May 2010 Ageless herbal newsletter
The Neem tree is a fast growing, long-life tree popular in the tropics and is grown for its ornamental value, as well as for its therapeutic value and is used as fuel for its workable, but unpleasant smelling wood.
The Latin name of the tree is derived from the Persian word azaddhirakt – meaning “noble tree”. In Ayurvedic medicine Neem is the most important detoxicant and is a very potent febrifuge (reducing fever) and is used to treat intermittent fevers and has shown to contain effective anti-malarial (Plasmodium falciparum) compounds.
Almost all of the tree can be used. In herbal application the leaves, flowers, bark, seeds and oil is used. It is a bitter tonic herb that is used for clearing toxins, reducing inflammation, lowering fever, promoting healing and in general promoting and improving body functions. It destroys a wide range of parasitic organisms and is also an insecticidal compound and studies have shown it to be a spermicidal (killing sperm).
In Indian tradition Neem is one of the most important herbal ingredients - not only to help fight certain health problems, but also used in the earliest cosmetics and skin care products. The women also used Neem to protect their stored grains and pulses throughout the year as it is a great deterrent for pests.
Although Indian women incorporated it into their daily beauty and hygiene regimen men used the oil to prevent baldness and graying of the hair, and decoctions and Neem oil were used to remove lice and to combat dandruff.
Skin allergies were sorted out by mixing a teaspoon of dried leaf Neem powder with a teaspoon of ghee (clarified butter) and placing it on irritated skin. The fine twigs of the tree were chewed until the fibers were open, and then used as a toothbrush.
The European Patent Office (EPO) in 1995 granted a patent on an anti-fungal product, derived from Neem, to the US Department of Agriculture and the multinational company - W. R. Grace and Company. This patent grant was challenged by the Indian government, because the process for which the patent had been granted had actually been in use in India for over 2000 years.
In 2000 the European Patent Office made a ruling in India's favor. However, the US company filed an appeal, claiming that prior art about the product had never been published in a scientific journal. At last, on 8 March 2005 the appeal was lost and the European Patent Office revoked the patent rights - keeping the Neem tree free of patent restrictions.
Neem oil is generally light to dark brown depending on the time of harvest as well as growing conditions before harvesting. It is bitter and has a strong odor – described by some as a combination of the smell of peanut and garlic.
The oil comprises mainly of triglycerides and large amounts of triterpenoid compounds. It furthermore contains steroids (campesterol, beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol) and triterpenoids of which Azadirachtin is the most well known and studied.
The oil normally solidifies at room temperature, and to get it in liquid form, place the container in hot water (not boiling) and wait for the oil to liquefy.
The tree is native to South Asia, and is grown on a large scale in India although the tree has been successfully grown in Laos, Burma, Thailand, Africa, Fiji, Mauritius, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, as well as Latin America.
The Neem tree can reach a height of 12-15 m (40 – 50 feet) and is evergreen, but in severe drought it may shed most or nearly all of its leaves. The branches are wide spread and the diameter of the tree is about 12 m (40 feet).
The oil can also be obtained by solvent extraction although this normally yields a lower quality oil and is mostly used for soap manufacturing.
The Azadirachtin content of Neem oil can vary a lot – from 300ppm to over 2,500ppm depending on the extraction and quality of the Neem seeds used to produce the oil. Our pure organic oil has a guaranteed minimum 3,000 part per million.
It is the 'limonoids' contained that seem to have the insecticide and pesticide properties, but unlike their chemical counterpart, it works on the insect’s hormonal system, not on the digestive or nervous system and it also repels larvae and adults.
Apart from insects it is of value against five major species of stored grain and rice pests, and although it doesn't replace chemical pesticides, it does decrease the need for these chemical pesticides.
It should NOT be given internally to the weak, very young or the old and must be avoided by any pregnant women, or women trying to become pregnant. High continuous intake could cause liver problems.
Neem seed oil can, when taken internally, produce a toxic effect in humans, and side effects include diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, acidosis, encephalopathy, etc. The toxic effects might be due to the presence of aflatoxin and other toxic compounds present in Neem oil.
Neem oil shows toxicity to fish like tilapia and carp, and oral administration of the oil in rats and rabbits (at 14 ml/kg and 24ml/kg respectively) produced a severe hypoglycaemic effect and possibly targets the central nervous system and lungs.
Taking Neem oil internally is not recommended and taking internal doses as small as 5 ml has killed infants – and although there are some people stating that the toxicity was caused by other contaminants, and not the oil itself – we would recommend to err on the side of safety. A toxicological test in Germany, using clean Neem kernels resulted in no toxicity, even at a concentration of 5,000 mg per kg of body weight in rats.
Neem capsules containing the aqueous extract are also sold – but it is an extract from the leaves, and is not the oil itself.
However, before taking ANY type of supplement - please discuss it with your medical practitioner beforehand.
The internal medicinal uses of Neem include malaria, tuberculosis, rheumatism, arthritis, jaundice and intestinal worms as well as skin diseases. It also has alternative (increases vitality) properties. The oil is NOT normally taken internally - but as a decoction made from the leaves. The extract of Neem leaves has also demonstrated significant anti-diabetic potential.
Unlike the oil, the leaves have a pleasant odor and the extract made from them is either an alcoholic tincture or a tea.
Neem is used externally for ringworm, eczema, psoriasis, lice, fungal infection as well as for painful joints and muscles. The cosmetic use of Neem oil includes the fighting of acne and pimples as well as improving skin elasticity.
It has been used for the topical treatment of rheumatism, eczema, ringworm, athlete's foot, cold sores, psoriasis, warts, chronic syphilitic sores, infected burn wounds and slow-healing skin ulcers as well as controlling various skin infections.
It has anti-inflammatory, antipyretic (relieving fever) and analgesic (relieving pain) activity and possesses immunostimulant activity (increasing the body’s defense mechanism to fight infectious organisms and other foreign material) by selectively activating the cell-mediated immune mechanisms to elicit an enhanced response to subsequent mitogenic or antigenic challenge.
It has proved a very effective spermicide (killing sperm) in rhesus monkeys as well as human spermatozoa (because of the volatile principle coded as NIM-76). Studies showed that intra-vaginal application of a Neem oil mixture before coitus can prevent pregnancy. The mechanism of how it works seems to be non-hormonal - most probably mediated through its spermicidal effect and may have less side effects than steroidal contraceptives.
It is highly effective against human fungi, including trichophyton, epidermophyton, microsporum, trichosporon, geotricum and candida.
Furthermore, Neem oil is effective against a wide spectrum of bacteria – possessing antibacterial action against gram-negative and gram-positive microorganisms, including M. tuberculosis and the streptomycin-resistant strains, Salmonella typhora, S. aureus and in vitro tests showed that it inhibits Vibrio cholerae,Klebsiella pneumoniae, M. tuberculosis and M. pyogenes.Its antimicrobial effects have been demonstrated against Streptococcus mutans and S. faecalis.
Application of Neem oil on the hair has been shown to kill head lice. A study was also done on various forms of cancer and tumors – and although the results were promising, this application needs more investigation.
Neem capsules containing the aqueous extract are also sold – but it is an extract from the leaves, and is not the oil itself. However, before taking ANY type of supplement - please discuss it with your medical practitioner beforehand.
We have listed some recipes / ways to use Neem oil below - but a rule of thumb to remember is to keep your dilution of Neem oil to about 2 - 5% of any mixture that you apply directly onto your skin. Some of the recipes below use higher percentages - but keep a lookout for any skin irritation.
Mix with Vaseline or a carrier oil in a ratio of 1:5 and apply to affected area.
Add 15 ml to warm water and soak the feet in this preparation.
Mix 50/50 with a carrier oil and massage into the hair and scalp. Leave on for 1 hour and shampoo. Repeat once weekly for 3 weeks or as long as the problem persists.
Spray or pour oil on all breeding areas. The oil can be emulsified (to mix with water) by adding normal dish washing liquid to it.
Add 30 ml to 1 liter of water and add 1 ml of dishwashing liquid. Mix well and spray immediately for plant protection. Do not store the mixture; make fresh formulation for each spray. Spray the mixture on top of all the leaves and on the undersides where insects often hide – you can also spray it around the roots.
Add 5 – 10% oil to any lamp oil and burn lamp normally.
Add a few drops to your regular shampoo.
Add a few drops to your normal pet shampoo (ratio should be 30 ml (1 oz.) to 240 ml (8 oz.) shampoo). Personally we have found that plain baby shampoo works the best.
Apply 1 drop of undiluted oil directly on warts once per day. Watch carefully for any possible irritation, and should that occur discontinue use. Continue for 2-3 weeks.
Mix 1 tablespoon (15 ml) with 4 ounces (120 ml) carrier oil such as jojoba or grape seed oil and apply twice a day to affected skin. Should skin irritation occur, discontinue use, or make mixture with less Neem oil.
Mix 1 ounce (30 ml) oil with 1 gallon (3.8 liter) water and add a few drops of dishwashing liquid (to emulsify the oil). Place mixture into a spray bottle or other type of sprayer, and spray animals once every two weeks. (This mixture can be used on indoor and outdoor plants as well as flowers and vegetables.)
Add a couple of drops to liquid hand soap for antibacterial properties.
As Neem oil has a rather strong smell you might want to add a few drops of essential oil to any mixture to mask the smell. Lavender or lemongrass essential oils work well – but you could add your personal favorite.
Store Neem oil in a cool dark place, away from sunlight. Neem oil can easily solidify - even at low room temperatures. Should this happen put the bottle in warm water (below 95 degree F) to liquefy. Do not place in near boiling water, as it may reduce the effectiveness of the oil.