Neem: The bitter tonic of ayurveda

Introduction

Perhaps the most bitter plant, sweeter its versatility ! Neem is one herb having a long history of use in India. It is known for its wide range of health benefits and a powerful herb found in Ayurvedic herbology. It is a fast growing and evergreen tree that matures into a large shade tree which can live for 100-150 years. Melia azedarach (Mahaneem) has close affinity with neem and belongs to the same family meliaceae—the mahogany family— as that of neem. It is mostly found in those places where neem is not grown such as in Northern Himalaya and hence used as a substitute for Neem.

Scientific name: Azadirachta Indica
English name: Indian Lilac, Margosa tree
Hindi name: Nimb, Neem

You must have noticed or practiced at home that neem leaves are spread near the bed or under the bed sheet of flu-infected patient or are also hanged over the doors for filtering the air from harmful microorganisms. There are millions of microorganisms existing, some of which are essential for our existence and some are harmful. Neem tree is on a continuous job for conserving air with these good microorganisms and hence making us healthy all time. We have this very special tree loaded with medicinal usefulness as sixteenth herb in our series #SacredIndianHerbs.

Neem for a common man

The immensity of health benefits of neem tree could be understood by the fact that even sitting under its shade prevents and relieves a lot of disorders. Nature has provided it to us in abundance and traditionally neem leaves, twigs and seeds have been in use in various forms. Besides it also helps to magnitude the effect of herb like giloy by just simply planting giloy vine on neem tree which by medicinal virtue works excellently for jaundice and other types of diseases. Neem has been one of the prime ingredients in many natural beauty products for nurturing the skin and hair. Let us peek into some of the attributes of neem in management of health.

1. Neem Leaves

Enhances body immunity: A regular consumption of neem leaves can be quite healthy for the overall body, specially during the time when diseases such as dengue, malaria, swine flu etc are highly spread. Take some new budding neem leaves (नीम की कोपल) and black pepper in half of its quantity, say if 100g leaves then 50g black pepper. Churn and mix them well. The mixture will be moist and so make small tablets in the size of chickpeas thereby. You can consume one tablet two times a day with lukewarm water to boost immunity and vitality of the body.

Blood purifier: Rich in antimicrobial, antiviral and antioxidant properties thus chewing neem leaves can prove very effective in making you healthy. Before the beginning of summer season, when new buds are formed, you should swallow these buds early morning empty stomach. It will help to purify the blood and also inhibits the growth of parasites. Children who are fond of chocolates, mangoes etc and consumes them in excess, generally ends up with acnes and pimples in their adolescent stage. For such cases, consumption of neem leaves is high beneficial as it purifies the blood from the toxicity of high sugar.

2. Neem Twigs (दातुन)

Neem touches the life of almost every person for oral care, either be a poor who uses neem twigs to brush the teeths or a wealthier who uses a commercialised toothpaste having a neem base. Neem twigs contain medicinal and antimicrobial properties that are commonly used to maintain oral health from ages. It is a natural way that prevents from the occurrence of various dental diseases such as cavity formation, gingivitis, pyorrhea, plaque formation and fights bad breath. Besides, it also acts as a natural teeth whitener.

3. Neem seeds

Neem seed meal (नीम की खली) juice is used for improving eye health. Take a cotton cloth soaked in water and pour some juice over it. Cover the eyes with the cloth and it will immediately start providing you relief from any kind of irritation or redness (conjunctivitis) in the eyes. Neem seed cake i.e. the leftover part of neem seed can be used to enrich the soil. If spread in the farms in large quantity, it will not only reduces the nitrogen loss of the soil but also is antibacterial in nature. Hence acts as a fertilizer as well as pest repellent.

4. Neem oil

Neem is very effective natural solution to various skin and hair problems. It is popular herb among various acne herbal treatments and has countless benefits for hair and scalp.

Soothe your skin: Neem is famous for promoting healthy skin, hence helps with treating acne, skin rashes, irritations and redness. For this, take 1 teaspoon of neem oil and mix it in 50 ml sesame oil. Apply this oil on the whole body and massage your body tenderly. Leave it for 15 minutes and later on have a bath. You will definitely feel relieved from any kind of acne scars or skin irritations. Alternatively, you can soak a few neem leaves in water overnight and bathe with this water in the morning. It will eradicate your skin allergies. Also, consuming neem leaves purifies the blood, hence makes the skin clearer and glowy.

Nourish your hair: No matter how much we try to avoid hair damage, we do face hair problems at some point in our lives and it is something we all get worry about. Air pollution, diseased water and living in unhealthy environment has led to thin, frizzy and dry hair. Sometimes while using someone else’s comb or during a haircut from a salon our hair might become host to parasites or fungi. The topical use of neem oil removes all the parasitic growth and fungus spores present in the scalp. Also, it increase the blood circulation in the scalp and enhances the rate of hair growth. Heat 1 part of neem oil, 2 parts of coconut oil and 2 parts of mustard oil together and let it cool. Store this mixture in a container and apply the oil directly into the roots of the hair and scalp at least 60 minutes before bathing and rinse; or apply before bed and let sit overnight. Regular application of this oil will promote thicker, stronger, and healthy hair.

5. Natural kohl for eyes

Kohl or also called as Kajal in hindi (lampblack in english) is one of the first makeup product a girl learns to use. The kajal available at stores are heavily diluted and processed in chemicals. With neem there is an effective home made kajal remedy - Take 7-8 leaves of neem and 2g edible camphor. Grind them in powder form and place the powder in cotton. Make a long thick cotton wick and dip it in a lamp filled with mustard oil. Light the lamp and place a bronze plate over it. When the oil is burnt, you will notice a thick powdery black residue is collected on the bronze plate. Add 1g of camphor powder to 10g of black residue. And then add some sesame oil to make the mixture consistent enough; too thin will smudge the kohl and too thick will be in lumps. Put the kohl in airtight box and refrigerate it for few hours. Later you can store it at room temperature. The homemade natural kohl is ready for use. This neem kajal is so beneficial that the various eye disorders due to dust particles and/or foreign body will get effectively prevented.

6. Neem toddy (नीम की ताड़ी)

It is said lucky are those who are able to sight ‘a crying neem tree’. When a neem tree becomes old and sometimes it may secrete a white liquid off from the surface of its branches. Which is called as ‘crying neem’ and the white secretion as ‘Neem toddy’ containing all the nutrients found in neem. This liquid oozes out mainly from the surface of the main trunk for about 10-15 days after which the tree dries up and dies. Only one who knows about it, collects the sap and gain the benefits out of it. Naturally it is a rare medicine. This has proved to be very useful in a successful treatment of ulcers, ringworm, eczema, leprosy, abscess, boils and wounds, indigestion, and also a great blood purifier. If you ever see a neem crying, collect the sap and add one tenth amount of honey for storing it. Take 1-1 teaspoon of it daily two times a day. It would work as an excellent preventive remedy and is also very effective for diabetic patients.

Neem and its industry in India

Because of such versatile nature of neem, it has now turned into multi million industry in India. Many industries have been established who has developed a number of neem based products such as neem seed oil, neem cake and pesticides for organic farming and various neem based cosmetic products which have been widely accepted by users around the globe. Even when the tree dies, its wood can be used for various purposes. Neem wood use has been growing in furniture making. Its wood is strong and durable and gives wood furniture an aesthetically pleasing appearance. Therefore we should accord high honor to this wholesome tree and should get benefited from it.

By consuming a certain amount of neem on a daily basis internally or externally can manage the overgrowth of bacteria and our body can be clean and free of infections. So try to make neem (an incredible tree) part of your life and plant it for which you will be thanked later by the generations benefiting from it.

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Dr. Vinod Pr Upadhyay

B.Sc, BAMS, ND (Naturopathy & Yoga), Phd, FES, FIAES | Ayurvedic Pharmaceutics and Pharmacologist | Ex Principal at Himalaya Ayurvedic Medical College | Former Sr. Lecturer at Govt. Ayu. College, Gurukul Kangri

Haridwar

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