The Neem tree

    


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NEEM TREE (Azadirachta indica)
Common Names: Neem, Nimba, Margosa.

Neem is an evergreen tree belonging to the mahogany family Meliaceae. It is native to India and Asia. It grows in tropical and semi-tropical regions and reaches a hight of 15-20 m, rarely 35-40 m. The flowers (white and fragrant) attract honeybees that produce a honey with a pleasant taste. The fruit looks a bit like an olive and is dark green. The inner is white and hard and shells a seed (kernel).

In East Africa, it is known as Mwarobaini, which means the tree of the 40 as it is said to treat 40 different diseases. In India, the tree is variously known as "Divine Tree", "Heal All", "Nature's Drugstore", "Village Pharmacy" and "Panacea for all diseases". Early research on Neem oil started in the 1920's in India and has continued ever since by many researchers all over the world studying various aspects of Neem and its products.

Properities and uses of Neem
All parts of the Neem tree (seeds, leaves, flowers and bark) are used for different purposes. Neem is known to have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antiseptic and anti-parasitic properties. The oil has moisturizing and regenerative properties, it contains Vitamin E and essential fatty acids.

Some of the uses of Neem include:

  • Preparation of insecticides
  • Medical preparations
  • Cosmetics and skin care
  • The wood for furniture or as combustible
  • Neem twigs for cleaning teeth and as tooth picks.

Neem oil and Azadirachtin
Neem oil has been used since centuries by farmers in India as an insecticide. Azadirachtin is extracted from the seeds, it is a chemical compound belonging to the limonoids. It is known to affect over 200 species of insects, by acting mainly as a repellent and as antifeedant and growth disruptor. Many more compounds related to Azadirachtin are present in the seeds as well as in the leaves and the bark which also show strong biological activities.

Organic farming and household pesticide
Formulations made of Neem oil are also used as a bio-pesticide for organic farming, as it repels a wide variety of pests including the mealy bug, beet armyworm, aphids, the cabbage worm, nematodes and the Japanese beetle. Neem oil also controls black spot, powdery mildew, anthracnose and rust (fungus).

It can be used as a household pesticide against ants, bedbugs cockroaches, houseflies, sand flies, snails, termites and mosquitoes both as repellent and larvicide (Puri, 1999). 

Environmentally friendly
Neem fulfils many of the criteria needed for a natural insecticide being biodegradable and environmentally sound. Neem Oil is known to be harmless to beneficial insects such as honeybees and ladybugs as well as to birds, mammals and other vertebrates.

Traditional Ayurvedic medicine
Neem has a long history of human use in India and surrounding regions for a variety of therapeutic purposes. Traditional Ayurvedic uses of Neem include the treatment of fever, leprosy, malaria, ophthalmia and tuberculosis. Various folk remedies for Neem include use as an anthelmintic, antifeedant, antiseptic, diuretic, emmenagogue, contraceptive, febrifuge, parasiticide, pediculocide and insecticide. It has been used in traditional medicine for the treatment of tetanus, urticaria, eczema, scrofula and erysipelas. Traditional routes of administration of Neem extracts included oral, vaginal and topical use.

More information
More information about Neem and its uses as well as research reports can be found on internet, some of them can be found through links on our home page.

 

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