon of neem leaf juice with sugar three times a day. For constipation, a neem powder of two or three grams, with three to four black peppers given three times a day is both a laxative and a demulcent.
Vitiligo is believed to be an autoimmune disorder that causes patches of skin to lose their color. It occurs in about five percent of the human population regardless of race, but most commonly in dark-skinned people. The two most common treatments are exposure to sunlight (or PUVA) or corticosteroid old drugs, but these are not always effective.
Oral doses of neem were tested at least one year on fifteen patients who had the disease. They also applied a cream made up of several herbs to patched, which were then exposed to the sun. After ninety days, 25 percent of the patients showed complete relief. No adverse reactions were shown by any participants. Those who stayed on the treatment the longest showed the most improvement. The dosage was four grams of neem leaves three times a day, ideally taken before each meal.
Other studies showed that the internal use of neem leaves and bark were effective even without the cream. It may be possible that neem oil applied to the affected areas could aid in the reversal of discoloration.
Neem has been highly successfully against harmful fungi, parasites, and viruses. Although it can destroy these, it does not kill off beneficial intestinal flora nor produce adverse side effects. Neem is toxic to several fungi that attack humans, including the causes of athlete’s foot and ringworm and Candida, which cause yeast infections and thrush. In fact, neem extracts are some of the most powerful Antifungal plant extracts found in the Indian pharmacopeia that are used for these conditions. The compounds gedunin and nimbidol, found in the tree’s leaves, control the fungi listed above. Basing their studies on the ancient tradition of using neem to purify the air surrounding sick people, two Indian researchers found that neem smoke was successful in suppressing fungal growth and germination.
One of neem’s stronger advantages is its effect upon the skin in general. It has been most helpful in treating a variety of skin problems and diseases including psoriasis, eczema and other persistent conditions.
According to a report from the National Research Council’s Ad Hoc Panel of the Board on Science and Technology for International Development, neem preparation from the leaves or oils can be used as general antiseptics. Because neem contains antibacterial properties, it is highly effective in treating epidermal conditions such as acne, psoriasis and eczema. It is also used for treating septic sores, infected burns, scrofula, indolent ulcers and ringworm. Stubborn warts can be cleared up when a high-quality neem product is used. Unlike synthetic chemicals that often produce side effects such as rashes, allergic reactions, or redness, neem doesn’t seem to create any of these results.
Early Ayurvedic practitioners believed high sugar levels in the body caused skin disease. Neem’s bitter quality was considered to counteract the sweetness. Indians historically bathed in neem leaves steeped in hot water. This is still considered a common procedure for curing skin ailments or allergic reactions.
Psoriasis is successfully treated with neem oil. The oil moisturizes and protects the skin while healing the lesions, scaling and irritations. Experiments have shown that patients with psoriasis, who have taken neem leaf orally, combined with tropical treatment with neem extracts and neem seed oil, achieve results at least as positive as those who use coal tar and cortisone, the more traditional treatments. Coal tar products are messy and smelly and cortisone can thin the skin when used repeatedly. Neem has neither side effect. It can be used for extended periods of time without any side effects, is easy to apply and is relatively inexpensive.
In India, neem is also used to treat viral diseases such as small-pox, chicken-pox even many medical practitioners use a paste of neem leaves, rubbed directly on the infected skin, for these conditions. Experiments with smallpox, chicken pox and fowl-pox have shown that neem is quite effective for preventing if not for curing these conditions. The neem extracts absorb the viruses, preventing them from spreading to unaffected cells. Neem has also been shown to be effective against herpes virus and the viral DNA polymers of the hepatitis B virus.
Laboratory experiments have shown that neem has antibacterial characteristics as well. For example the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, a feared cause of food poisonings as well as of furuncles and abscesses, reacted to neem treatment. Also, German experiments proved that a neem seed extract with ethanol is effective against the herpes viruses.
Other Health Benefits
Neem truly seems like miraculous natural drug. Neem has been shown to provide an antiviral treatment option for small-pox, chicken-pox, and warts. It is particularly useful for these conditions when applied directly to the skin. This is due in part to its ability to inhibit viruses from multiplying and spreading.
Chronic fatigue is considered to be caused by both viral and fungal infections. Neem, which can attack both, helps the body fight this debilitating syndrome.
Minor cuts, sprains and bruises are treated with neem lotion, cream or leaf extract applied locally. Its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial attributes are soothing to these conditions.
Hepatitis is another disease helped by neem. This often-deadly disease can be transmitted through blood or by ingesting contaminated food or water. Recent studies indicate that neem extracts can block infection by the virus that causes the disease.
Tests in Germany have shown that neem extracts are toxic to the herpes virus and can easily heal cold sores. Both a mild neem leaf tea and a tropical cream application are recommended. Once the eruption has peaked, discontinue the tea (taken after breakfast and after dinner0 and continue to apply cream until the sore has healed.
Chagas disease is a major health problem that infects some sixteen to eighteen million people, with another ninety million at risk in parts of South and Central America. It may be deadly. There is no vaccine and no safe and effective drug for its cure. The disease is caused by a parasite. Trypanosoma cruzi, which is spread by an insect, named the kissing bug.
Lab tests in Germany and Brazil have indicated that neem may be a solution. Neem leaf extracts have negative effects on these pernicious insects. Feeding neem or more specifically a single dose of Azadirachtin to the bugs not only eliminates the parasites, but the Azadirachtin prevents the young from molting and the adults from reproducing. Neem leaf or seed extracts may also be sprayed throughout the home where the kissing bug lives; this eliminates the parasites and prevents the bugs from laying eggs.
At the moment, scientists are researching the antibacterial and virus-reducing characteristics of the tree. The first studies confirm its effectiveness against selected fungi that occur, for example, on hair (trichophyton), skin and nails (epidermophyton), or in the vagina (candida).