For centuries the Neem tree has been known as the wonder tree of India. Traditionally used in ayurvedic remedies as an antiseptic to fight viruses and bacteria, it is also recommended for urinary disorders, diarrhea, fever, skin diseases, burns and inflammatory diseases. Because of its wide variety of applications, it is commonly called the "Friend and Protector of the Indian Villager."
Today, modern research has verified the remarkable attributes of this tree. Neem is increasingly a key ingredient in modern cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
Cracking the Secrets of Neem: Why is Neem such a Wonder Tree?
Modern research studies have discovered that it contains both alkaloids and liminoids, each with an array of medicinal properties. For instance, one liminoid (azadirachtin) has been found to be 95% effective when used as a pesticide and insecticide.
Another liminoid found in Neem leaves (gedunin) has been used to treat malaria in tropical countries. It is administered as a tea or herbal infusion. Two other alkaloids (nimbin and nimbidin) have antiviral and antifungal properties.
While all parts of the tree are used in traditional ayurvedic formulas, there are three parts that are of particular benefit. These are the bark, the leaf and the oil.
Uses of Neem Bark
The Neem bark has cool, bitter, and astringent properties. It is traditionally used to treat tiredness, Kapha dosha imbalance, worms, fever and loss of appetite. Because of its antiseptic and astringent properties, it is especially helpful in healing wounds.
Probably the most common use of Neem bark is to clean the teeth. The traditional method is to snap off a twig of the tree and chew on it. The astringent qualities of the bark prevented bleeding gums, tooth decay and foul smell long before the advent of toothpaste.
The Magical Neem Leaf
Neem leaf is famous in ayurvedic texts for having an almost magical effect on the skin. It works as an antifungal, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory agent. It is effective in treating eczema, ringworm and acne. Traditional methods include crushing the leaves into a paste and applying directly to wounds, ulcers or skin diseases.
Neem leaf has both pungent and astringent tastes. According to Maharishi Ayurveda, the Neem leaf is especially useful in balancing Vata disorders. It removes ama and other toxins from the body, purifies the blood, and neutralizes damaging free radicals. It is nourishing to the hair (keshya).
Neem leaf is also revered for its antibacterial and antiviral properties. Even today in India, people sprinkle fresh Neem leaf near the beds of patients with flu or fever, and hang a cluster of leaves on the door outside. The air that crosses the neem leaf is purified of viruses and bacteria, helping to disinfect the room and prevent the spread of disease.
Traditional Uses of Neem Oil
The oil is derived by crushing the seeds. Like the leaves, Neem oil is used to treat skin problems. It is especially effective in treating head lice and dandruff, and creates a purifying effect when used in aromatherapy.
Fortunately, you can enjoy the benefits of Neem oil, bark and leaves even if you don't have a Neem tree growing in your front yard! Here are some simple ways to use Neem for your teeth, skin and hair.
Neem Bark Toothpaste to Prevent Tooth Decay
Brush your teeth with Ayurdent, a completely natural, flouride-free ayurvedic toothpaste that contains Neem bark. It helps heal sore gums, prevents tooth decay by strengthening gums and teeth, and creates a fresh feeling in the mouth. Ayurdent cleanses deep toxins from the teeth and oral cavity and is especially effective when used right before bed.
Neem in Herbal Supplements
Maharishi Ayurveda offers Neem leaf as a single-herb supplement — Organic Neem. Neem leaf and/or Neem bark are included in Bio-Immune, Elim-Tox, Glucostat, Liver Balance, Protection Plus Respiratory System, Protection Plus Sinuses and Radiant Skin.
Neem Oil Lice Protector
Combine 10% Neem oil with 90% coconut or sesame oil. Apply to the hair and massage the oil into the scalp. Comb the oil through to make sure it is evenly distributed. Leave it on overnight. In the morning wash your hair with a good herbal shampoo. Repeat five to six times, on alternate days, until the lice have disappeared. This formula also helps flaky scalp.
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