The neem tree is native to India and Burma and the neem oil is cold pressed from the seeds of the olive shaped fruit. Herbalist Klaus Ferlow outlines some of neem oil's numerous and remarkable healing properties which have made it a mainstay of the Ayurvedic pharmacy.
FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS humans have sought to fortify their health and cure various ills with herbal remedies. The search for the true panacea or cure-all has been undertaken by virtually every civilization. While hundreds of substances have been tried and tested, few have withstood modern science scrutiny. Perhaps no other other botanical better meets the true definition of a panacea than Neem, a tropical evergreen native of India and Burma. Every part of this fascinating tree has been used, from ancient to modern times, to treat hundreds of different maladies. While it is still revered in India for its superior healing properties, recent investigation has dramatically increased world wide interest in Neem and many products are now manufactured around the Globe using this miraculous herb.
While legendary herbs such as ginseng are far better known, comprehensive research has proven that Neem has a far wider array of uses than any other herb. The first recorded use of Neem is attributed to ancient Indian culture and they added the plant to dozens of health and beauty aids some 5000 years ago. The centuries old healing system known as Ayurvedic medicine has utilized these timeless Neem formulation in mainstays of Ayurveda pharmacy. Medicinal attributes of Neem were extolled in the oldest Sanskrit writings. The Neem has been continuously referred to as the "Village Pharmacy," "sarva roga nivarini" or healer of all ailments, "the divine tree," "the holy tree," free tree of India," "the life giving tree," "the noble tree," "nature's drug store."
Other fascinating properties further increase the phenomenal applications. It is only in the last few years that the rest of the world has started to show interest in and recognize Neem's versatility and potential. Scientific research reports from Universities ranging from Bangalore, India to Baltimore, United States of America have explored Neem's ability to help prevent and treat an astonishing number of health disorders, including many that are not successfully addressed by modern conventional pharmaceuticals. There are over 2000 clinical trials and study conducted in many countries and the Neem tree is the most researched tree of any tree world wide.
Neem the Healer
Ayurveda is the oldest medical system in the world and Ayurvedic practitioners have known for millennia that Neem is a dynamic and useful plant that can solve an almost unlimited number of health problems, externally and internally, while enhancing overall well-being. The entire Neem tree has medicinal value and all parts of the tree can be used, such as the bark, seeds, fruit, flowers, gum, leaves, twigs, cake, root, resin, timber, honey, tea, pulp and the oil from the seeds, bark and leaves contain pharmaceutical constituents that offer some impressive therapeutic qualities, including:
Anti-anxiety: capable of preventing depression
Anti-arthritic: effective in treatment of arthritis
Anti-bacterial: able to destroy or inhibit the growth of bacteria
Anti-enemic: able to prevent or stop nausea and vomiting
Anti-fungal: able to destroy fungi
Anti-gastric: able to prevent or destroy ulcers
Anti-inflammatory: able to reduce inflammation
Anti-microbial: able to inhibit or destroy the growth of disease causing organism
Anti-pyretic: able to lower body temperature or prevent and/or alleviate fever
Anti-thelmintic: capable of expelling or destroying parasites
Anti-tumor: able to reduce the risk of tumor growth
Analgesic: able to relieve pain
Alterative: able to cure or restore health
Immune system booster and stimulator
Neem stimulates the production of T-cells to mount a head-on attack against infections. Unlike synthetic antibiotics, Neem does not destroy beneficial bacteria and other micro-organism needed to maintain optimum health. Medical experts believe that the overuse of chemical antibiotics contributes to the breakdown of the function of the human immune system. Neem offers a non-toxic alternative to powerful and sometimes damaging prescription medicines.
Numerous active compounds have been isolated from the Neem plant. Some of the most studied include:
Nimbin: anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic, anti-histamine, anti-fungal
Nimbidin: anti-bacterial, anti-ulcer, analgesic, anti-arrhythmic, anti-fugal
Ninbidol: anti-tubercular, anti-protozoal, anti-pyretic
Gedunin: vasodilator, anti-malaria, anti-fungal
Sodium nimbinate: diuretic, spermicide, anti-arthritic
Salannin: insect repellent
Azadirchtin: insect repellent, anti-feedant, anti-hormonal
Neem leaves contain fiber, carbohydrates, and at least ten amino acid proteins. They also contain calcium and other nourishing minerals. Analysis also reveals the presence of carotenoids, nutritive compounds being hailed for their ability to ward of many types of cancer. Neem oil is especially high in important fatty acids, and contains all of these vital nutrients in significant quantities. Researcher believe the high fatty-acid content of the oil may be why Neem is so effective for treating skin ailments, absorbs quickly into the skin, and has very powerful skin-rejuvenating qualities.
The uses of Neem to cure human ailments, boost immunity, and fortify human health are almost endless. Neem is one of the most powerful blood purifier and detoxifier. Hundreds of specific health maladies respond favorably to the proper application of Neem. This does not include countless uses of Neem as a natural insect repellent, a component of beauty aid and also prevents sunburns. Some of the more common current uses for Neem are:
- Skin conditions: Neem has an almost magical effect on chronic skin conditions that often fail to respond with classical conventional medical treatments. Acne, eczema, dandruff, psoriasis, hives, herpes, ringworm, shingles, rosacea, and even stubborn warts, to name just a few, are among the conditions that clear up consistently when a high quality toxic free Neem herbal cream or lotion is utilized. Synthetic chemicals used to treat these conditions can produce negative side effects such as rashes, allergic reactions, redness and itching. Studies are currently underway to try to understand the skin rejuvenating properties of Neem.
- Hair and nails: when wild-crafted high quality Neem is added either as an extract or oil or even both to health and beauty preparation, it provides many benefits. Problem scalp conditions including dandruff and psoriasis, scaling, and even hair loss respond to treatment with Neem shampoo, conditioners, capsules. Damaged and overly oily hair appears comes to life when treated regularly with Neem. Nails, which have turned yellow or brittle due to the presence of yeast and fungi, often return to their normal condition when Neem is applied.
- Teeth and gums: it is estimated that over 90% of the U.S. adult population has some type of gum disease, infection, tooth decay, bleeding, and sore gums. This is the result of consuming refined poisonous sugar (North American are the number one in the world of consuming the most sugar. According to the US Department of Agriculture the average U.S. Citizen consumes 150 pounds sugar each year!) which can be successful treated with Neem toothpaste . Some people even reported a total reversal of gum degeneration after using the toothpaste only for a few weeks or month. In India it is common that the people use the twigs from the Neem tree to clean their teeth and the twigs become after use like a brush and they clean their tongue with it. My suggestion: use instead of poisonous refined sugar, cane sugar, xylitol, erythritol or stevia.
- Fungi, parasites, viruses: Neem has been successful proven under laboratory to destroy harmful fungi, parasites (Neem tincture), and viruses. Even though it extract action on the body's predators is not yet known, it does an excellent job of destroying them. Unlike its chemical counterparts, Neem does not kill beneficial intestinal flora nor produce any negative side effects. Athlete's foot, thrush, candida infestations, and herpes viruses are easily cleared up and prevented when Neem is used. It has been proven effective in treatment of stomach ulcers and is anti-histamine and anti-bacterial compounds appear to reduce inflammation and destroy the bacteria now believed responsible for many common ailments.
- Heart disease: Neem has been scientifically tested for its ability to reduce high blood pressure, blood clots, heart irregularities, and high cholesterol levels. The anti-histamine effect of nimbidin found in Neem leaves cause blood vessels to dilate and may be why Neem helps reduce elevated blood pressure. A recent study showed that Neem lowered high cholesterol levels when Neem leaf extract, tincture or capsules were taken for a month.
- Chronic fatigue: suspected of being caused by both viral and fungal infections, Neem attacks both, and helps fight this incredible debilitating syndrome.
- Insect repellent: Neem is a non-toxic insect repellent that repels all types of annoying pests without being toxic to humans or pets. Commercial repellents (especially those with poisonous DEET) are now suspect of being a potent carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- Sunburns: Neem cream or lotion helps to prevent sunburn from the Ultra violet rays of the sun
- Skin abrasions: injuries such as sprains and bruises are easily treated with Neem cream and/or lotion or leaf extract applied locally. The anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial attributes of Neem are surprisingly soothing and effectiveness
- Malaria: one of the most dreadful disease created by a mosquito in tropical countries and an estimated 1 – 3 million die for it every year and from this 70% children under the age of 5 years. Some experiments have shown that one of Neem's compounds "gedunin" (a limonoid) seemed to be effective against malaria, but more studies are needed. In the Ayurvedic medicine system Neem is used to treat also malaria fevers.
- Chagas: is a major health problem in Latin America since it cripples millions of people there. Laboratory test in Germany and Brazil show that Neem may be the answer to this dreadful disease which so far remains largely uncontrollable. Caused by a parasite which is spread by an insect called kissing bug.
- Birth control: Neem oil has been chemically been tested in India as an external contraceptive, used by women as a spermicide
- Major health problems: professionally administered Neem solutions are being studied for their beneficial effects on AIDS, cancer, and many other medical conditions.
My own personal experience with Neem has been nothing short of a miracle. I suffered for over 40 years with severe psoriasis on my scalp and elbows and after I started using in 1994 Neem cream, shampoo, tincture, soap, oil I am free of psoriasis!
Of all the plants that have proven useful to us throughout the ages, few have offered as much value and versatility as the unique Neem tree. With growing research to support its healing and beneficial properties, Neem is finally getting the attention its deserves. This miraculous healing herb is truly an ancient cure for a modern world and is able to solve global problems.
Update: Klaus' book Neem: Nature's Healing Gift to Humanity is available from:
Copyright © 1995 Klaus Ferlow / Updated © 2014