For centuries Neem has been used in India provide health cover to livestock in various forms. It has also very widely been used as animal feed. Ancient Sanskrit literature indicates that Neem applications were used by Nakul and Sahadeva in the epic of Mahabharata as well as afterwards in a large number of indigenous prescriptions and formulations.
Almost every part of the tree is bitter and finds application in indigenous medicine. Records exist that Neem has been used in a large number of ailments in animals ranging from systemic disorders to infections and injuries.
In modern veterinary medicine Neem extracts are known to possess anti-diabetic, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties and they have been used successfully in cases of stomach worms and ulcers.. The stem and root bark and young fruits are reported to possess astringent, tonic and anti-periodic properties. The root bark is reported to be more active than the stem bark and young fruits. The bark is reported to be beneficial in cutaneous diseases.
Some trees, especially near the water courses exude a sap naturally form the stem-tip. The sap is considered refrigerant, nutrient and tonic, and useful in skin diseases, a tonic in dyspepsia and general debility.
The Neem bark exudes a clear, bright and amber-coloured gum, known as the East India gum. The gum is stimulant, demulcent and tonic and is useful in catarrhal and other infections.
The leaves contain nimbin, nimbinene, 6-desacetylnimbiene, nimbandiol, nimbolide and quercetin. The presence of betasitosterol, n-hexacosanol and nonacosane is also reported.
Leaves are carminative and aid digestion. The tender leaves along with Piper nigrum Linn., are found to be effective in intestinal helminthiasis. The paste of leaves is useful in ulceration of cow-pox An aqueous extract (10%) of tender leaves is reported to possess anti-viral properties against vaccinia, variola, foulpox and New Castle disease virus. The extract of leaf yields fractions which marketedly delay the clotting time of blood. The strong decoction of fresh leaves is stated to be an antisceptic. The hot infusion of leaves is used as anodyne for fomenting swollen glands, bruises and sprains.
The fruit is used as a tonic, antiperiodic, purgative, emollient and as an antithelmintic. The dry fruits are bruised in water and employed to treat cutaneous diseases.
The kernels yield a greenish yellow to brown, acrid, bitter fixed oil (40.0-48.9%), known as Oil of Margosa. The oil has many therapeutic uses and is covered in Indian Pharmacopia. Medicinal properties of the oil are attributed to the presence of bitter principles and odorous compounds. The bitter principles are used in the pharmaceutical industry. Intrauterine medication of oil controls different types of metritis. The oil is reported to have anti-fertility properties. It posseses anti-fungal and antiseptic activity and is found to be active against both Gram negative and Gram positive micro-organisms.
Effect of Neem oil has been evaluated in diabetes as antihyperlycaemic agent. The Neem oil has shown antihyperglycaemic effect in dogs.
Neem as Animal Feed
Neem leaves contain appreciable amount of protein, minerals and carotene and adequate amount of trace minerals except zinc. These may be helpful in alleviating the copper deficiency when feeding straw and dry fodder.
Goat & Camel
Goat and Camel relish lopped Neem leaves and quite often these are fed as sole feed to them in winter season when tree is not needed for shed. However, systematic studies are not available on Neem feeding by these animals. Keeping in view these animals have the capability to thrive in hot and dry areas, there is considerable scope of rearing them on Neem leaves.
Cattle and buffaloes
The Neem leaves have appreciable quantity of digestable crude protein (DCP) and total digestable nutrients (TDN). Cattle can be fed twigs and leaves in small quantities when mixed with other feeds.
Neem oil can be used in poultry rations. The fatty acid composition of oil indicates that it is a rich source of long chain fatty acids. It contains azadirachtin, meliantriol and salannin. Neem oil can be used in poultry rations.
De-Oiled Neem Seed Cake in Animal Feed
This can considerably reduce the shortage of protein supplements in high producing animals. Seeds from Neem yield sufficient oil and the residual cake is the major by-product. Neem cake consists of all essential and non-essential amino acids including sulphur containing amino acids but with negligible quantities of valine and trytophan. The cake contains sulphur 1.07-1.36% which is more than other cakes. The N content varies from 2-3%. The cake has high crude protein, ether extract and fibre contents. Neem seed cake is a very good source of animal protein ( up to 40% ) . The keeping quallity is good and it is not easily spoiled on storage nor is it attacked by fungi. The processed cake can be employed as a good poultry feed. Since the cake is bitter, it acts as a good appetizer. It is also a wormicide.
The use of Neem in veterinary medicine in India dates back to the times of the epic Mahabharata (300 B.C). According to scholars, two of the five Pandava brothers Nakul and Sahadev, who practiced veterinary medicine, used Neem to treat ailing and wounded horses and elephants by applying poultices prepared from Neem leaves and Neem oil for healing the wounds etc., during the battle of Mahabharata. Ancient Sanskrit literature indicates Neem applications as feed and in a large number of prescriptions and formulations to provide health cover to livestock in various forms. Various Neem preparations were standardized in the form of oils, liniments, powders and liquids. Ayurvedic scholars recommend the use of Neem oil as antipyretic, sedative, anti-inflammatory, analgestic, antihistaminic, anthelmintic and as an acaricide.
Neem has been traditionally used against various livestock insects such as maggots, hornflies, blow-flies and biting flies. Neem is also useful for controlling some bacteria of veterinary importance and against intestinal worms in animals. Patnaik, (1993) highlights the livestock friendly medicinal role of neem in the following: “the tree (neem) is revered by Indian herdsmen as a gentle but effective veterinary poultice, a virtue confirmed by the 16th century Portuguese botanist and traveler, Garciada Orta in his “Coloquios”.
‘Notes on the Bazaar and Indigenous Drugs Useful in the Treatment of Animals‘ published in 1929, lists the Veterinary applications of Neem in detail. It notes that “leaves, bark and oil expressed from the seeds are generally used. Internally the preparations of the Neem tree are a good bitter tonic, antiperiodic and astringent and are used in combination with other drugs having similar properties. They are best administered in the form of a decoction. They are most useful in fever and debility. Externally, the leaves are used in varied forms, such as raw crushed mass, poultice and wash. The bruised leaves, mixed with charcoal or lime, form a good application to wounds, ulcers, pustular eruptions, such as epizootic aphtha, etc. The decoction of the leaves forms a valuable antiseptic and healing lotion to foul sores and ulcers. The leaves boiled with tamarind leaves are applied as a poultice to inflammatory swellings. The oil is applied to wounds as an antiseptic dressing. It is highly efficacious in parasitic diseases, cutaneous affections of all kinds and erysipelas, etc., as it contains sulphur in organic combination. It is also useful in removing maggots from the wounds. The oil is obtained from most of the bazaars”. In the past few years researchers have been studying ancient prescriptions like Neem with tools of modern bio-chemistry. In a recent trial at an University in Bangalore, (1) it has been observed that alcohol based Neem leaf extract showed promising results in vitro trials as compared to other herbs.
Neem leaves and its extracts are being used as immuno stimulants in poultry flocks. In the poultry industry, use of neem leaves is also made to prevent aflatoxicosis caused by Aspergillus flavus, which originates from oil cakes or maize, which are not dried properly and used as an ingredient of the feed. Use of neem cake as a protein substitute has an economical advantage in those countries where it is abundant.