Neem also known Indian Lilac is a tree in the mahogany family Meliaceae. Azadirachta indica is the scientific name of Neem tree. It is one of two species in the genus Azadirachta, and is native to India and the Indian subcontinent including Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. It now grows in certain parts of the Middle East as well as in islands located in the southern part of Iran. Neem tree has spread and is now grown all over the world.
Description of Neem
Neem trees grow very rapidly and have broad spreading leaves, which they can drop quickly in a drought so as to protect the rest of the trees. This quality makes them extremely resilient to challenging environments; it is primarily found in tropical and subtropical zones and thrives there. The flowers are very fragrant and white in color, while the fruit of the neem tree is a small drupe with a bittersweet pulp.
Neem is a fast-growing tree that can reach a height of 15–20 metres (49–66 ft), and rarely 35–40 metres (115–131 ft). It is evergreen, but in severe drought it may shed most or nearly all of its leaves. The branches are wide and spreading. The fairly dense crown is roundish and may reach a diameter of 15–20 metres (49–66 ft) in old, free-standing specimens. The neem tree is very similar in appearance to its relative, the Chinaberry (Melia azedarach).
The opposite, pinnate leaves are 20–40 centimetres (7.9–15.7 in) long, with 20 to 31 medium to dark green leaflets about 3–8 centimetres (1.2–3.1 in) long. The terminal leaflet often is missing. The petioles are short. The (white and fragrant) flowers are arranged in more-or-less drooping axillary panicles which are up to 25 centimetres (9.8 in) long. The inflorescences, which branch up to the third degree, bear from 150 to 250 flowers. An individual flower is 5–6 millimetres (0.20–0.24 in) long and 8–11 millimetres (0.31–0.43 in) wide. Protandrous, bisexual flowers and male flowers exist on the same individual tree.
The fruit is a smooth (glabrous), olive-like drupe which varies in shape from elongate oval to nearly roundish, and when ripe is 1.4–2.8 centimetres (0.55–1.10 in) by 1.0–1.5 centimetres (0.39–0.59 in). The fruit skin (exocarp) is thin and the bitter-sweet pulp (mesocarp) is yellowish-white and very fibrous. The mesocarp is 0.3–0.5 centimetres (0.12–0.20 in) thick. The white, hard inner shell (endocarp) of the fruit encloses one, rarely two, or three, elongated seeds (kernels) having a brown seed coat.
HISTORY OF NEEM
In India the neem medicinal tree is highly regarded because of its many uses and benefits. Through history, the Neem tree had many fascinating aspects for the people of India. The Neem tree was a symbol of health. In the sun and heat this evergreen, tree was a haven with its cooling shade. It was also safe from bugs and biting insects because of its natural repellant action. And millions of Indian people have used all parts of this sacred tree as medicinals – the seeds, leaves, flowers, fruits, oil, roots and bark.
The Neem was planted in the vicinity of a home where people interacted with this extraordinary tree daily.
The neem is native of Indian subcontinent, it is widely distributed by introduction, mainly in the drier (arid) tropical and subtropical zones of Asia, Africa, the Americas, Australia and the South Pacific islands. In India it is widely distributed in many states. In Myanmar it is very common in the central parts of the country.
Geograpic distribution of Neem
In the South Pacific neem occurs in the Fiji Islands. In Australia it was first introduced about 60-70 years ago. In Indonesia, neem exists mainly in the low-lying northern and eastern parts of Java and in the frier islands to the east (Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa). In the Philippines it was introduced during the seventies and eighties of the last century. In China, A. indica was planted on subtropical island of Hainan and southern china. In Nepal neem trees are found in the southern, low-lying areas (Tarai region). In Sri Lanka it is widespread in the drier northern parts of the island.
In Iran, neem trees grow along the coast up t the Chat el Arab in Iraq on the Arabian peninsula. In Qatar and Abu Dhabi neem was planted under irrigation using desalted seawater along avenues and parks. A large plantation was established on the Arafat plains near Makkah to provide shade for pilgrims.
The medicinal properties of the Neem tree have been well known in India for over 4,000 years. The healing properties of Neem are spoken about in some of the world’s oldest books. The Sanskrit word for Neem was “nimba,” which means “good health.” The Vedas called Neem “sarva roga nivarini”, which means “one that cures all ailments and ills”. It has also been referenced as “Divine Tree”, Life giving tree”, “Nature’s Drugstore”, and “Village Pharmacy.”
The Science of Neem
Neem has stood the test of time. And now, researchers have begun systematically laying out the process of how it all works. Researchers have isolated around 150 of Neem’s compounds, or Neem’s powerful blend. Imagine 150 different compounds working together to protect the Neem tree from bacteria, fungus, bugs, and other threats found in nature! One of Neem’s incredible advantages is this complexity of its compounds.
The Neem tree has more than 100 healing properties that are excellent for skin care, specifically for problem skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, or acne. Neem is super potent and should not be used in its raw form.
USING DIFFERENT PARTS OF NEEM PLANT
The most widely used parts of the neem tree are the seed kernels, the leaves and the bark:
The fruit of the neem plant looks a lot like an olive. The flesh surrounds a seed that contains one or several kernels.
Neem oil, the most popular neem plant product, is made by pressing the neem seed kernels. It is also used as a natural insect repellent, a safe and more efficient alternative to the harmful DEET.
Neem seed oil is also an ingredient in many skin care products. In India most of the neem oil is used in neem soap, but there are also neem shampoos, lotions, creams etc.
Besides that the oil is valued for its huge range of medicinal uses. The seed kernels contain the highest concentration of active substances in the neem plant. Pressing them for oil is one way to get at them, but you can also make various extracts from the seeds.
Neem leaves are widely sought after and are a major industry in the subcontinents, as these valuable leaves can be used for many different things. The oil from neem leaves can be extracted and used in a wide variety of medicinal uses, while the leaves can be dried and used as an herb or even as a pest repellent. In many areas of India, the shoots and flowers of the tree are also used in culinary applications. Neem contains a very unique composition of organic compounds and beneficial components, making products derived from neem very popular in alternative and herbal remedies. From tea and garnishes to skin salves and herbal supplements, it is considered as one of the most important and versatile plants in Indian culture. Let’s take a closer look at the many health benefits of neem.
The leaves of the neem plant are the most versatile and most easily available resource.They do contain the same active ingredients as the seeds, just in much lower concentration. Leaves are available all year round, since the neem plant is evergreen. (Seeds are obviously only available once a year).
Leaf pastes and extracts are used in skin care products, hair oils, in neem toothpastes and mouth washs, and they also have lots of medicinal uses. The leaves cleanse the blood, help the gastrointestinal system (ulcers!), support the liver, and strengthen the immune system, to name just some of the most popular benefits.
Although the leaves of the neem tree have been used this way for thousands of years in India, I recommend you are careful when taking them internally. Neem is a very powerful herb. It’s best to ask a qualified herbalist first.
The bark of the neem tree is not used as much as the seeds or leaves, for obvious reasons. There is not as much of it, it does not regenerate as quickly, and it is slightly more difficult to use. Because of its dry and hard nature the ingredients are more difficult to extract.
However, in one medicinal field the bark is the recommended plant part to use. That field is dental care. The bark contains a higher concentration of active ingredients than the leaves, and is especially high in ingredients with antiseptic and anti-inflammatory action. Neem bark is highly effective when treating gingivitis (gum disease).
PROPERTIES AND COMPOUNDS OF NEEM
Neem is a tree with an incredible variety of beneficial properties. Every part of the tree contains some level of active compounds, read more…
MEDECINAL USES OF NEEM
One of these amazing plants is the Neem Tree. Neem Trees are home to Southeast Asia where they have been known and used for over 4,000, read more…
BENEFITS OF NEEM
Neem oil benefits are many and varied. Using neem offers both health benefits and environmental benefits.Neem trees can cure any, read more…