Neem, also known as Azadirachta indica, margosa or Indian lilac, is a well-known herb used in Ayurveda, naturopathy, unani and homoeopathic medicines.
Neem has antibacterial, antiviral, analgesic, antipyretic, antiseptic, antimicrobial, antidiabetic, antifungal, blood-purifying and spermicidal properties. More than 140 compounds are present in different parts of the herb.
These properties and compounds help keep many diseases at bay and relieve various symptoms of different health issues. Due to its diverse medicinal uses, the neem tree is also known as a ‘one tree pharmacy’. Neem trees are even beneficial for the environment.
Every part of the neem tree –roots, bark, gum, leaves, fruit, twigs, seed kernels and seed oil – is used in therapeutic preparations for both internal and topical use.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of neem.
1. Treats Dandruff
Neem has antifungal and antibacterial properties that make it very effective in treating dandruff and keeping your scalp healthy. It also relieves dryness and itching, two common symptoms of dandruff.
- Boil a handful of neem leaves in 4 cups of water until the color of the leaves fades and the water becomes green. Allow this water to cool and then use it as a final rinse after you shampoo your hair. It will also help keep your hair conditioned.
- Another option is to prepare a paste of a few tablespoons of neem powder and sufficient water. Apply it on the scalp and hair. Leave it on for 30 minutes, then shampoo and condition your hair as usual. Use this treatment 2 or 3 times a week until you get rid of the dandruff completely. This hair mask will also promote hair growth.
2. Treats Skin Problems
To keep your skin healthy and flawless, neem is a good option. Neem has antiviral, antibacterial and antiseptic properties that help treat and prevent many skin problems, such as acne, rashes, psoriasis and eczema.
Moreover, its helps heal wounds and prevent any infections or septic conditions. It also contains high levels of antioxidants that help protect skin from environmental damage and delay the signs of aging.
- For any kind of skin problem, grind some fresh neem leaves into a paste. Apply it on the affected skin. Allow it to dry on its own, then rinse it off with cool water. Use this treatment once daily until you are satisfied with the results.
- You can also massage your skin with a mixture of 1/3 cup of olive oil or coconut oil and 1 tablespoon of neem oil to rejuvenate skin cells and restore elasticity. This in turn helps maintain glowing skin and an even skin tone.
3. Kills Head Lice
A study published in the journal Parasitology Research in 2012 found that neem seed extract can eliminate head lice infestation with a single treatment, thanks to its natural insecticide property. Plus, neem is effective in providing relief from scalp itching and irritations.
- Wash your hair with any herbal neem-based shampoo 2 or 3 times a week and then use a lice comb to get rid of head lice.
- Alternatively, apply a paste of neem leaves on your hair and scalp. Allow it to dry, then rinse your hair thoroughly with warm water. Then comb out the hair using a lice comb. Follow this treatment 2 or 3 times a week for 2 months.
- Massaging your hair and scalp with undiluted neem oil is also very effective. After massaging, comb out the hair using a lice comb to get rid of the lice. You can leave the neem oil in your hair for about an hour, or even overnight before washing it off.
4. Maintains Oral Health
Neem also helps maintain oral health and keeps different types of gum diseases at bay. Its antibacterial and antiseptic properties help kill the bacteria that cause cavities, plaque, gingivitis and other gum diseases. It also offers long-lasting fresh breath.
- Extract the juice of neem leaves and rub it on your teeth and gums. Leave it on for a few minutes, then rinse it off with warm water. Use this treatment once daily. You can also use soft neem sticks to brush your teeth.
- Use toothpaste, mouthwash and oral health tonics that have neem as one of the key ingredients.
5. Purifies Blood
Neem works as a powerful blood purifier and detoxifier. Blood purification aids the body in getting rid of harmful toxins and helps the blood carry necessary nutrients and oxygen to all parts of the body.
This in turn improves the functioning of important body organs like the kidneys and liver. Moreover, it helps maintain healthy circulatory, digestive, respiratory and urinary systems.
- Eat 2 or 3 tender neem leaves mixed with some honey on an empty stomach every day for several weeks to notice changes in your body and skin. You can also drink neem tea.
- Alternatively, take 1 or 2 neem capsules twice a day with meals for a few weeks. For the correct dosage, consult a doctor.
6. Controls Diabetes
According to a 2000 study published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, Indian lilac or neem can be beneficial in controlling blood sugar or helpful in preventing or delaying the onset of diabetes.
Neem leaf extract contains several compounds that can reduce insulin requirements among diabetic people without any apparent effect on blood glucose levels.
- Neem tablets help lower blood glucose levels. Take neem tablets or powder to control diabetes after consulting a doctor.
- Those who are at a higher risk of developing diabetes can chew 4 or 5 tender neem leaves daily or every other day on an empty stomach to prevent it.
7. Backents Intestinal Worms
Neem has both curative and preventive effects on intestinal worms due to its antiparasitic properties. Several compounds in neem inhibit the parasites’ ability to feed, thus interrupting their life cycle and preventing new parasites from hatching. Neem also removes the toxins that the parasites leave behind as they die.
- Chew the tender neem leaves on an empty stomach or drink neem tea 2 times daily for 1 to 2 weeks to get rid of intestinal worms.
- You can also take neem capsules or supplements after consulting a doctor.
8. Relieves Arthritis Inflammation
Neem is a popular herbal treatment for arthritis, especially osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Its inflammation-reducing and pain-suppressing properties can alleviate pain, inflammation and swelling in the joints.
- Boil a handful of neem leaves and flowers in 1 cup of water. Strain and allow it to cool. Drink it twice a day for 1 month to reduce arthritis pain and inflammation.
- Regular massage with neem oil is also effective in relieving muscle aches and joint paint. A neem oil massage is also beneficial in reducing lower back pain.
9. Fights Nail Problems
Neem can be used to treat all kinds of problems related to nails like splintering and peeling as well as brittle nails. Its antiseptic and antifungal properties can help treat and prevent different types of nail infections, including toenail fungus.
- Simply apply neem oil on the infected toenail twice daily for 1 month to treat toenail fungus. This remedy will also help make your nails strong, thus preventing them from peeling or becoming brittle.
- You can also apply neem oil on your nails to stop nail biting. The bitter taste will discourage you from putting your fingers in your mouth.
10. Treats Cancer
According to a 2014 study by researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, the extracts of neem seeds, leaves, flowers and fruits have shown chemo-preventive and antitumor effects in different types of cancer, including cervical and prostate cancer.
Several components as well as antioxidants in neem leaves are beneficial in cancer treatment. Neem can help prevent or treat cancer by boosting the immune system, reducing inflammation, removing free radicals, blocking hormonal activity and inhibiting cell division.
Consult a doctor before using neem or any other herb to treat or reduce the risk of cancer.
Warning: Side effects are not common from the use of neem leaves in normal doses. However, do not give this herb to infants or small children. Neem is also not safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women or those who are trying to conceive. In addition, neem oil should never be taken internally.