The important health benefits of neem leaves include its ability to treat dandruff, soothe irritation, protect the skin, boost the immune system, and reduce inflammation. It also speeds up wound healing, treats gastric conditions, slows the aging process, improves hair and scalp health, maintains sexual organ health, and treats various forms of cancer and diabetes.
What is Neem?
Neem is the common name of an extremely important tree native to the Indian subcontinent, although it now grows in certain parts of the Middle East as well. With the scientific name Azadirachta indica, neem trees are actually in the mahogany family of trees, Meliaceae. These 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; they are primarily found in tropical and subtropical zones. 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 leaves are widely sought after and serve as a major industry in the subcontinents, as these valuable leaves can be used for many different things. The oil from the leaves can be extracted and used in a wide variety of medicines, 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 powder contains a unique composition of organic and beneficial compounds, so products derived from it are very popular in 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 the Indian culture.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the health benefits of this herb.
One of the most widely recognized benefits of neem powder, oil, leaves, tea, and every other derivative is its strong antibacterial and antimicrobial effects. This comes into play both internally and externally, which is why neem is considered to be such a general tonic for the immune system and as a simple way to keep your overall health better protected. It is commonly associated with treating skin conditions, but its effects are far more extensive than that!
The antifungal and antibacterial properties of neem make it very popular in shampoos and scalp cleansers. This is because it can help the skin remain hydrated and eliminate dandruff while strengthening your hair. It also improves the health of your hair follicles due to its antioxidant content. In fact, it is even used in traditional medicines to stimulate hair growth and prevent male-pattern baldness.
Detoxifies the Body
Whether you are using neem powder, paste, leaves, consuming its extracts in supplements or in some other form, the active ingredients in this one-stop pharmacy tree will help to rid the body of toxins. Neem stimulates the liver and kidneys, helping eliminate toxins quickly and optimizing the body’s metabolic activities. A great deal of detritus accumulates on our skin every day, including germs, microbes, dust, and grime; neem paste can help neutralize these chemicals, pathogens, or dirt that can cause irritation or illness.
In terms of treating acne, neem paste is observed to eliminate much of grease and bacteria that can exacerbate the condition. The antibacterial nature of neem also helps prevent future breakouts, while the antioxidants in it will help minimize scarring and keep the skin looking fresh and clean. It also has astringent properties, which reduces the chances of skin sagging or wrinkles and aging. This is due to the fatty acids in neem oil, as well as the high content of vitamin E.
Improves Gastric Health
Consuming neem has been directly connected with a reduction in inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, which helps reduce ulcers and a wide range of other intestinal issues, such as constipation, bloating, and cramping. It can also be used as a quick healing antidote for stomach flu and other infections that can destroy beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Prevents Chronic Diseases
The high levels of antioxidants present in neem leaves have been linked to reduced chances of developing certain types of cancer. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, the dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism that can cause cancer and chronic disease throughout the body. Early research reports indicate a positive correlation between antioxidants and low risk of cancer and heart disease, as antioxidants also keep the cardiovascular system clean and unobstructed.
When neem paste is applied as a face mask, it works as an excellent exfoliant, and can also shrink the pore size, which will help prevent the development of blemishes and pimples.
Inhibits Fungal Infections
You can apply neem powder, neem paste or diluted neem oil directly onto infected areas of the body, including the Athlete’s foot. The antifungal effects of its active organic ingredients are rapid and highly efficient, leaving your immune system and skin intact.
There is a connection between a lower demand for insulin in the body and the consumption of neem. Its chemical components optimize insulin receptor function and ensure that the body is receiving appropriate amounts of insulin, which protects against the development of diabetes. Furthermore, for diabetics, it can be used to minimize the dependence on insulin therapy.
There has been some unconfirmed research that neem leaves can effectively treat malaria symptoms and minimize the danger of the disease. However, neem’s more common relationship with malaria is as a natural insect repellent that is nontoxic and highly effective in repelling mosquitoes, which are the main vectors of malaria.
Improves Oral Health
Neem is very popular as an ingredient in oral health products in the Indian subcontinent. Its antibacterial qualities make it ideal for eliminating the bacteria beneath the gums that cause periodontal diseases and halitosis (bad breath). Neem is a popular ingredient in mouthwashes and toothbrushes for precisely that reason, although the flavor’s not bad either!
Improves Reproductive Health
Neem is widely used as a natural spermicide and birth control agent, as it is likely to reduce the chances of conception for both men and women without harming them in a toxic way. It lowers fertility levels without impacting libido and can even help treat or prevent certain sexually transmitted diseases.
As mentioned above, there are certain anti-inflammatory properties in neem leaves and this is especially exciting for arthritis research. The paste or oil, when applied to aching joints and muscles due to arthritis can significantly reduce pain and discomfort, and even increase flexibility if consistently used.
Word of Caution: Despite this vast range of potentially beneficial uses, there are some side effects associated with neem. Firstly, it should not be used or consumed by infants or toddlers, and those with existing kidney or liver issues should definitely consult a doctor before using its leaves, paste, or oil. There is a chance of fatigue, due to its slight sedative nature, so be cautious of overuse, particularly in conjunction with any other medications.