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Lush, majestic, and beautifully green – the neem tree (Azadirachta indica) can be found dotting the hot, dusty ground of the Indian continent. The components of this tree: its bark, fruit, seeds, oils, and leaves, though never heard of by most Americans, have been used for thousands of years by those lucky enough to live in its native lands. Neem was actually once considered so powerful, that it belonged to an area of medicine traditionally referred to as Siddha – whose literal definition means “that which ensures preventative against mortality”. More recently, it appears that the United Nations even dubbed this miraculous herb as The Tree of the 21st Century.
Today, neem continues to be used regularly as preventative medicine, and treatment, where is grows in abundance – as well as throughout the world. Scientists are enthusiastically unraveling the medical mystery that is neem, endlessly uncovering benefit after benefit. Today, we’re going to discuss 5 of the most intriguing, well-researched, and valuable advantages this incredible plant offers to humans.
1. Natural Tooth Protectant
Tooth decay is a serious problem in the United States, rampant among its citizens. It is estimated that more than 90% of all Americans has at least one dental cary, and nearly 30% suffer from untreated tooth decay. And, while most people reach for the fluoride-laden toothpastes and waters, emerging research is showing that these methods may not be so effective at preventing cavities in permanent teeth. The best help for protecting our pearly whites may actually be growing right out of the ground. Seeing someone chewing the bark of the neem tree is an everyday sight on the Indian continent, as these are famous for being chewing sticks. The soft healthy twigs are plucked from a tree, and chewed to help with plaque control and bacterial control. And it turns out, these people have been adhering to this practice for good reason. One study examining the effectiveness of neem versus commercial toothpastes for preventing cavities noted that neem extracts were better than every single commercial toothpaste tested. Brushing the teeth with the sticks, and chewing on the leaves after meals, can help with tooth polishing, pain relief in problem areas, plaque reduction, and by providing potent antimicrobial properties against the four micro-organisms most often responsible for causing dental caries.
Much of the Indian population still chews on the twigs and bark to start their day, but most people opt for a toothpaste with a neem oil or extract base. On top of helping with plaque and dental decay, neem also contains astringent and antiseptic properties which prevent bad breath, gingivitis, and balancing the pH and microflora of the oral cavity.
Click below to purchase a quality neem-leaf based toothpaste.
2. Boosts the Immune System
American adults get sick an average of 3 to 4 times per year, with children catching a cold up to once per month. To add to that, approximately 20% of the population also suffers from a chronic, autoimmune condition – with women most likely to be affected. These numbers point to a serious immune-system crisis, showing that those living in the US, in general, need a little support. Neem is extremely rich in antioxidants, and this is one main reason for its many impressive benefits. One area of the body that is heavily dependent on dietary antioxidants is the immune system, and this could be why supplementation of neem leaves shows “significantly enhanced” antibody response[9, 10]. Consumption of neem oil and leaves has been used traditionally, but investigation in the lab is proving what people have always known: neem works with the body to help protect itself. Neem possesses potent properties that help strengthen and enhance the immune system, and its antiviral components can inhibit growth of the flu virus. In fact, researchers have determined that “neem can serve as a source of promising future antiviral drugs”[11, 12].
Click below to purchase a quality neem leaf supplement.
3. Natural Contraceptive
With millions of women experiencing unwanted birth control side effects, ranging from weight gain and decreased libido, to depression and liver failure, a growing number of couples are choosing more natural methods of pregnancy prevention. Neem oil has played a vital role in ayurvedic medicine when it comes to managing fertility for generations, and it still prevails today, even in the Western world, for good reason. The cold-pressed oil of the neem seed exhibits remarkable spermicidal effects, and when applied intravaginally, it is able to help prevent pregnancy in humans. When applied prior to ejaculation, neem oil was able to prevent pregnancy “without any adverse effect on the vagina, cervix, and uterus.” In actuality, important components of the neem are absorbed through the vaginal tissue, and this aids in the antifertility prospects, beyond the spermicidal abilities. Neem oil’s spermicidal properties are so potent that when human spermatoza come into contact with it, 100% of them are killed within the first 20 seconds. Neem oil’s effectiveness isn’t seen before sex though. When used up to 10 days after intercourse, a complete resorption of embryos can be seen, effectively preventing implantation. If used after this timeframe though, the fetus will grow normally, with no malformations, and of statistically average size[16, 17] In females using neem oil, hormones remain unaffected by the use, and after implantation, it does not have any adverse or toxic effects on fetal development.
Another option for using neem as a form of contraception is through the male partner dosing with neem leaf orally. Consumption of neem leaves by men causes no clinical or behavioral adverse reactions, but instead significantly decreased the weight of the testes and sperm count. This treatment offers an incomparable option for reversible fertility, as successful pregnancy can be seen within as few as four weeks after discontinuing treatment. One main reason this reduction in fertility is believed to occur is because consumption of neem decreases the fructose content available in the vas deferens, and this is believed to influence the sperm’s ability to mature.
4. Supports Healthy Skin
Nearly two-thirds of all Americans suffers from some sort of skin disease, most commonly eczema, acne, hair loss, and psoriasis. As someone who has personally gone through the ever-revolving door of the dermatologist, only to be prescribed cream after cream that didn’t work, I have discovered how products from the earth tend to yield impressive benefit when it comes to supporting healthy skin – and neem truly is a miracle worker. Of course, this isn’t news to those who live where neem thrives; they have been using the tree for centuries in the treatment of skin problems. And science is beginning to catch up. When applied to the skin, neem oil boosts the production of two very important connective tissue proteins: collagen and elastin – essentially improving age-related symptoms like wrinkles, redness, and moisture retention. In the lab, neem reveals its invaluable benefit to humans: anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving properties help the skin heal itself while also relieving your pain, and antimicrobial, antifungal properties help protect you from a secondary infection – which is extremely common in people with skin conditions like eczema[24, 25]. Neem actually does so much good for the skin, including protecting against skin cancer, by acting as a chemopreventive, treating acne, through its high-antioxidant, antibacterial nature, and helping wounds heal more quickly[26, 27, 28].
Click below to purchase my favorite neem oil.
5. Detoxifies the Body
‘Detox’ seems to be the new hip word, with everyone on some sort of cleanse or taking a supplement to help their body detoxify itself. The craze seems to have many skeptics rolling their eyes, I believe there is some truth and reason behind the madness. Since the industrial revolution, 80,000 chemicals have been introduced into our environment, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and only a handful have ever been tested on their ability to impact human health. Dr. Mark Hyman outlines some key symptoms found in those suffering chronic toxicity, ranging from fatigue, headaches, and sleep problems, to joint pain, muscle aches, and excessive sinus problems. People are suffering, people can feel it, and people need help. Thankfully, one answer has been here for millions of years. When taken orally, neem targets one organ specifically related to body-wide detoxification: the liver. By boosting glutathione (the key antioxidant related to detox) productivity, neem aids the liver in ridding the body of cancer-causing materials. In livers that had been damaged by Tylenol overdose, neem consumption was able to reverse the elevated levels found within the organ, as well as reduce necrosis. In fact, neem has shown ability to protect the liver from several different toxic materials[32, 33]. Its consumption encourages the liver to work more efficiently, ridding the body of harmful chemical contamination.
Neem also shows remarkable chelating ability. Chelation is the process of using outside agents, in this case we’re talking about neem, to help remove heavy metals from the body. While research is still limited, emerging studies are showing incredible promise. Neem has proven its ability to reduce lead concentrations in the blood, liver, and kidneys, reducing the overall lead burden on the body.
Click below to purchase the neem leaf we use.
According to the EPA, cold-pressed neem oil has a “very low toxicity and presents little if any risk”, and when label instructions are followed, there is “reasonable certainty” that no harm in infants, children, and adults would result The Extension Toxicology Network has found neem to be “practically non-toxic”, and no deaths occurred even when laboratory rats were fed extremely high doses. When taking neem by mouth, because research is still limited, it’s best to err on the side of caution and only take neem leaves (or powder) orally. Neem oils, extracts, and other concentrated forms are best left for use externally (or vaginally when used for contraception). High doses of concentrated neem have shown adverse reactions in high-risk populations (elderly and infants), but the leaves are considered harmless to humans, animals, and birds[38, 39, 40]. Neem should never be given to children orally, and should be avoided for 2 weeks before any scheduled surgery.
If by “The Tree of the 21st Century”, the UN was referring to the desperate need for this plant to be researched more deeply, then I stand in resounding agreement. More people need to hear about this plant, because more people can heal from this plant.
Until next time,
1. NCBI Neem (Azadirachta Indica): Prehistory to Contemporary Medicinal Uses to Humankind
2. NCHS Dental Caries and Tooth Loss in Adults in the United States, 2011-2012
3. Cochrane Library Water Fluoridation for the Prevention of Dental Caries
4. NCBI Tooth Brushing, Oil Pulling and Tissue Regeneration: A Review of Holistic Approaches to Oral Health
5. The Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice The Efficacy of Neem Extract on Four Microorganisms Responsible for Causing Dental Caries Viz Streptococcus Mutans, Streptococcus Salivarius, Streptococcus Mitis and Streptococcus Sanguis: An in Vitro Study
6. Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research Role of Natural Toothbrushes in Containing Oral Microbial Flora – A Review
7. WebMD Common Cold
8. American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association Inc., How Many Americans have an Autoimmune Disease?
9. NCBI Effects of Dietary Antioxidants on the Immune Function of Middle-Aged Adults
10. NCBI Therapeutics Role of Azradirachta Indica (Neem) and Their Active Constituents in Diseases Prevention and Treatment
11. Institute of Naturopathy, University of Koeln Enhancement of Immune Responses to Neem Leaf Extract (Azradirachta Indica) Correlates with Antineoplastic Activity in BALB/c-Mice
12. NCBI Potential of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Preventative Management of Novel H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) Pandemic: Thwarting Potential Disasters in the Bud
13. CDC Contraceptive Methods Women have Ever Used: United States, 1982-2010
14. Scholars Research Library Antifertility Effects of Azradirachta Indica (Neem) – A Review
15. International Journal of Pharmacognosy Spermicidal Activity of Elettaria Cardamomum and Cuminum Cyminum Seed Extracts and Assessment of Sperm Function in Albino Rats
16. Semantic Scholar Azradirachta Indica A. Juss: Safety and Efficacy During Pregnancy and Lactation Research
17. NCBI Antifertility Potential of Neem Flower Extract on Adult Female Sprague-Dawley Rats
18. Contraception Mode of Long-Term Antifertility Effect of Intrauterine Neem Treatment (IUNT)
19. International Journal of PharmTech Research Spermicidal Activity of Azradirachta Indica (Neem) Aqueous Leaf Extract on Male Albino Rats
20. Europe PMC Implication of Reproductive Endocrine Malfunction in Male Antifertility Efficacy of Azradirachta Indica Extract in Rats
21. NCBI Azadirachta Indica Adversely Affects Sperm Parameters and Fructose Levels in Vas Deferens Fluid of Albino Rats
22. American Academy of Dermatology Skin Conditions by the Numbers
23. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology Topical Application of Neem Leaves Prevents Wrinkles Formation in UVB-Exposed Hairless Mice
24. Scholars Bulletin Wound Healing Effect of Azradirachta Indica and Curcuma Longa in Guinea Pigs
25. National Eczema Society Secondary Infection and Eczema
26. NCBI Plants Used to Treat Skin Diseases
27. Journal of Acute Diseases Formulation and Characterization of Solid Lipid Nanoparticles Loaded Neem Oil for Topical Treatment of Acne
28. NCBI Wound Healing Activity of Azradirachta Indica A. Juss Stem Bark in Mice
29. Hyman, Mark MD Is There Toxic Waste in Your Body?
30. NCBI Chemopreventive Potential of Azradirachta Indica (Neem) Leaf Extract in Murine Carcinogenesis Model Systems
31. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol Effect of Azradirachta Indica (Neem) Leaf Aqueous Extract on Paracetamol-Induced Liver Damage in Rats
32. Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology Hepatoprotective Activity of the Neem-Based Constituent Azradirachtin-A in Carbon Tetrachloride Intoxicated Wistar Rats
33. Hindawi Publishing Corporation Therapeutics Role of Azradirachta Indica (Neem) and Their Active Constituents in Diseases Prevention and Treatment
34. Research Journal of Medicinal Plants The Growing Importance of Neem (Azradirachta Indica A. Juss) in Agriculture, Industry, Medicine, and Environment: A Review
35. Journal of Medicinal Plant Research Interactive Roles of Terpenoid Extract from the Leaves of Neem Plant (Azradirachta Indica A. Juss) in Lead-Induced Toxicity in Pregnant Rabbits
36. United States Environmental Protection Agency Cold Pressed Neem Oil
37. Extension Toxicology Network Azadirachtin
38. Springer Link Neem Oil Poisoning as a Cause of Toxic Encephalopathy in an Infant
39. NCBI Neem Oil Poisoning: Case Report of an Adult with Toxic Encephalopathy
40. International Research Journal of Pharmacy Review on Neem (Azradirachta Indica): Thousand Problems One Solution