Amazing Health Benefits and Uses of Neem Leaves
Sadhguru looks at the many medicinal benefits and uses of neem (Azadirachta indica), a versatile natural product that is anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti-aging. It also helps keep cancer at bay and is used as an aid in Yogic sadhana.
What Is Neem?
Neem (Azadirachta indica) is an evergreen tree with a well-earned reputation for being the most potent medicinal flora in the world. The neem tree is known in Ayurveda as nature’s pharmacy. The tree grows predominantly in the Indian subcontinent but is now being cultivated in similar climates all over the world as people are beginning to recognize its usefulness.
Uses of Neem Leaves, Bark, Root & Fruits
The neem tree is chock-full of chemical compounds that have been found to be hugely beneficial. From the neem bark to the neem leaves and even the flower, fruit, seed and root – all parts of the neem tree have found widespread use in curing various ailments. According to established research, neem has free radical scavenging properties due to being a rich source of antioxidants and is alsoeffective in the management of cancer through the regulation of cell signaling pathways.Neem also plays a role as an anti-inflammatory substance via regulation of pro-inflammatory enzyme activities including cyclooxygenase (COX) and lipoxygenase (LOX) enzymes.
Click Image to Enlarge
Benefits of Neem LeavesSadhguru: Neem is a very unique tree and neem leaves are the most complex leaves on the planet. The neem tree has over 130 different biologically active compounds, and the neem leaf is one of the most complex leaves you can find on the planet.
Neem Health Benefits – Helps Destroy Cancerous Cells
Neem has many incredible medicinal benefits, but one of the most important things is that it kills cancerous cells. Everyone has cancerous cells in their body, but they are normally disorganized. However, if you create certain situations in the body, they will get organized. As long as these cells are loafing around by themselves, it is not an issue. If they all gather in one place and hit it off, it becomes a problem. This is like a shift from petty crime to organized crime. It is a serious problem. If you consume neem every day, it keeps the number of cancerous cells in the body within a certain limit, so that they will not gang up against your system.
Benefits of Neem – Helps Destroy Harmful Bacteria
The world is full of bacteria. So is the body. There are more microorganisms living in you than you can imagine. Most of these bacteria are helpful. Without them, you would not be able to digest anything. In fact, you cannot exist without them. But some bacteria can cause you trouble. Your body constantly spends energy to manage these bacteria. If excess levels of bacteria occur, you will feel "down" because your defense mechanism has to spend too much energy to fight them. By using neem internally and externally, you can manage these bacteria in such a way that they will not overgrow, and your body will not have to spend too much energy in fighting them. If you consume a certain amount of neem on a daily basis, it will destroy the troublesome bacteria in the intestinal region, and your colon will generally remain clean and free of infection.
Also, if there is a slight smell in certain areas of the body, it means bacteria are a little more active there.
Benefits of Neem Leaves for Skin
Almost everyone has some minor skin issues but if you wash your body with neem, it becomes clean and radiant. If you rub your body with neem paste before having a bath, let it dry for some time, and then wash it off with water, it will act as a good antibacterial cleanser. Alternatively, you can soak a few neem leaves in water overnight and bathe with this water in the morning.
Yogic Benefits of Neem Leaves
Above all, neem generates heat in the body. This generation of heat is supportive for generating intense forms of energy within the system. Different qualities can be predominant in the body – two of these are sheeta and ushna, in traditional terms. The closest word for “sheeta” in English is “cold,” but that is not exactly what it is. If your system moves towards sheeta, the mucus levels in the body will go up. Excess mucus in the system is linked to a variety of conditions, from the common cold and sinusitis to many other issues.
For a Hatha Yogi, neem is particularly important because it keeps the body slightly oriented towards ushna. Ushna means you have some extra "fuel". For a sadhaka who explores unknown terrain, it is safer to carry an extra can of fuel, just in case your system needs that extra power. You want to keep the fire slightly higher than generally needed. If the body is in a condition of sheeta, you will not be capable of too much activity. But if you keep your body slightly on the ushna side, even if you travel, eat outside, or are exposed to whatever else, this extra fire in you will burn and handle these external influences. Neem is a big support in that direction.
Versatile & Beneficial Neem Tree
Every part of the neem tree has distinct medicinal properties, making it the most versatile medicinal tree in the world. Even though the benefits of the neem tree have been traditionally known in the Indian subcontinent, in the last decade or so, modern research has brought the humble neem tree into the spotlight. Researchers have found that neem products are virtually nontoxic and are compatible with beneficial insects, pollinators and bees. They are environmentally benign, sustainable, renewable and affordable.
Neem Juice Benefits
Drinking neem juice can help reorganize and reboot one’s digestive process. It also significantly enhances one’s metabolism. When consumed as a juice, the bitter neem is efficient in breaking down body fat. It also helps purge the colon and enhances the body’s excretion process. It also purifies the blood by removing unwanted bacterial growth because of the anti-bacterial and antiseptic enzymes that are present in abundance in neem. Because of all these, neem juice is considered as one of the most beneficial juices to consume. However, research has still not established how much can be too much and doctors recommend moderation while consuming neem juice.
Neem Powder Benefits
Neem is also available in the powdered form and has a good shelf life, which makes it ideal for carrying along while travelling. Another advantage of powdering neem is that it becomes more easily available to parts of the world where the neem tree does not grow. Neem leaf powder can be used both internally as well as applied externally to the skin. Neem leaf can be powdered at home by simply drying the neem leaves in the Sun and then blending them into a fine powder.
Medicinal Use of Neem
According to the ancient science of Ayurveda, neem is the king of all medicinal herbs. Foundational Ayurvedic texts describe how neem treats skin disorders, hair problems, enhances appetite, boosts digestion, kindles the fire in the belly, improves breathing, helps manage diabetic conditions, aids healing of wounds and relieves nausea. Neem has been declared the “Tree of the 21st century” by the United Nations. The US National Academy of Science also recognized neem’s medicinal value in its 1992 report entitled “Neem: A tree for solving global problems.” Here are some key medicinal uses of neem:
Protection - Neem Leaves to Protect Skin
Traditionally, neem leaves are used to treat head lice, skin diseases, wounds or skin ulcers. External application of neem also finds merit as a mosquito repellant. Neem is probably the world’s oldest skin softener and has been used for this purpose for millennia. Neem leaves can be boiled in water and the water can be strained and stored for use as a skin ointment.
Cleansing - Neem Seeds for Cleansing
Neem seeds have cleansing properties and are used to get rid of intestinal worms. The seeds are pressed to extract the juice, which is then ingested. This neem seed juice is effective in destroying intestinal worms and other unwanted parasitic organisms that may be present in the intestinal tract.
Medicinal - Neem Bark for Healing Dental Diseases
The bark of the neem tree is well known for its ability to combat dental plaque and reduce the amount of bacteria present in the mouth. Traditionally, twigs from the neem tree are used as toothbrushes for this very reason. Neem tree bark also helps heal wounds in the oral cavity due to its antiseptic and astringent properties.
Purifying - Neem Roots for Purification
Like all other parts of the neem tree, neem roots are also rich in antioxidants. The results of a study conducted in 2011 revealed that neem root bark extract exhibited higher free radical scavenging effect with 50% scavenging activity at 27.3 μg/mL, and total antioxidant activity of this extract was found to be 0.58 mM of standard ascorbic acid.
Uses of Neem Fruit
The fruit of the neem tree is pressed to extract its oil, which can then be applied to the scalp to remove dandruff and is also used as a preventive measure against dandruff. This extracted oil can also be used as an effective mosquito repellant and is typically found as a component in many commercially available room fresheners as well.
Uses of Neem Flower
The flower of the neem tree is known to be an antiseptic that can also cleanse the system when consumed. This is one of the reasons that the cuisine of southern India incorporates neem flowers in certain dishes. For example, the traditional New Year is celebrated in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka with a unique dish called Ugadi Pachadi which is made from jaggery and neem leaves. Ayurveda describes the neem flower as cooling and recommends that it be incorporated in summer dishes to beat the summer heat.
Possible Side Effects of Neem
Sadhguru: One thing to keep in mind is excessive consumption of neem will kill sperm cells. In the first four to five months of pregnancy, when the fetus is developing, pregnant women should not have neem. Neem does not cause any damage to the ovaries but it causes excess heat. When a woman has just conceived and there is too much heat in the body, she may lose the fetus. If a woman is planning to conceive, she should not consume neem because there will be excess heat, and the system will treat the baby like a foreign body.
If heat increases, certain changes will happen in the system – women will notice this more than men. In case this affects the normal process of the body, we bring the heat down to some extent, but we generally do not want to give up neem because for people who do sadhana, some amount of heat in the system is needed. Once they begin to have neem on a daily basis, some women may find that their menstrual cycles become shorter. In that case, just drink more water. If having more water alone is not sufficient to reduce the heat, add a piece of lemon or the juice of half a lemon to the water. If that is still not enough, have a glass of ash gourd juice, which is very cooling. Another option is castor oil. If you put some of it into your navel, at your anahata, at the pit of the throat, and behind the ears, it will instantly cool the system.