Neem – Bitter is Better
It’s widely published and believed that it’s our parents who shape us into what we are today. For me, it has been my grandmother. Her ever lovingly, hardworking selfless care is what I fondly remember whenever I think of my childhood spent in Mumbai.
My first memory is of her using neem – forcing it’s down my throat (paste) wanting to take away my sufferings: from my childhood bronchitis. She would pass dictates to my grandfather or my uncle to get these leaves.
She also used these to make my bedding when I was down with chicken pox. It is widely believed to help soothe skin during infections. And I remember using its bark as a dental stick: a natural toothbrush. I can still taste the bitterness – when I think of it.
Neem is popularly known as Nimtree or Indian Lilac – scientifically called Azadirachta indica, hailing from the mahogany family Meliaceae. This tree is globally less is known. Found growing in typically tropical and semi-tropical regions i.e. in humid weather conditions. It is native to the Asian continent found in abundance in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Srilanka, Bangladesh, Maldives and somewhat in Iran. It is known to be drought resistant. And can grow in less humid and less groundwater conditions.
Neem is also called an ‘A Healing Tree’: its enriched with many good properties of nature. Every single part of this tree is used – the bark, the leaves, the flowers and also fruit & its seeds. Neem is highly respected for its medicinal powers – it has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral properties. And the flower, the root & fruit is also used in traditional Indian cooking.
Used in varied ways :
- I have seen people using dried leaves to prevent insects from infecting the storage places – cupboards, grain storage etc.
- Leaves are dried and burnt to keep mosquitoes away
- Heals wounds if its paste is dabbed on it. Even helps heal insect bites, zits or any kind of skin eruptions
- Neem water (neem leaves boiled in water and strained and cooled) if used to wash eyes helps keep away irritation and redness.
- Neem water is good to remove dandruff. Rinse your hair with it after a shampoo wash.
- Few drops of its paste mixed with some honey help in treating ear boils.
- Neem paste combined with Turmeric is used to treat mild skins problems – like itching, eczema or ringworms, intestinal warns.
- It is used for treating leprosy.
- It helps soothe stomach upsets or loss of appetite.
- Is used for treating cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, liver problems.
- Some use it as a natural way as contraceptives or even abortions.
- Consuming neem paste with a glass of water every day will increase your immunity.
- And consuming neem every day also keeps the growth of cancerous cell checked. It seemingly kills cancerous cells and prevents joining together.
Used as a vegetable, in Indian regional cooking, especially in Bengal – young neem leaves are fried with eggplant and eaten as a vegetable with rice – as an appetizer. In Southeast Asian countries like Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam & Thailand – it is used as a vegetable, in salads or as a pickle. But, even after cooking its flavours still remains bitter hence is not widely enjoyed.
In ancient India or even now – in rural India people chew on neem twigs for teeth cleaning. It’s a make-do toothbrush and helps in fighting germs, treats infected gums, keeps teeth white, maintains the alkaline levels in your saliva, and prevents tooth plaque and helps in stopping tooth decay.
These twigs are also used to treat a cough, asthma, haemorrhoids, stomach and intestinal ulcers, skin diseases, pain, and fever.
The white fragrant flowers (jasmine-like scent) on the neem tree is not bitter. It is pretty to look at and believed to be therapeutic. It blossoms twice in the day – afternoon and evening. It is commonly used in many dishes in south India – either used fresh or in a powdered form.
In Ayurveda it is used to treat nausea, belching, intestinal worms, eyes infection, skin diseases and its alcoholic extract is supposed to be an effective contraceptive.
The flower is also used for reducing bile, controlling phlegm, and treating intestinal worms.
This oil is extracted from seeds and the pulp of the crushed fruits. It is said to be rich in medicinal properties and is highly used in cosmetics products like – soaps, creams, hair oil, hand wash etc. It helps in treating acne, treats scars, helps reduce skin redness or inflammation and many other skin diseases. It helps skin to get rid of harmful bacteria.
- Neem oil is not only used as mosquito repellent – but is also used to protect other plants from insects, used as an insecticide.
- Make a simple pack to remove or prevent blackheads: take a couple of drops of neem oil with some water. Apply on blackheads regularly.
- Neem oil when added to face packs – nourishes and helps ageing skin. It is a skin softener.
- If rubbed into scalps – it strengthens hair and prevents dandruff and hair fall. It is also used to treat head lice.
It is advised to consult your pharmacist or physician before using any products. Please do not assume that natural products are always safe. Maintaining dosages – depends on the user’s age, health and various other parameters. And research is still underway on the appropriate limit of consumption.
It is considered to be safe for most adults and is advised to be taken by mouth for not more than 2 months at a time. Long terms consumptions might cause harm to kidney, liver, sperm count and conceiving. Avoid during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
It is UNSAFE for consumption by infants and small children. There are serious side effects can happen within hours of taking them – like vomiting, seizures, loss of consciousness, coma etc.
As I always say – maintaining balance is the essence of nature. Please do not overdo. And do not experiment where kids are concerned.
And do keep coming back to read my blog post– my next rollout will be Neem Tea !! How to make one and its benefits…
Author: Margaret KM