Neem is the popular name of a tree native to India and widely cultivated in the Indian subcontinent, some parts of the Middle East, and many tropical and subtropical countries. The plant’s scientific name is Azadirachta indica, a part of the family of mahogany trees. Neem is a fast-growing tree with broad leaves that quickly drop in drought as a method of survival. The tree grows resiliently in subtropical and tropical areas.
The plant holds a major importance in the culture of India. For 5000 years, the people of India have used all parts of neem trees, including the leaves, seeds, bark, roots, and flowers, as ingredients of the Ayurvedic traditional treatment.
Neem leaves are important in the culinary and herbal world of Indian culture. They are very versatile as you can use them to make natural skin salves, foods’ garnishes, and herbal tea. Sometimes, the leaves are also dried and consumed as an herb or extracted to create a powerful medicinal oil.
Neem leaves have a wide range of benefits is due to the richness and uniqueness of organic compounds that compose the leaves. A single leaf contains an at least 130 kinds of bioactive compounds, one of the most beneficial appear to be a tetranortriterpenoid named nimbidin. Nimbidin has a large variety of herbal and medicinal properties. A group of researchers from India undertook a scientific literature review on the subjects of neem as a medicinal plant. Their review was published in the journal Current Science in June 2002, discussing the medicinal potentials of nimbidin. The team reported that nimbidin is anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic, spermicidal, and antipyretic. Besides nimbidin, there are also nimbin, sodium nimbidate, and nimbodine. Those compounds hold major medical significance, too. Nimbin, for example, possesses spermicidal properties, while sodium nambidate is a very powerful anti-inflammatory agent and nimbolide has antimalarial and antibacterial properties. These bioactive compounds make neem leaves a powerful herb for many medicinal purposes.
Let’s take a look at 15 of the major health benefits of neem leaves
1. Effectively Fights Bacteria
One of the most beneficial properties of neem leaves that is widely recognized by many is its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Neem leaves and its derivatives: oil, tea, and other forms possess antimicrobial and antibacterial effects that come into play when either taken externally or internally. This is the reason why neem leaf tea is usually consumed regularly as a general tonic and health boost to strengthen the immune system.
The bioactive compounds nimbidin and nimbolide are very powerful agents that can easily destroy bacteria. In the beginning of 1990s, Noel Viermeyer, Ph.D., led a team of researchers to study the medicinal properties of neem. The result was published in the report titled “Neem: A Tree for Solving Global Problems,” discussing the potential of the plant as a medicine for various ailments, but not for pathogenic bacteria control.
However, another study that was completed and published in the 2011 issue of the journal “International Research Journal of Applied and Basic Sciences” disproved this claim. The study demonstrated how the juice of neem leaf possesses strong suppressant properties against different types of bacteria. In the study, the researchers used Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella typhosa to test the effectiveness of neem leaf juice. Both bacteria are responsible for dangerous illnesses that are widespread around the world. The test showed positive results on the effectiveness of neem leaves to eradicate bacteria.
The positive effects are due to the existence of nimbidin and nimbolide in the leaves. Actually, most parts of neem possess antibacterial properties, but the leaves have the strongest effects. Because of this, many people drink neem leaf tea or juice to treat food poisoning, intestinal inflammation, and typhoid.
2. Eases Gastrointestinal Ailments
Neem leaf juice is also commonly used to treat gastrointestinal problems. The anti-inflammatory properties of neem leaves make them work against the inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. Inflammation causes several gastrointestinal ailments including ulcers, constipation, stomach cramping, bloating, and a number of other gastrointestinal issues.
Jean Putz and Ellen Norten wrote in their report “Neem: India’s Miraculous Healing Plant” that neem leaf juice contains some extremely potent agents to treat gastrointestinal ailments, such as diarrhea, constipation, and hyperacidity. Besides possessing strong antibacterial properties, consuming neem leaves is also good for your liver. A healthy liver will lead to an enhanced digestion. The ability of neem leaves to cleanse the colon is also what makes the leaf valuable for gastrointestinal health. Diarrhea and dysentery, for example, can be treated by consuming a tablespoon of neem leaf juice three times a day. In a few days, the symptoms will be gradually alleviated.
3. Relieves Eye Problems
Neem leaf juice can also be used to provide relief for some common eye problems, including night blindness and conjunctivitis. The effectiveness was reported in the 2011 issue of “Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research.” In the report, the researchers mentioned that applying neem leaf tea juice to patients’ eyes every night is an effective treatment to cure both night blindness and conjunctivitis.To obtain the benefits, just grind neem leaves finely and add water. Squeeze this paste to get the liquid and apply it directly on your eyes.
4. Treats Fever
You can also use neem leaves to treat fever. The followers and practitioners of Ayurvedic traditional medicines commonly use the juice of neem leaves to treat a high fever. This practice has been done for centuries and many practitioners reported the effectiveness of this type of treatment. This is because neem leaves possess antipyretic compounds that reduce fever by lowering body temperature. Neem leaves are also particularly effective in treating dengue and malarial fever. While it’s been used as a primary treatment for both diseases in areas with a lack of access to modern health facilities, you shouldn’t take this as the sole treatment replacing doctors’ recommendation and prescription.
5. Solves Dandruff Problems
Because of its antifungal and antibacterial properties, the neam leaf is a popular ingredient in many hair products, including shampoos, scalp cleansers, and hair masks. Neem leaves prevent fungus and dangerous bacteria from inhabiting your scalp, causing problems like infection, itch, irritation, and dandruff. The ability to keep your scalp hydrated also prevents the forming of flakes or dry skin layers on your scalp.
Moreover, neem leaves give a nutritional boost for your scalp and improve its health. The nutrition goes deep nourishing the follicles and strengthening it. The antioxidant content fights off free radicals that speed up the decaying of your skin cells that contribute to the forming of dandruff. Besides using the commercially produced neem shampoo, regularly washing your hair with neem leaves concoction is an effective method to prevent and treat dandruff.
6. Powerful Body Detox
Neem leaves have a lot of active ingredients that will help you get rid of the toxins in your body. Whether you consume the leaves in the form of tea, eat it as a garnish or vegetable, take the extract as an oral supplement, or even apply the leaves or paste directly on the skin, the leaves will have detoxifying effects on your body. Neem leaves activate the work of kidneys and liver while helping them throwing out toxins and optimizing the metabolism of the body. As a result, there will be no more toxins in your system.
In addition, neem leaves can also clean the toxins that are more visible on your skin. Every day, a lot of microbes, germs, dirt, and dust accumulate on your skin. These harmful substances can be removed by topical application of neem leaves to prevent irritation and other skin problems.
7. Treats Acne
Acne is the most widespread skin condition that can happen to anyone and in many areas. Despite its common occurrence, acne is also very challenging to eliminate. To treat acne, we have to eliminate the oil or grease that makes the condition of the skin is more prone to bacteria. Neem leaves can eliminate this excess oil.
In addition, the detoxifying nature of the leaves will eradicate the bacteria and other microorganisms that cause skin inflammation and irritation. The antibacterial properties will also prevent the breakout to reappear in the future. Then, the antioxidant properties of neem leaves will alleviate the scarring and help regenerate new skin cells and preserve the youthful look of the skin.
8. Reduces The Risks of Cancer
There is an ongoing research into the application of neem leaves as the potential treatment and prevention for cancer. The potential is believed by many people because of the high levels of antioxidants present in the leaves. Antioxidants reduce the chance of the development of cancer because of its ability to fight free radicals, the byproduct of your cells’ metabolism that may trigger inflammation, cancer, and other chronic diseases. Antioxidants work by neutralizing free radicals so they no longer become unstable and reactive. According to the multiple reports, there is a positive correlation between the present of antioxidants and the reduced risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. Consequentially, this makes neem leaves a powerful cancer-fighting agent.
9. Reduces Pore Size
Neem leaves are also well-known for its ability to smoothen and clean the skin. People use neem leaves to create face mask by crushing the leaves and mixing it with a little water until a thick paste is formed. When used regularly, the mask acts as an excellent exfoliant. It deeply cleanses the skin and lifts off dead skin cells while at the same time also shrinks the pores. This helps prevent the development of pimples and skin blemishes. Your face will also look brighter and cleaner. When you use this as a regular and prolonged treatment, your skin will be rejuvenated faster and you will look younger than your age
10. Treats Diabetes
The beneficial characteristics of neem leaves in dealing with diabetes are still under a constant research for a more certain and well-proven analysis, but there is definitely a relationship between the consumption of neem and the reduced demand for insulin among diabetic people. This is because neem contains active compounds that make insulin receptors function better. Thus, it makes sure that your body will receive the sufficient amount of insulin. An optimized insulin receptor’s function protects you against diabetes. If you are under a diabetic treatment already, it significantly reduces your dependence on insulin boost therapy.
11. Prevents Fungal Infection
Neem leaves’ antifungal properties can be used to treat fungal infections like athlete’s foot and candida yeast. Just use neem oil or neem paste topically on the infected areas. Alternatively, there are also commercial neem extract products in the market.The active ingredients in neem leaves will work quickly and efficiently to prevent and treat fungal infections.
12. Works As An Effective Birth Control
In many developing nations where birth control pills and other modern techniques to prevent births aren’t accessible to many, neem leaf oil has long been used as a cheap and safe alternative for contraceptive. Neem trees can grow in many areas of poorer countries where many people are struggling with growth that they can’t support. Researchers are also excited in the effectiveness of neem oil to prevent pregnancy.
According to some studies, neem oil isn’t only safe to use, but also effective as a pre and post-coital birth control. This impressive ability is due to the active chemicals in neem leaves that kill and destroy sperm. According to several newer studies, when neem oil is applied before the intercourse, it can kill sperms instantly and remains active in the vagina up to five hours after application. It is also extremely safe to use because it doesn’t cause any irritation and other side effects. Other experiments on rats also demonstrated the ability of neem extract to cause long-term infertility, prevent fertilization, and even terminate early pregnancy.
In addition, neem leaf oil can also play a role as a lubricant. The antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties also protect the vagina from some sexually transmitted diseases. You don’t have to worry about your sex drive either as neem extract reduces fertility without affecting the level of your libido.
13. Boosts Oral Hygiene
Neem leaf extract is also known for its ability to boost oral hygiene and health. In the past, neem twigs and leaves are often chewed to clean the teeth, prevent gum disease, cavities, and tooth loss. Some studies are conducted to research the effectiveness of this traditional tooth-cleansing method and the results are positive. According to the studies, neem leaves and barks contain powerful ingredients to destroy bacteria that cause inflammation and cavities, reduce plaque and gum disease, and promotes better dental and oral immunity against diseases. Using neem leaf and bark extract as a toothpaste will also freshen your breath.
14. Treats Scabies
Scabies may seem like a small or unimportant skin problem, but it’s very annoying and may lead to permanent scarring or worse infections. Many conventional treatments for scabies are unhealthy because it can irritate the skin. These treatments penetrate the skin very harshly to destroy the cause of scabies. It works like a pesticide. However, using neem leaf oil may provide a safer and more gentle way to deal with scabies mites. Neem leaf oil doesn’t only kill the mites, but also reduces the inflammation, heals the infection, relieves the pain and itching, and soothes the skin. It’s also a good alternative for resistant scabies mites that don’t get destroyed by the conventional medications. Traditionally, you can also follow the traditional recipe of neem leaf treatment based on the Indian Aryuvedic medicine. Just create a neem paste by crushing or grinding neem leaves well and mix it with a little turmeric. Apply the paste on your whole body after a scrub bath. Leave it to dry and rinse it well.
15. Repels Mosquito and Other Insects
Neem trees are known as an effective mosquito repellant. People planted the trees in the garden because the mosquitos hate the trees. Many people also scrub the leaves or apply neem leaf paste on their skin to prevent the mosquitos from biting. However, mosquitos aren’t the only insect that hates neem leaves. The powerful leaves have many more important roles in destroying or repelling insects.
Farmers in many parts of the world also sprays their crops with neem pesticides. It works on grasshoppers, caterpillars, whiteflies, aphids, and many other insects that may destroy crops. However, though the term is a pesticide, it doesn’t actually work by killing the bugs. Most of the time, it only prevents the plants being eaten by insects by inhibiting the growth of eggs or pupae, disrupting the sexual communication, preventing the females from laying eggs, blocking the ability of the adult insects to “swallow”, and repelling the insects from the area.