Azadirachta indica is the scientific name of common household leaf, Neem, in the Indian subcontinent, which is known for their varied range of benefits. It belongs to the Mahogany family. Apart from its presence in Indian subcontinent, Neem is also found in some parts of Middle East and Africa.
The reason why Neem, especially enjoys special importance is due to its numerous uses and benefits as well as its ability to thrive in extremely challenging environments. It grows quite rapidly, with its leaves spreading and covering a broad area. This rapid growth helps it to withstand extreme heat by shedding of excess leaves, to prevent damage to rest of the tree. Hence, its occurrence is localized to tropical and sub-tropical areas.
The benefits of Azadirachta indica or Neem, are gained from the different parts of the tree like trunk, leaves, flower and fruit. Each part has its own morphology, like the straight and short trunk, which can grow as high as a hundred and thirty feet and the root which spreads deep down. The Neem leaves can have color ranging from reddish purple to dark green depending on the age of the leaves. The young leaves are usually reddish or purple in color, whereas the mature ones are dark green in color. The neem flower is usually yellowish white in color and possesses a strong fragrance. The fruit on the other hand is small and pulpy but bitter in taste. Each part of this tree is highly sought after, since over hundred and forty compounds have been isolated from different parts of the tree. However, the Azadirachta indica leaves or Neem leaves are the most important part that greatly contributes to health and medicinal benefits.
Health Benefits of Azadirachta indica Leaves or Neem Leaves
The general health benefits of Azadirachta indica leaves or Neem leaves are numerous, some of which are enlisted below:
- Detoxifying Agent: Azadirachta indica leaves or Neem leaves are known to cleanse the blood when consumed directly. It helps in stimulating metabolic activities and eliminating toxins from the body. This further aids in providing healthy skin.
- Benefits of Azadirachta Indica Leaves or Neem Leaves in Reducing Acne: Acne is one of the most common and challenging skin conditions. It is known to get cured by applying a paste made of Azadirachta indica leaves or Neem leaves. The innate antimicrobial properties of Neem help in prevention of scarring and resurgence of the condition.
- Digestive Health Benefits of Azadirachta Indica Leaves or Neem Leaves: Neem leaf extract is known to cure a wide range of stomach related problems like ulcers, constipation, cramps, acidity and bloating, due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Azadirachta Indica Leaves or Neem Leaves are Beneficial in Preventing Dandruff: The root cause behind dandruff is the fungal infection of scalp, which further adds to baldness. The application of Azadirachta indica leaf or Neem leaf extract or paste helps greatly in treating the condition owing to its anti-microbial properties. To add on, the anti-oxidant properties of Neem help is maintaining the health of hair follicles.
- Oral Health Benefits of Azadirachta indica leaves or Neem Leaves: Regular consumption of Azadirachta indica leaves or Neem leaves help in elimination of bad breath, plaque buildup, gum bleeding and gingivitis, thereby maintaining oral health and hygiene.
Medicinal Benefits of Azadirachta Indica Leaves or Neem Leaves
Ayurvedic medicine in India have been using Neem for therapeutic and treatment purposes because the Azadirachta indica leaves or Neem leaves are a treasure of medicinal properties. Some such medicinal benefits are:
- Medicinal Benefits of Azadirachta Indica or Neem for Immunity Stimulation: The Azadirachta indica leaf extract or Neem leaf extracts elevate the levels of immunostimulant activities within the body by activating the cell-mediated immunity mechanisms. This further helps in active handling of mitogen and antigenic challenges faced by the body.
- Benefits of Azadirachta Indica Leaves or Neem Leaves for Contraception: The neem leaf oil when applied within the vagina before sexual intercourse can prevent the chances of pregnancy to a large extent. It acts as a natural and non-toxic spermicide when applied inside the vagina. It effectively reduces the chances of conception without affecting the sexual desire. It also helps in prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
- Anti-Malarial Properties of Azadirachta Indica Leaves or Neem Leaves: Neem leaf extracts have been proven helpful to treat malaria in cases the malarial parasites are resistant towards chloroquinone.
- Benefits of Azadirachta Indica Leaves or Neem Leaves In Lowering of Blood Sugar Levels: For individuals suffering from high blood sugar levels, aqueous neem leaf extracts have been proven effective in treating the condition. Azadirachta indica leaf or Neem leaf extract when consumed regularly, helps in reducing the dependency on insulin. Also, it helps in prevention of diabetes by helping in proper functioning of insulin receptors.
- Anti-Microbial Activity Benefits of Azadirachta Indica Leaves or Neem Leaves: Neem leaf extracts are well known for their anti-microbial activity. It is effective against many bacteria, fungi and viruses. It holds a strong antibacterial action against both Gram positive as well as Gram negative bacteria like Vibrio cholera, Streptococcus mutans, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Streptococcus faecalis and Mycobacterium pyogenes. Certain fungi like Microspor trichosporon, Geotricum, Trichophyton, Candida and Trichophyton can be effectively checked using Neem leaf extracts. Also, antiviral action of neem works effectively against viruses like Chikungunya, measles and vaccinia.
- Cancer Prevention: Cancers related to oral squamous cells can be treated effectively through Neem. The Neem leaf extracts help in delaying the requirement of cancer therapy and medications by modulating the metabolism related to oral mucosa.
- Anti-ulcer Property Benefits of Azadirachta indica or Neem Leaves: Neem leaf extract is a highly effective antacid, which aids in prevention of ulcers.
Other Uses and Benefits of Azadirachta indica Leaves or Neem Leaves
The benefits from Azadirachta indica leaves or Neem leaves are not limited to just health and medicine, but are way more beyond it. Some of such benefits have been discussed below:
- Bio-control Agent: The Azadirachta indica leaf or Neem leaf extract is used to control the population of undesirable fish and fish predators in ponds.
- Usage in Construction: The Azadirachta indica leaf or Neem leaf juice has been used for construction since old ages. The mixture of plaster with the juice is used for construction and creation of art work.
- Use in Cosmetics and Toiletries: Powdered Azadirachta indica leaves or Neem leaves and neem leaf extracts are extensively used for creating toothpastes, soaps, shampoos, facial wash, creams and packs owing to its anti-microbial, anti-dandruff and anti-acne properties.
- Benefits of Azadirachta indica or Neem in Medicinal Honey: Neem honey is quite famous in different parts of Asia, for its medicinal properties because it constitutes the best of both neem and honey.
- Fertilizer: Azadirachta indica leaves or Neem leaves along with neem cakes are a rich fertilizer for plants that also helps in pest control.
- Pest Control: Azadirachta indica leaf or Neem leaf powder or paste or even the dried leaves can be used for pest control. It helps in keeping the ants and other household insects away.
Nutritional Composition of Azadirachta Indica Leaves or Neem Leaves
Neem leaves are rich in several nutrients, these include:
- Neutral Detergent Fiber
- Acid Detergent Fiber
Neem has been one of the oldest traditional plants of Indian culture, especially Ayurveda. The properties that it possesses prove it to be a divine creation. Its remarkable health benefits range from minor digestive distress to extremely troublesome carcinomas all of which can be treated with the same plant. Not many plants have such wide range of benefits ranging from health and medicine to routine objects and tasks. Thus, what is required in the coming times is the ability to tap the maximum potential of Neem owing to the versatility in the benefits obtained from it.