‘Neem’ is a versatile tree since every part of the tree is useful. Traditionally it is a sacred plant and worshipped by Hindus. It is a fast growing tree and grows up to 45-50 Ft height with thick foliage. It is a shade giving tree and for the same reason it is planted on either side of the sides of roads. It belongs to the family Miliacea and the species name is Azadirachta indica. It grows in tropical and subtropical climates and can be grown with the seeds and cuttings. It is native to India and Pakistan. Neem has a history of using in Ayurvedic medicines since 4000 years. From the trunk of the old trees gum also comes and solidifies. This gum also has got medicinal properties. The shade of the plant is said to be a health promoting and that sick people regain their lost health if they take shelter under the tree.
Besides medicinal properties the tree’s wood is used for furniture, making window and door panels. It is believed by many Hindus that constructing main entrance door made with Neem wood is sacred and brings good for the people living in the house. Several people still follow this tradition. People living in south India make a dish with the flowers of Neem especially on the New Year’s Day. They feel it is sacred to eat this chutney. In several festivals of the local deities (Ammavaru) Neem leaves and branches are the main attraction and they decorate the Goddesses with the garlands made with Neem leaves and consider it as sacred.
Medicinal properties of Neem tree:
Neem is an antiseptic, antiviral, anti malarial and fungicide. Because of this property the leaves are used as bedding for patients suffering with chicken and small pox considered to prevent spread of the virus. Patients are also waved with the branches of the plant to drive evil spirits and to give the patient a feel of fresh air. During viral outbreaks the branches are tied in front of the houses at main entrance to give an indication that an infectious patient is inside and also to prevent the spread of the virus acting like an air curtain.
Neem twigs are used as a tooth brush. A moderately thick twig is made into a small brush by crushing at one end and used to brush the teeth like a tooth brush. It kills the germs in the mouth, prevents tooth decay and gives freshness to the mouth by cleansing action.
Some leaves are taken and boiled to make an extract of the leaves. The water can be used to wash the wounds on the skin. It also can be used to take bath to control any skin infections.
A paste made with Neem leaves and Turmeric is generally applied for the chicken or small pox recovered patients and after about 30 Mts bath is given. This prevents spread of the virus from the scabs on the body. This is still a traditional practice in many families in southern parts of India.
An extract made by boiling of leaves and bark from the trunk if taken at a dose of 30 Ml on empty stomach will cure malaria, and stubborn skin diseases. The same can be applied externally also for skin problems.
Tender leaves if chewed daily in the morning said to control Diabetes, Asthma and cough.
The leaf extract if taken internally also purifies the blood and controls acne. It gives energy to the body and boost immunity. It also controls loose motions. Instead of leaf extract a powder made by dried leaves and bark can also be used with honey for the same conditions.
Neem oil is obtained from the seeds. It is a fly repellent and used as an external application for wounds, bed sores to ward off the flies and to prevent maggot formation. It is widely used in animal practitioners (Veterinarians) for wound on the animals which is a cheap and time honored dressing for the animals.
The dry powder after extracting the oil (Neem cake) is used as a pesticide by the agriculturalists.
Dried leaves, small branches, bark release smoke on burning slowly. The smoke acts as mosquito repellent and other insects. This can be used outside of the houses and cattle sheds to drive away mosquitoes. It can also be used inside of the houses also although the smoke is little pungent.
The gum obtained from the trunk of the tree is also useful for treating wounds and skin problems. A thin paste can be made with the gum and applied on the skin wounds.
Neem oil and coconut oil in combination can be used to control dandruff and hair fall.
Because of its multifarious uses Neem tree is considered versatile and worshiped.
The different regional names of the plant are
‘Vepa’ in Telugu
‘Vembu’ in Tamil
‘Nimba’ in Sanskrit
‘Neem’ in Hindi
‘Nimm’ in Punjabi