Called “sarva roga nivarini” or “that which cures all diseases,” neem features prominently in traditional medical systems like ayurveda. If its presence in alternative remedies has caught your attention and you are curious to know more, we have the lowdown. After all, almost every part of this tree, from its bark to its seeds, leaves, and flowers, has something to offer. Here’s a closer look at all that the healing neem can do for you.
1. Contains Anti-Aging And Protective Antioxidants
Neem leaves contain potent antioxidants such as quercetin and nimbolide which can protect against the damaging effects of free radicals.1 Harmful free radicals are known to damage DNA and have been implicated in conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. They also play a role in aging.2 Neem-based supplements and remedies may help you keep these free radicals at bay.
2. Lowers Blood Sugar
It is estimated that about 30.3 million Americans suffer from diabetes. Even more disturbingly, 84.1 million American adults are thought to have prediabetes.3 Neem may have the potential to treat what’s turning into a global epidemic. According to an animal study, administration of neem leaf extract and neem seed oil was able to lower blood sugar. In fact, their effect was comparable to that of an antidiabetic drug called glibenclamide. The study also found that when the animals were treated with the leaf extract or seed oil for 2 weeks before they were started on a chemical that induced diabetes, it helped cut down a rise in blood sugar.4
3. Helps Control Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can raise your risk for serious conditions such as kidney failure and heart failure. But neem may help you keep your blood pressure levels under control. Animal studies show that neem leaf extracts can cause a drop in blood pressure.5 One study even found that when animal subjects were given an extract of neem leaves along with salt, they had a much lower blood pressure than the control group which was given only salt. So there you go – neem leaves might just help you ward off high blood pressure!6
While neem’s powerful role in treating many diseases is being studied extensively, guidelines on how to have it are still not established. In traditional practice, about 2–4 gm of powdered neem leaf or 10–20 ml of neem leaf juice is safely prescribed twice or thrice a day.
4. Protects The Liver
Your liver is a hardworking organ which works to remove toxins from the body.7 But harmful chemicals and even some common medicines can cause toxic damage to the liver. This is where neem leaves can help out. For instance, one study found that neem leaf extracts protect against liver damage caused by the drug paracetamol while another observed that nimbolide, a bioactive constituent of neem leaves, countered the effects of the toxic chemical carbon tetrachloride. So some neem leaf juice might be just what your liver needs to keep fighting fit.8 9
5. Treats Intestinal Ulcers
Intestinal ulcers can leave you with a burning pain and symptoms such as indigestion and heartburn.10 But neem may be able to help you out if you suffer from this condition. One study found that neem bark extract was able to decrease the secretion of gastric acid by 77% and almost completely heal duodenal ulcers. A glycoside present in neem bark is thought to be mainly responsible for its antiulcer property and ability to control gastric acid secretion.11
6. Helps Fight Cancer
Traditional medicine has used neem to treat cancer for centuries. And the extracts of neem seeds, flowers, leaves, and fruits have all been found to have antitumor and chemopreventive effects in various kinds of cancer. Components such as nimbolide and azadirachtin are thought to be responsible for many of neem’s cancer-fighting properties – it has the ability to induce cell death, inhibit cell proliferation, and boost your immune response against tumor cells. Interestingly, research shows that neem may also enable certain anticancer drugs to work more effectively. Remember, though, neem cannot take the place of conventional treatment options, but you can speak to your doctor about neem as an aid in the fight against cancer.12
7. Combats Dental Plaque
Long before toothbrushes became the norm, some Southeast Asian communities used to chew on neem sticks to keep their teeth clean. And it turns out that this ancient practice has scientific backing. Extracts of neem stick have been found to reduce the ability of some streptococci to colonize tooth surfaces.13 So chewing on neem sticks can help you control plaque and ward off cavities. If that’s too exotic for your taste, try a toothpaste containing neem extracts.
8. Fights Fungal Skin Infections
Topical remedies involving neem leaves and oil should only be used after you do a patch text to ensure you are not allergic to it. Neem oil is very strong, so always use in small quantities and diluted with a carrier oil in a 1:10 ratio. Creams and ointments with neem extracts or oil will be calibrated so you should be able to use these safely.
Diluted neem oil has been used in Southeast Asia for ages as a remedy for skin infections. It components like nimbolide and gedunin show antifungal and antibacterial properties and can be useful to clear an infection.14 Neem leaf extracts have also been found to exhibit antifungal properties against organisms which cause skin disorders such as Tinea versicolor. A paste of the leaves can be used topically to treat skin infections.15 16
9. Removes Dandruff
Boil a handful of neem leaves and strain the solution after it cools down. Use this water to rinse your scalp and hair after you shampoo. You can also apply a paste of ground neem leaves mixed with a little water to your scalp. Leave in for 15 minutes for it to work its magic and wash off.
Dandruff is a pesky problem we’ve all had to reckon with. But neem leaves may just be the solution! Research shows that neem leaf extract work against the fungus malassezia which is associated with dandruff.17 So use this powerful remedy to get rid of those white flakes and soothe your itchy scalp.
10. Helps Tackle Psoriasis
A common inflammatory skin disease, psoriasis leads to scaly, thick, reddish lesions. Neem leaves can help treat this skin disorder too. One study found that when people who were following a conventional regimen were given an extract of neem leaves alongside, they showed a better and quicker response than those who were given a placebo. Though it’s exact action is unknown, bioactive compounds in neem help by inhibiting the accelerated production of skin cells in people with this condition.18 Combine a conventional treatment like coal tar topical medicines with neem leaf extracts to boost its power. Do check with an alternative medicine practitioner for dosage.
11. Gets Rid Of Acne
To tackle stubborn pimples, grind up some neem leaves with a little turmeric powder, which is another natural ingredient with anti-acne properties. Apply this paste to your pimples and wash off after it dries.19
Annoying zits can ruin your peace of mind. But if you’re struggling with acne, neem may be able to step in. Neem extract works against bacteria such as P. acne and S. epidermidis which play a role in the development of acne.20
12. Works As A Mosquito Repellent
Neem oil can be used as a natural mosquito repellent. One study found that applying 1 to 4% neem oil diluted in coconut oil offered 81–91% protection against anopheline mosquitoes which transmit malaria. Another study observed that it also protected against Aedes mosquito, which spreads dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever, and the Zika virus.21 22 So if you’re in the market for a natural mosquito repellent, get one with neem oil. You can also dilute a drop or two of neem oil in shea butter and use on your skin after a patch test.
How To Use Neem
Here’s a look at how you can take advantage of the many beneficial properties of neem:
Neem leaves: Traditionally, 2 to 4 grams of powdered neem leaf or 2 to 4 teaspoons (10–20 ml) of neem leaf juice are consumed twice or thrice a day for therapeutic purposes. The leaves are also ground into a paste with a little water and applied topically or added to your bathwater for tackling skin conditions. But neem leaves are also very bitter so you may be able to have only a little quantity of the paste or juice at a time – that too after an allergy test. Neem leaf extract capsules are readily available but should only be taken under the guidance of an alternative medicine practitioner or with your doctor’s go-ahead.
Neem leaf teas are usually safe to have as long as you stick to about 2 cups a day.
Neem bark: 30 to 60 mg of neem bark extract has been found to be useful in treating stomach ulcers. But this will need to be confirmed by an alternative practitioner after studying your case. Neem sticks can be chewed to promote oral health.
Neem oil: Ointments with around 5% neem oil are typically used for skin infections while a 1 to 4% neem oil diluted in mustard or coconut oil works as an insect repellent. Neem seed oil can have toxic effects, particularly for children and should not be consumed except under medical supervision. And remember to do a patch test before using neem oil topically as some people can have an allergic reaction to it.23 24 25
Neem flowers: These are traditionally used in India to make watery lentil soups known as rasam or flower rice. They can also be dry roasted and used to garnish dishes.
|↑1||Manikandan, P., R. Anandan, and S. Nagini. “Evaluation of Azadirachta indica leaf fractions for in vitro antioxidant potential and protective effects against H2O2-induced oxidative damage to pBR322 DNA and red blood cells.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 57, no. 15 (2009): 6990-6996.|
|↑2||Antioxidants: What You Need to Know. American Academy of Family Physicians.|
|↑3||Diabetes. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑4||Khosla, P., S. A. N. G. E. E. T. A. Bhanwra, J. Singh, S. Seth, and R. K. Srivastava. “A study of hypoglycaemic effects of Azadirachta indica (Neem) in normal and alloxan diabetic rabbits.” Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology 44, no. 1 (2000): 69-74.|
|↑5||Koley, K. M., and J. Lal. “Pharmacological effects of Azadirachta indica (neem) leaf extract on the ECG and blood pressure of rat.” Indian journal of physiology and pharmacology 38, no. 3 (1994): 223-225.|
|↑6||Obiefuna, Idongesit, and Ronald Young. “Concurrent administration of aqueous Azadirachta indica (neem) leaf extract with DOCA‐salt prevents the development of hypertension and accompanying electrocardiogram changes in the rat.” Phytotherapy Research 19, no. 9 (2005): 792-795.|
|↑7||Liver. Department of Health & Human Services.|
|↑8||Bhanwra, S. A. N. G. E. E. T. A., J. Singh, and P. Khosla. “Effect of Azadirachta ondica (neem) leaf aqueous extract on paracetamol-induced liver damage in rats.” Indian journal of physiology and pharmacology 44, no. 1 (2000): 64-68.|
|↑9||Baligar, Nagappa S., Ravindranath H. Aladakatti, Mukhtar Ahmed, and Murigendra B. Hiremath. “Evaluation of acute toxicity of neem active constituent, nimbolide and its hepatoprotective activity against acute dose of carbon tetrachloride treated albino rats.” International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research 5, no. 8 (2014): 3455.|
|↑10||Stomach ulcer. National Health Service.|
|↑11||Bandyopadhyay, Uday, Kaushik Biswas, Arnab Sengupta, Puspa Moitra, Prodip Dutta, Dipankar Sarkar, Pratip Debnath, Chayan K. Ganguly, and Ranajit K. Banerjee. “Clinical studies on the effect of Neem (Azadirachta indica) bark extract on gastric secretion and gastroduodenal ulcer.” Life sciences 75, no. 24 (2004): 2867-2878.|
|↑12||Hao, Fang, Sandeep Kumar, Neelu Yadav, and Dhyan Chandra. “Neem components as potential agents for cancer prevention and treatment.” Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-Reviews on Cancer 1846, no. 1 (2014): 247-257.|
|↑13||Wolinsky, L. E., S. Mania, S. Nachnani, and S. Ling. “The inhibiting effect of aqueous Azadirachta indica (Neem) extract upon bacterial properties influencing in vitro plaque formation.” Journal of dental research 75, no. 2 (1996): 816-822.|
|↑14||Biswas, Kausik, Ishita Chattopadhyay, Ranajit K. Banerjee, and Uday Bandyopadhyay. “Biological activities and medicinal properties of neem (Azadirachta indica).” CURRENT SCIENCE-BANGALORE- 82, no. 11 (2002): 1336-1345.|
|↑15||Tinea versicolor. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑16||Niharika, Anand, Johnson M. Aquicio, and Arulsamy Anand. “Antifungal properties of neem (Azadirachta indica) leaves extract to treat hair dandruff.” E-International Scientific Research Journal 2, no. 3 (2010): 244-252.|
|↑17||Kumar, Saneesh. “Analysis on the natural remedies to cure dandruff/skin disease-causing fungus-Malassezia furfur.” Adv Bio Tech 12, no. 07 (2013): 01-05.|
|↑18||Pandey, S. S., A. K. Jha, and Vineet Kaur. “Aqueous extract of neem leaves in treatment of Psoriasis vulgaris.” Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology 60, no. 2 (1994): 63.|
|↑19||Gamwell, Calvert. 95 Surprisingly Effective Natural Ways to Fight Acne. Human Innovation Labs, 2011.|
|↑20||Daud, Farhat S., Gauri Pande, Mamta Joshi, Ruchita Pathak, and Shubhangi Wankhede. “A study of antibacterial effect of some selected essential oils and medicinal herbs against acne causing bacteria.” J. Pharm. Sci. Invent 2 (2013): 27-34.|
|↑21||Mishra, A. K., N. Singh, and V. P. Sharma. “Use of neem oil as a mosquito repellent in tribal villages of mandla district, madhya pradesh.” Indian journal of malariology 32, no. 3 (1995): 99-103.|
|↑22||Sharma, S. K., V. K. Dua, and V. P. Sharma. “Field studies on the mosquito repellent action of neem oil.” The Southeast Asian journal of tropical medicine and public health 26, no. 1 (1995): 180-182.|
|↑23||de Groot, Anton, Berend A. Jagtman, and Marjolijn Woutersen. “Contact Allergy to Neem Oil.” Dermatitis 28, no. 6 (2017): 360-362.|
|↑24||Neem. University of Michigan.|
|↑25||Neem. University of Michigan.|