Neem

Neem

Overview



Azadirachta indica (Neem) is a tree
Tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

 in the mahogany family Meliaceae
Meliaceae
The Meliaceae, or the Mahogany family, is a flowering plant family of mostly trees and shrubs in the order Sapindales....

. It is one of two species in the genus Azadirachta
Azadirachta
Azadirachta is a genus of two species of trees in the flowering plant family Meliaceae . Numerous species have been described in the genus but only two are currently recognized, A. excelsa Jacobs, and the economically important Neem tree, A. indica A. Juss....

, and is native to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 growing in tropical and semi-tropical regions. Its fruits and seeds are the source of neem oil
Neem oil
Neem oil is a vegetable oil pressed from the fruits and seeds of the neem , an evergreen tree which is endemic to the Indian subcontinent and has been introduced to many other areas in the tropics...

. Other vernacular names include Vembu (வேம்பு) in (Tamil
Tamil language
Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Tamil people of the Indian subcontinent. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and in the Indian union territory of Pondicherry. Tamil is also an official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore...

) , Neem نیم (Hindi
Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

, Nepali
Nepali language
Nepali or Nepalese is a language in the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family.It is the official language and de facto lingua franca of Nepal and is also spoken in Bhutan, parts of India and parts of Myanmar...

, Urdu
Urdu
Urdu is a register of the Hindustani language that is identified with Muslims in South Asia. It belongs to the Indo-European family. Urdu is the national language and lingua franca of Pakistan. It is also widely spoken in some regions of India, where it is one of the 22 scheduled languages and an...

), Nim ((Bengali
Bengali language
Bengali or Bangla is an eastern Indo-Aryan language. It is native to the region of eastern South Asia known as Bengal, which comprises present day Bangladesh, the Indian state of West Bengal, and parts of the Indian states of Tripura and Assam. It is written with the Bengali script...

)), Nimm (Punjabi
Punjabi language
Punjabi is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by inhabitants of the historical Punjab region . For Sikhs, the Punjabi language stands as the official language in which all ceremonies take place. In Pakistan, Punjabi is the most widely spoken language...

), Arya Veppu (Malayalam), Azad Dirakht (Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

), Nimba (Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

, Oriya
Oriya language
Oriya , officially Odia from November, 2011, is an Indian language, belonging to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family. It is mainly spoken in the Indian states of Orissa and West Bengal...

), Limdo (Gujarati language) Kadu-Limba (Marathi
Marathi language
Marathi is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by the Marathi people of western and central India. It is the official language of the state of Maharashtra. There are over 68 million fluent speakers worldwide. Marathi has the fourth largest number of native speakers in India and is the fifteenth most...

), Dongoyaro (in some Nigerian languages), Margosa, Neeb (Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

), Nimtree, Vepu (వేపు), Vempu (వెంపు), Vepa (వేప) (Telugu
Telugu language
Telugu is a Central Dravidian language primarily spoken in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India, where it is an official language. It is also spoken in the neighbouring states of Chattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa and Tamil Nadu...

), Bevu (Kannada
Kannada language
Kannada or , is a language spoken in India predominantly in the state of Karnataka. Kannada, whose native speakers are called Kannadigas and number roughly 50 million, is one of the 30 most spoken languages in the world...

),Kodu nimb (Konkani
Konkani language
KonkaniKonkani is a name given to a group of several cognate dialects spoken along the narrow strip of land called Konkan, on the west coast of India. This is, however, somewhat an over-generalisation. Geographically, Konkan is defined roughly as the area between the river Damanganga to the north...

), Kohomba (Sinhala), Tamar (Burmese
Burmese language
The Burmese language is the official language of Burma. Although the constitution officially recognizes it as the Myanmar language, most English speakers continue to refer to the language as Burmese. Burmese is the native language of the Bamar and related sub-ethnic groups of the Bamar, as well as...

), sầu đâu, xoan Ấn Độ (Vietnamese
Vietnamese language
Vietnamese is the national and official language of Vietnam. It is the mother tongue of 86% of Vietnam's population, and of about three million overseas Vietnamese. It is also spoken as a second language by many ethnic minorities of Vietnam...

), ស្ដៅ (Sdao, Khmer
Khmer language
Khmer , or Cambodian, is the language of the Khmer people and the official language of Cambodia. It is the second most widely spoken Austroasiatic language , with speakers in the tens of millions. Khmer has been considerably influenced by Sanskrit and Pali, especially in the royal and religious...

), สะเดา (Sadaw, Thai
Thai language
Thai , also known as Central Thai and Siamese, is the national and official language of Thailand and the native language of the Thai people, Thailand's dominant ethnic group. Thai is a member of the Tai group of the Tai–Kadai language family. Historical linguists have been unable to definitively...

), אזדרכת (Hebrew), Paraiso (Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

), and Indian Lilac (English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

).
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Encyclopedia



Azadirachta indica (Neem) is a tree
Tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

 in the mahogany family Meliaceae
Meliaceae
The Meliaceae, or the Mahogany family, is a flowering plant family of mostly trees and shrubs in the order Sapindales....

. It is one of two species in the genus Azadirachta
Azadirachta
Azadirachta is a genus of two species of trees in the flowering plant family Meliaceae . Numerous species have been described in the genus but only two are currently recognized, A. excelsa Jacobs, and the economically important Neem tree, A. indica A. Juss....

, and is native to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 growing in tropical and semi-tropical regions. Its fruits and seeds are the source of neem oil
Neem oil
Neem oil is a vegetable oil pressed from the fruits and seeds of the neem , an evergreen tree which is endemic to the Indian subcontinent and has been introduced to many other areas in the tropics...

. Other vernacular names include Vembu (வேம்பு) in (Tamil
Tamil language
Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Tamil people of the Indian subcontinent. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and in the Indian union territory of Pondicherry. Tamil is also an official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore...

) , Neem نیم (Hindi
Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

, Nepali
Nepali language
Nepali or Nepalese is a language in the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family.It is the official language and de facto lingua franca of Nepal and is also spoken in Bhutan, parts of India and parts of Myanmar...

, Urdu
Urdu
Urdu is a register of the Hindustani language that is identified with Muslims in South Asia. It belongs to the Indo-European family. Urdu is the national language and lingua franca of Pakistan. It is also widely spoken in some regions of India, where it is one of the 22 scheduled languages and an...

), Nim ((Bengali
Bengali language
Bengali or Bangla is an eastern Indo-Aryan language. It is native to the region of eastern South Asia known as Bengal, which comprises present day Bangladesh, the Indian state of West Bengal, and parts of the Indian states of Tripura and Assam. It is written with the Bengali script...

)), Nimm (Punjabi
Punjabi language
Punjabi is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by inhabitants of the historical Punjab region . For Sikhs, the Punjabi language stands as the official language in which all ceremonies take place. In Pakistan, Punjabi is the most widely spoken language...

), Arya Veppu (Malayalam), Azad Dirakht (Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

), Nimba (Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

, Oriya
Oriya language
Oriya , officially Odia from November, 2011, is an Indian language, belonging to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family. It is mainly spoken in the Indian states of Orissa and West Bengal...

), Limdo (Gujarati language) Kadu-Limba (Marathi
Marathi language
Marathi is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by the Marathi people of western and central India. It is the official language of the state of Maharashtra. There are over 68 million fluent speakers worldwide. Marathi has the fourth largest number of native speakers in India and is the fifteenth most...

), Dongoyaro (in some Nigerian languages), Margosa, Neeb (Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

), Nimtree, Vepu (వేపు), Vempu (వెంపు), Vepa (వేప) (Telugu
Telugu language
Telugu is a Central Dravidian language primarily spoken in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India, where it is an official language. It is also spoken in the neighbouring states of Chattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa and Tamil Nadu...

), Bevu (Kannada
Kannada language
Kannada or , is a language spoken in India predominantly in the state of Karnataka. Kannada, whose native speakers are called Kannadigas and number roughly 50 million, is one of the 30 most spoken languages in the world...

),Kodu nimb (Konkani
Konkani language
KonkaniKonkani is a name given to a group of several cognate dialects spoken along the narrow strip of land called Konkan, on the west coast of India. This is, however, somewhat an over-generalisation. Geographically, Konkan is defined roughly as the area between the river Damanganga to the north...

), Kohomba (Sinhala), Tamar (Burmese
Burmese language
The Burmese language is the official language of Burma. Although the constitution officially recognizes it as the Myanmar language, most English speakers continue to refer to the language as Burmese. Burmese is the native language of the Bamar and related sub-ethnic groups of the Bamar, as well as...

), sầu đâu, xoan Ấn Độ (Vietnamese
Vietnamese language
Vietnamese is the national and official language of Vietnam. It is the mother tongue of 86% of Vietnam's population, and of about three million overseas Vietnamese. It is also spoken as a second language by many ethnic minorities of Vietnam...

), ស្ដៅ (Sdao, Khmer
Khmer language
Khmer , or Cambodian, is the language of the Khmer people and the official language of Cambodia. It is the second most widely spoken Austroasiatic language , with speakers in the tens of millions. Khmer has been considerably influenced by Sanskrit and Pali, especially in the royal and religious...

), สะเดา (Sadaw, Thai
Thai language
Thai , also known as Central Thai and Siamese, is the national and official language of Thailand and the native language of the Thai people, Thailand's dominant ethnic group. Thai is a member of the Tai group of the Tai–Kadai language family. Historical linguists have been unable to definitively...

), אזדרכת (Hebrew), Paraiso (Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

), and Indian Lilac (English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

). In East Africa it is also known as Muarubaini (Swahili
Swahili language
Swahili or Kiswahili is a Bantu language spoken by various ethnic groups that inhabit several large stretches of the Mozambique Channel coastline from northern Kenya to northern Mozambique, including the Comoro Islands. It is also spoken by ethnic minority groups in Somalia...

), which means the tree of the 40, as it is said to treat 40 different diseases, and in Somalia
Somalia
Somalia , officially the Somali Republic and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under Socialist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory...

 it is known as "Geed Hindi" which means "the Indian tree".

Neem is a fast-growing tree
Tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

 that can reach a height of 15 –, rarely to 35 –. It is evergreen
Evergreen
In botany, an evergreen plant is a plant that has leaves in all seasons. This contrasts with deciduous plants, which completely lose their foliage during the winter or dry season.There are many different kinds of evergreen plants, both trees and shrubs...

, but in severe drought
Drought
A drought is an extended period of months or years when a region notes a deficiency in its water supply. Generally, this occurs when a region receives consistently below average precipitation. It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region...

 it may shed most or nearly all of its leaves. The branches are wide spread. The fairly dense crown is roundish or oval and may reach the diameter of 15 – in old, free-standing specimens.

Leaves


The opposite, pinnate
Pinnate
Pinnate is a term used to describe feather-like or multi-divided features arising from both sides of a common axis in plant or animal structures, and comes from the Latin word pinna meaning "feather", "wing", or "fin". A similar term is pectinate, which refers to a comb-like arrangement of parts...

 leaves are 20–40 cm (7.9–15.7 in) long, with 20 to 31 medium to dark green leaflets about 3 – long. The terminal leaflet is often missing. The petiole
Petiole (botany)
In botany, the petiole is the stalk attaching the leaf blade to the stem. The petiole usually has the same internal structure as the stem. Outgrowths appearing on each side of the petiole are called stipules. Leaves lacking a petiole are called sessile, or clasping when they partly surround the...

s are short.

Flowers


The (white and fragrant) flower
Flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

s are arranged axillary
Axillary bud
The axillary bud is an embryonic shoot which lies at the junction of the stem and petiole of a plant.As the apical meristem grows and forms leaves, a region of meristematic cells are left behind at the node between the stem and the leaf. These axillary buds are usually dormant, inibited by auxin...

, normally in more-or-less drooping panicle
Panicle
A panicle is a compound raceme, a loose, much-branched indeterminate inflorescence with pedicellate flowers attached along the secondary branches; in other words, a branched cluster of flowers in which the branches are racemes....

s which are up to 25 centimetres (9.8 in) long. The inflorescence
Inflorescence
An inflorescence is a group or cluster of flowers arranged on a stem that is composed of a main branch or a complicated arrangement of branches. Strictly, it is the part of the shoot of seed plants where flowers are formed and which is accordingly modified...

s, which branch up to the third degree, bear from 150 to 250 flowers. An individual flower is 5 – long and 8 – wide. Protandrous, bisexual flowers and male flowers exist on the same individual.

Fruit


The fruit
Fruit
In broad terms, a fruit is a structure of a plant that contains its seeds.The term has different meanings dependent on context. In non-technical usage, such as food preparation, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of certain plants that are sweet and edible in the raw state,...

 is a smooth (glabrous) olive-like drupe
Drupe
In botany, a drupe is a fruit in which an outer fleshy part surrounds a shell of hardened endocarp with a seed inside. These fruits develop from a single carpel, and mostly from flowers with superior ovaries...

 which varies in shape from elongate oval to nearly roundish, and when ripe are 1.4–2.8 cm (0.551181102362205–1.1 in) by 1–1.5 cm (0.393700787401575–0.590551181102362 in). The fruit skin (exocarp) is thin and the bitter-sweet pulp (mesocarp) is yellowish-white and very fibrous. The mesocarp is 0.3–0.5 cm (0.118110236220472–0.196850393700787 in) thick. The white, hard inner shell (endocarp) of the fruit encloses one, rarely two or three, elongated seed
Seed
A seed is a small embryonic plant enclosed in a covering called the seed coat, usually with some stored food. It is the product of the ripened ovule of gymnosperm and angiosperm plants which occurs after fertilization and some growth within the mother plant...

s (kernels) having a brown seed coat.

The neem tree is very similar in appearance to its relative, the Chinaberry (Melia azedarach).
The Chinaberry tree is toxic to most animals, especially to fish, but birds are known to gorge themselves on the Chinaberries, the seeds passing harmlessly through their unique digestive systems.

Ecology


The neem tree is noted for its drought resistance. Normally it thrives in areas with sub-arid to sub-humid conditions, with an annual rainfall 400–1200 mm (15.7–47.2 in). It can grow in regions with an annual rainfall below 400 mm, but in such cases it depends largely on ground water levels. Neem can grow in many different types of soil
Soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

, but it thrives best on well drained deep and sandy soils. It is a typical tropical to subtropical tree and exists at annual mean temperatures between 21–32 °C (69.8–89.6 F). It can tolerate high to very high temperatures and does not tolerate temperature below 4 °C (39.2 °F).
Neem is a life-giving tree, especially for the dry coastal, southern districts of India. It is one of the very few shade-giving trees that thrive in the drought-prone areas. The trees are not at all delicate about the water quality and thrive on the merest trickle of water, whatever the quality. In India it is very common to see neem trees used for shade lining the streets or in most people's back yards. In very dry areas the trees are planted in large tracts of land.

Weed status


Neem is considered a weed
Weed
A weed in a general sense is a plant that is considered by the user of the term to be a nuisance, and normally applied to unwanted plants in human-controlled settings, especially farm fields and gardens, but also lawns, parks, woods, and other areas. More specifically, the term is often used to...

 in many areas, including some parts of the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

, and most of Sub-Sahara
Sahara
The Sahara is the world's second largest desert, after Antarctica. At over , it covers most of Northern Africa, making it almost as large as Europe or the United States. The Sahara stretches from the Red Sea, including parts of the Mediterranean coasts, to the outskirts of the Atlantic Ocean...

n Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

 including West Africa
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

 where in Senegal
Senegal
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

 it has been used as a malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

l drug and Tanzania
Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania is a country in East Africa bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south. The country's eastern borders lie on the Indian Ocean.Tanzania is a state...

 and other Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

 states where in Kiswahili it is known as 'the panacea', literally 'the tree that cures forty [diseases]', where ayurvedic
Ayurveda
Ayurveda or ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine native to India and a form of alternative medicine. In Sanskrit, words , meaning "longevity", and , meaning "knowledge" or "science". The earliest literature on Indian medical practice appeared during the Vedic period in India,...

 uses are practiced.

Ecologically, it survives well in similar environments to its own, for example replacing the babul
Babul
Babul or is a 1950 Bollywood film directed by S.U. Sunny produced and with music direction by Naushad. The film stars Dilip Kumar, Munawar Sultana and Nargis. A box-office success, the film became the second highest earning film of 1950, earning an approximate gross of Rs. 1,25,00,000 and a nett...

 acacia
Acacia
Acacia is a genus of shrubs and trees belonging to the subfamily Mimosoideae of the family Fabaceae, first described in Africa by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1773. Many non-Australian species tend to be thorny, whereas the majority of Australian acacias are not...

 tree from India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 with African acacia
Acacia
Acacia is a genus of shrubs and trees belonging to the subfamily Mimosoideae of the family Fabaceae, first described in Africa by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1773. Many non-Australian species tend to be thorny, whereas the majority of Australian acacias are not...

 species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

.

Chemical compounds


Indian scientists were the first to bring the plant
Plant
Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as trees, flowers, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The group is also called green plants or...

 to the attention of phytopharmacologists
Phytopharmacology
Phytopharmacology was invented by the Russian scientist David Macht in the 1930s. The term has since changed its meaning to become an established field of drug research, where the active substances come from plants. There is at least one established journal, the Phytomedicine: International...

. In 1942, while working at the Scientific and Industrial Research Laboratory
Laboratory
A laboratory is a facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific research, experiments, and measurement may be performed. The title of laboratory is also used for certain other facilities where the processes or equipment used are similar to those in scientific laboratories...

 at Delhi University, British India, three bitter compounds were extracted from neem oil, which were named nimbin
Nimbin (chemical)
Nimbin is a chemical compound classified as a triterpenoid isolated from Azadirachta indica . Nimbin is thought to be responsible for much of the biological activities of neem, and is reported to have anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, antifungal, antihistamine and antiseptic properties.-See also:*...

, nimbinin, and nimbidin. The seeds contain a complex secondary metabolite azadirachtin
Azadirachtin
Azadirachtin, a chemical compound belonging to the limonoid group, is a secondary metabolite present in neem seeds. It is a highly oxidized tetranortriterpenoid which boasts a plethora of oxygen functionality, comprising an enol ether, acetal, hemiacetal, and tetra-substituted oxirane as well as a...

.

Uses


In India, the plant is variously known as "Sacred Tree," "Heal All," "Nature's Drugstore," "Village Pharmacy" and "Panacea for all diseases". Products made from neem trees have been used in India for over two millennia for their medicinal properties: neem products are believed to be anthelmintic
Anthelmintic
Anthelmintics or antihelminthics are drugs that expel parasitic worms from the body, by either stunning or killing them. They may also be called vermifuges or vermicides .-Pharmaceutical classes:...

, antifungal, antidiabetic, antibacterial, antiviral
Antiviral
Antiviral may refer to:*Antiviral drug*Antiviral protein*Antivirus software*Antiviral Therapy, an academic journal...

, contraceptive and sedative
Sedative
A sedative or tranquilizer is a substance that induces sedation by reducing irritability or excitement....

. Neem products are also used in selectively controlling pests in plants. It is considered a major component in Ayurvedic
Ayurveda
Ayurveda or ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine native to India and a form of alternative medicine. In Sanskrit, words , meaning "longevity", and , meaning "knowledge" or "science". The earliest literature on Indian medical practice appeared during the Vedic period in India,...

 and Unani medicine and is particularly prescribed for skin disease.
  • All parts of the tree are said to have medicinal properties (seeds, leaves, flowers and bark) and are used for preparing many different medical preparations.
  • The chemical constituents nimbidin and nimbin have some spermicidal activity
    Spermicide
    Spermicide is a contraceptive substance that eradicates sperm, inserted vaginally prior to intercourse to prevent pregnancy. As a contraceptive, spermicide may be used alone. However, the pregnancy rate experienced by couples using only spermicide is higher than that of couples using other methods...

  • Neem oil
    Neem oil
    Neem oil is a vegetable oil pressed from the fruits and seeds of the neem , an evergreen tree which is endemic to the Indian subcontinent and has been introduced to many other areas in the tropics...

     is used for preparing cosmetics (soap, neem shampoo, balms and creams such as Margo soap
    Margo (soap)
    Margo is a brand of soap manufactured in India. The soap has neem as its main ingredient. The soap was manufactured by Calcutta Chemicals and was launched in 1920. In 1988 the soap was among the top five selling brands in India, with a market share of 8.9%. As of 2001, the brand was worth 75 crores...

    ) and many oral health products.
  • Besides its use in traditional Indian medicine, the neem tree is of great importance for its anti-desertification properties and possibly as a good carbon dioxide sink.
  • Practitioners of traditional Indian medicine recommend that patients with chicken pox sleep on neem leaves.
  • Neem gum is used as a bulking agent and for the preparation of special purpose food.
  • Traditionally, slender neem branches have been chewed to clean one's teeth. Neem twigs are still collected and sold in markets for this use, and in India one often sees youngsters in the streets chewing on neem twigs.
  • Neem blossoms are used in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu
    Tamil Nadu
    Tamil Nadu is one of the 28 states of India. Its capital and largest city is Chennai. Tamil Nadu lies in the southernmost part of the Indian Peninsula and is bordered by the union territory of Pondicherry, and the states of Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh...

     and Karnataka
    Karnataka
    Karnataka , the land of the Kannadigas, is a state in South West India. It was created on 1 November 1956, with the passing of the States Reorganisation Act and this day is annually celebrated as Karnataka Rajyotsava...

     to prepare Ugadi pachhadi. "Bevina hoovina gojju" (a type of curry prepared with neem blossoms) is common in Karnataka throughout the year. Dried blossoms are used when fresh blossoms are not available. In Tamilnadu, a rasam
    Rasam
    Rasam is a South Indian soup. Traditional preparation involves tamarind juice as base in addition to tomato, chili pepper and other spices as seasonings. Steamed lentils are added by some along with any preferred vegetables. Nowadays all the seasonings required are combined and ground beforehand...

     (veppam poo rasam) made with neem blossoms is a culinary specialty.
  • A mixture of neem flowers and bella (jaggery or unrefined brown sugar) is prepared and offered to friends and relatives, symbolic of sweet and bitter events in the upcoming new year.
  • Extract of neem leaves is thought to be helpful as malaria
    Malaria
    Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

     prophylaxis despite the fact that no comprehensive clinical studies are yet available. In several cases, private initiatives in Senegal
    Senegal
    Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

     were successful in preventing malaria. However, major NGOs such as USAID are not supposed to use neem tree extracts unless the medical benefit has been proved with clinical studies.

Pest and disease control


Neem is a key ingredient in non-pesticidal management (NPM), providing a natural alternative to synthetic pesticides. Neem seeds are ground into a powder that is soaked overnight in water and sprayed onto the crop. To be effective, it is necessary to apply repeatedly, at least every ten days. Neem does not directly kill insects on the crop. It acts as an anti-feedant, repellent, and egg-laying deterrent, protecting the crop from damage. The insects starve and die within a few days. Neem also suppresses the hatching of pest insects from their eggs. Neem cake is often sold as a fertilizer.

As a vegetable


The tender shoots and flowers of the neem tree are eaten as a vegetable in India. Neem flowers are very popular for their use in Ugadi Pachhadi (soup-like pickle), which is made on Ugadi
Ugadi
Yugadi or Ugadi or "Samvatsradi" , Konkani/Marathi: युगादी yugādi, , formed by sandhi of yuga "age" and ādi "beginning": the beginning of an age) is the New Year's Day for the people of the Deccan region of India. It falls on the different day every year because the Hindu calendar is a lunisolar...

 day in the South Indian States of Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Karnataka. A souplike dish called Veppampoo Rasam (Tamil
Tamil language
Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Tamil people of the Indian subcontinent. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and in the Indian union territory of Pondicherry. Tamil is also an official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore...

) (translated as "neem flower rasam
Rasam
Rasam is a South Indian soup. Traditional preparation involves tamarind juice as base in addition to tomato, chili pepper and other spices as seasonings. Steamed lentils are added by some along with any preferred vegetables. Nowadays all the seasonings required are combined and ground beforehand...

") made of the flower of neem is prepared in Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu is one of the 28 states of India. Its capital and largest city is Chennai. Tamil Nadu lies in the southernmost part of the Indian Peninsula and is bordered by the union territory of Pondicherry, and the states of Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh...

. In West Bengal
West Bengal
West Bengal is a state in the eastern region of India and is the nation's fourth-most populous. It is also the seventh-most populous sub-national entity in the world, with over 91 million inhabitants. A major agricultural producer, West Bengal is the sixth-largest contributor to India's GDP...

, young neem leaves are fried in oil with tiny pieces of eggplant (brinjal). The dish is called nim begun and is the first item during a Bengali meal that acts as an appetizer. It is eaten with rice.

Neem is used in parts of mainland Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

, particularly in Cambodia
Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

, Laos (where it is called kadao), Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

 (where it is known as sadao or sdao), Myanmar
Myanmar
Burma , officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar , is a country in Southeast Asia. Burma is bordered by China on the northeast, Laos on the east, Thailand on the southeast, Bangladesh on the west, India on the northwest, the Bay of Bengal to the southwest, and the Andaman Sea on the south....

 (where it is known as tamar) and Vietnam (where it is known as sầu đâu and is used to cook the salad gỏi sầu đâu). Even lightly cooked, the flavour is quite bitter and the food is not enjoyed by all inhabitants of these nations, though it is believed to be good for one's health. Neem gum is a rich source of protein. In Myanmar, young neem leaves and flower buds are boiled with tamarind fruit to soften its bitterness and eaten as a vegetable. Pickled neem leaves are also eaten with tomato and fish paste sauce in Myanmar.

Association with Hindu festivals in India



Neem leaf or bark is considered an effective pitta
Ayurveda
Ayurveda or ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine native to India and a form of alternative medicine. In Sanskrit, words , meaning "longevity", and , meaning "knowledge" or "science". The earliest literature on Indian medical practice appeared during the Vedic period in India,...

 pacifier due to its bitter taste. Hence, it is traditionally recommended during early summer in Ayurveda (that is, the month of Chaitra
Chaitra
Chaitra is a month of the Hindu calendar....

 as per the Hindu Calendar
Hindu calendar
The hindu calendar used in ancient times has undergone many changes in the process of regionalization, and today there are several regional Indian calendars, as well as an Indian national calendar. Nepali calendar, Bengali calendar, Malayalam calendar, Tamil calendar, Telugu calendar, Kannada...

 which usually falls in the month of March - April), and during Gudi Padva, which is the New Year in the state of Maharashtra, the ancient practice of drinking a small quantity of neem juice or paste on that day, before starting festivities, is found. As in many Hindu festivals and their association with some food to avoid negative side-effects of the season or change of seasons, neem juice is associated with Gudi Padva
Gudi Padwa
Gudi Padwa or Gudhi Padwa , is the Marathi name for the Hindu holiday of Chaitra Shukla Pratipada. It is celebrated on the first day of the Chaitra month to mark the beginning of the New year according to the lunisolar Hindu calendar...

 to remind people to use it during that particular month or season to pacify summer pitta. In Tamilnadu during the summer months of April to June, the Mariamman
Mariamman
Māri ,Tulu, also known as Mariamman , both meaning "Mother Mari", spelt also Maariamma , or simply Amman or Aatha is the South Indian Hindu goddess of disease and rain. She is the main South Indian mother goddess, predominant in the rural areas of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and...

 temple festival is a thousand year old tradition. The Neem leaves and flowers are the most important part of the Mariamman festival. The goddess Mariamman statue will be garlanded with Neem leaves and flowers. During most occasions of celebrations and weddings the people of Tamilnadu adorn their surroundings with the Neem leaves and flowers as a form of decoration and also to ward off evil spirits and infections.
  • In the eastern coastal state of Orissa
    Orissa
    Orissa , officially Odisha since Nov 2011, is a state of India, located on the east coast of India, by the Bay of Bengal. It is the modern name of the ancient nation of Kalinga, which was invaded by the Maurya Emperor Ashoka in 261 BC. The modern state of Orissa was established on 1 April...

     the famous Jagannath
    Jagannath
    Jagannath is a transcendental non-anthropotheistic Hindu god worshiped primarily by the people of Indian state of Orissa, and, to a great extent, West Bengal...

     temple idols are made up of Neem heart wood along with some other essential oils and powders.

Patent controversy


In 1995, the European Patent Office
European Patent Office
The European Patent Office is one of the two organs of the European Patent Organisation , the other being the Administrative Council. The EPO acts as executive body for the Organisation while the Administrative Council acts as its supervisory body as well as, to a limited extent, its legislative...

 (EPO) granted a patent on an anti-fungal product derived from neem to the US Department of Agriculture and W. R. Grace and Company
W. R. Grace and Company
W. R. Grace and Company is a Columbia, Maryland, United States based chemical conglomerate.The company has two main divisions, Davison Chemicals and Performance Chemicals. The Davison unit makes chemical catalysts, refining catalysts, and silica-based products that let other companies make...

. The Indian government challenged the patent when it was granted, claiming that the process for which the patent had been granted had actually been in use in India for over 2,000 years. In 2000, the EPO ruled in India's favour but W. R. Grace appealed, claiming that prior art about the product had never been published in a scientific journal. On 8 March 2005, that appeal was lost and the EPO revoked the Neem patent.

Further reading


Books
  • Conrick, J. (2001) Neem: The Ultimate Herb. Lotus Press. ISBN 9780910261326
  • Puri, H.S.(1999) Neem: The Divine Tree Azadirachta indica. CRC Press. ISBN 9789057023484

Journal articles

External links