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Neem - The Miracle Tree

My Magazine 2023/05
4 min
Neem (botanical name: Azadirachta Indica) is an evergreen tree with a well-earned reputation for being the most potent medicinal flora that has been part of traditional remedies dating back almost 2,000 years. It belongs to the Mahogany family and is also called the Indian Lilac.

It is found predominantly in the Indian subcontinent, including India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Maldives, but it also grows in some parts of Africa, the Arabian peninsula, and Southeast Asia. 

According to environmentalists, the tree was brought into East Africa during the 19th Century by East Indian immigrants fundamentally for its medicinal properties. It is now widely grown in Ghana, Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Mali, Benin, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique.

In many parts of the world, neem is referred to as the miracle tree or the "Tree of Life" because almost every aspect of the neem tree – leaves, flowers, fruits, bark, seed, and twigs – has medicinal value. In Ayurveda, it is known as nature's pharmacy.

In The Gambia, it is known as "Kasiya". Over 140 diverse, active compounds have been isolated from various parts of the plant. These active compounds give neem its antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiparasitic, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties.

Neem is a fast-growing tree that can grow up to 20 meters in height and has a life span of over 200 years. The tree blooms during the summer, producing small, white, and fragrant flowers followed by small, ellipsoid fruit. According to established research, neem has free radical scavenging properties due to being a rich source of antioxidants and is also effective in managing cancer through regulating cell signalling pathways.

As per traditional folks, all parts of the tree have the potential to cure various ailments:

  • Oil can be extracted from the seeds, used as a natural insect repellent, and often incorporated into shampoo, soap, lotion, and other skincare products. 
  • Although the plant's bark isn't widely used, it has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, making it useful as a mouthwash in treating gum disease. 
  • Traditionally, natives chewed the twigs, which were effective impromptu toothbrushes.  - The sticky bark resin is commonly used as glue. 
  • Neem leaves also have antibacterial properties, effectively treating infections and burns. The leaves destroy the bacteria that cause infections, stimulate the immune system and promote rapid healing. 

In most traditional set-ups, people drink boiled neem water, while others add the extract to their bath water to treat skin infections. The steam of the boiled neem water is very effective for respiratory issues such as asthma.

Neem has several health benefits, some of which include:

  1. Boosts the immune system.
  2. Helps to control blood sugar levels.
  3. Reduces inflammation.
  4. Treats skin problems such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
  5. Helps to fight infections.
  6. Reduces fever.
  7. Treats respiratory problems.
  8. Helps to control cholesterol levels.

Neem is commonly sold in oil, extract, powder, and supplement forms and added to hair, skin, and oral care products.

Neem oil can be applied to the skin or mixed with shampoo or creams. It's considered safe for oral intake when diluted with alcohol or taken in tablet or powder form. 

It's important to note that no standard dosage exists, and information on its effectiveness has yet to be discovered. Please consult your physician before consuming neem in any form.

Since neem is a fast-growing evergreen tree, it has been highly recommended for reforestation. It was found that the tree could help to combat erosion when planted on slopes and landslides, and the fallen leaves also help to neutralize acidic soils. 

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