Neem Benefits Uses And Side Effects

Neem Benefits Uses And Side Effects

Neem is a medicinal herb that is being used in India for more than 4000 years. All the parts of the neem tree are beneficial in different ways. In fact, neem is also famously called using the Sanskrit name Aristha which means “reliever of sickness”.

The neem tree is usually leafy and it can grow as high as 75 feet. It usually grows in the tropical and subtropical regions. However, it is also grown on the southern Iran islands. Rich green in colour, this tree can easily be found growing along roadsides in India.

According to the World Health Organization, about 80% of the population in the developing countries rely on traditional medicines which usually includes plants and plant products. Neem is one such tree which is known to cure various ailments such as skin infections, septic sores, infected burns and certain fungal infection that affects the human body.  Various soaps, lotions and shampoos made out of neem oil. Neem leaves are really effective in keeping the mosquitoes away, improving liver function and balancing blood sugar levels. Adding neem leaves to lukewarm water and taking a bath is effective for people who are suffering from chickenpox. In Vedas, neem is referred to as “Sarva Roga Nivarini” meaning “the curer of all ailments”.

It might interest you to know that neem isn’t just an Indian marvel. It is well known in Africa too, where it is popularly known as “Mahorbany”. According to African beliefs, neem can cure about forty major and minor diseases.

Apart from being a medicinal marvel, neem also plays a vital role in cuisines. It can both be boiled and fried to be used in curries and dishes. In Myanmar, neem leaves are used in salads. And the best part is that they remain fresh for a couple of months if they are frozen. What better way to hide this bitter herb in a tasty recipe?

Neem Benefits Uses And Side Effects

Some basic facts about neem:

Botanical name: Azadirachta indica

Family: Meliaceae

Sanskrit name: Nimba or Aristha

Parts used: Almost all the parts of the neem tree can be used - the seeds, leaves, fruits, flowers, oil, roots and the bark.

Native region and geographical distribution: Neem tree is mainly cultivated in the Indian subcontinent - India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Uses: The neem tree has numerous medicinal properties. Neem leaves are used to treat leprosy, eye disorders, intestinal worms, upset stomach, skin ulcers and blood vessels, fever, diabetes and liver problems. Neem oil is also an effective contraceptive.

Interesting fact: It is believed that if someone plants three or more neem trees in their lifetime, they would go to heaven.

  • Neem nutrition facts
  • Neem health benefits
  • Neem side effects
  • Takeaway

Neem nutrition facts

Neem leaves are a good source of flavonoids, which could help cure various diseases. It also contains azadirachtin, a natural insect repellent. Other constituents of neem leaves include protein, carbohydrates, minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and vitamin C and carotene. In addition, they are also rich in glutamic acid, aspartic acid, praline and several fatty acids.

The flowers of neem host various amino acids such as glutamic acid, tyrosine, and methionine.

The seed also plays an important role because it contains a high lipid content and has bitter compounds that can be used as a pesticide against more than 200 insect species and what more, they are non-toxic to humans.

Neem health benefits

For skin and hair: Neem is an antioxidant food, which is why it is good for the health of your hair and skin. It protects you from the risk of skin diseases and its antimicrobial properties may also prevent acne and aid in shrinking of the size of a wound. Its benefits for hair are more renowned as it is commonly used for the elimination of head lice and is used in the treatment of dandruff and scalp itching.

For immunity: Studies have shown that neem helps to improve immune response and protects your body from a variety of bacteria, virus, fungi and foreign bodies.

For mouth and stomach: Neem protects you from a bundle of oral health problems like tooth decay, plaque accumulation and gum inflammation and infection. It is also helpful in the management of stomach ulcers.

For the heart: Neem leaves help to improve the blood flow to the heart and thereby help in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease and arrhythmia.

Against cancer: Its antioxidant properties make it effective in the prevention of cancer, particularly that of the pancreas.

For respiratory issues: Neem helps in the management of respiratory problems like cough, asthma and phlegm accumulation.

  • Neem for healing wounds
  • Neem benefits for hair
  • Neem for immune system
  • Neem benefits for skin
  • Neem for asthma
  • Neem benefits for heart
  • Neem anti-cancer properties
  • Neem as contraceptive
  • Neem benefits for digestive system
  • Neem for tooth decay problems

Neem for healing wounds

Wound healing is a natural process by which the skin and the tissues fix themselves after you get injured. Several studies suggest that neem is an effective, natural wound healer. Neem leaves possess compounds such as nimbidin and sodium nimbidate which possess anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antiviral properties. These not only help in reducing pain and swelling but also they reduce the chances of further infection at the injury site.

A preclinical study was done to compare the effectiveness of neem with an antiseptic called povidone-iodine which is used in wound healing. Treating the wound with the extract made from neem leaves showed a significant reduction in the size of the wound which was comparable to that of povidone-iodine.

In a clinical study, neem oil was administered topically to 60 subjects with open wounds over a period of 8 weeks. After 8 weeks, there was a 50% decrease in the size of the wound.

Neem benefits for hair

Proper hair care is important to maintain the smooth and silky texture of your hair. It also ensures that your scalp is free from dandruff and head lice.  Research reveals that neem can be effective in preventing these problems. A clinical study was done on 28 patients who were treated with a mixture containing neem, shikakai and reetha among other ingredients. The results suggested that this mixture was effective against scalp itching and dandruff. This is attributed to the antifungal properties exhibited by neem oil, neem leaf and other components added to the mixture.

Head lice is a common problem among school children, especially among girls. A clinical study was done to access if shampoos containing neem as a primary ingredient can help wash out head lice. The results showed that neem shampoo was more effective in comparison to chemical based shampoos.

Neem for immune system

The immune system is the main line of our body’s defence mechanism. It protects the body from various bacteria, fungi, virus and other foreign bodies. A weak immune system can lead to frequent infections and diseases. Research indicates that neem can help strengthen the immune system.

A preclinical study demonstrated that neem extract positively influences the immune responses. in particular, there was a significant increase in the number of lymphocytes and monocytes. Both of these are a type of white blood cells which are responsible for fighting off infectious microbes.

Neem benefits for skin

Being exposed to harmful pollutants and infections our skin needs constant care. Improper skin hygiene could make it prone to a number of conditions such as rashes, acne, allergies and psoriasis. Research indicates that neem has active ingredients that could protect the skin from various diseases.

One research suggests that neem oil can be used to prevent acne-causing bacteria such as Propionibacterium acnes. Neem comprises components such as diterpenes - stigmasterol, triterpenes, nimbidin, margoline and margolonone. These active components are responsible for the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties of neem.

Neem for asthma

Asthma is a chronic condition which causes the airways to become narrow, making it difficult to breathe. This condition is also associated with wheezing and cough. A number of studies indicate that neem can help prevent asthma. According to a study published in the International Archive for Applied Sciences and Technology, neem oil and neem leaves can help treat asthma and prevent cough and phlegm.

Another research revealed that the neem seeds, fruits, roots and bark are effective in treating asthma and has been used in Ayurveda and other traditional medicines for ages. It was further claimed that the antiallergic property of neem is responsible for its effectiveness against asthma.

Neem benefits for heart

Research suggests that neem could be used to treat heart conditions such as coronary artery disease and arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease. It is characterized by a decrease in blood flow to the heart. This may lead to chest pain and shortness of breath.

A preclinical study revealed that neem leaf extract helps increase the blood flow to the heart. The extract also helps decrease the force of the heartbeat (negative inotropic effect) and the rate of the heartbeat (negative chronotropic effect).

Neem anti-cancer properties

Cancer refers to the abnormal growth of body cells. Ranging from serious environmental issues to pollution to adulterated food, there are several reasons why the number of cancer cases continue to increase. Preclinical studies hint that nimbolide, a main component present in neem has potent anticancer and chemopreventive properties. Nimbolide acts by interrupting the cell cycle of the cancer cells thus inhibiting their growth and spread. Nimbolide also causes apoptosis of cancer cells (programmed cell death).

Another research revealed that nimbolide in neem inhibits the growth and spreading of pancreatic cancer cells.

These results show the potential of neem to be used in the preparation of anticancer drugs.

Neem as contraceptive

Contraceptives are an effective way of preventing unwanted pregnancies. But the availability and cost of contraception methods in many countries tend to discourage people from using them, thereby leading to unwanted pregnancies and unsafe methods of abortion. Preclinical studies suggest that administering neem oil within the uterus induced reversible fertility. This means that the animal models did not show any side effects and their fertility was restored after a few months.

Another in vivo (animal based) study revealed that application of neem oil through the vagina immobilized sperms within seconds.

All of these results show the potential of neem oil as a cost-effective and non-toxic contraceptive that can be made easily available to people who cannot afford expensive contraception methods.

Neem benefits for digestive system

Gastrointestinal disorders refer to a group of conditions that affect the oesophagus, small and large intestine, and stomach. Common symptoms of these conditions include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, gas and vomiting. Research indicates that neem could be effective in preventing gastrointestinal disorders such as ulcer and hyperacidity.  In vivo (animal based) studies suggest that application of neem extract demonstrated a regeneration of injured stomach ulcer tissues.

According to a review article published in Phytotherapy research, neem is an excellent gastroprotective (protects stomach) and antiulcer agent.

In a clinical study, a group of people suffering from gastrointestinal problems were given 30 to 50 g of neem extracts, two times daily, for a period of 10 weeks. Marked improvement was found in gastric ulcers and hypersecretion of gastric juices.

Neem for tooth decay problems

Tooth decay or dental caries refers to the breakdown of tooth structure because of the acids produced by bacteria. Untreated cavities increase the risk of infection which can spread to the gums. Research reveals that the antibacterial properties of neem can help prevent tooth decay and protect the gums and teeth from pathogens. Ethanolic extract from the leaves and sticks of neem have been found to exhibit antibacterial activity against oral pathogens like S. mutans and S. faecalis. 

Neem oil also possesses antibacterial activity and can help prevent the formation of dental plaque, a thin bacterial film that coats the teeth.

Using a toothpaste made out of neem or a neem mouthwash can help prevent gingivitis, a disease that causes inflammation in gums. The antibacterial properties of neem are attributed to the presence of bioactive compounds such as nimbidin and azadirachtin.

Neem side effects

According to research, too much ingestion of neem extract could lead to liver damage or kidney failure.  There has been a reported case where a 51-year-old man suffered from distal renal tubular acidosis (distal RTA) upon ingestion of neem. It is a condition that happens when the kidneys don’t release acids into the urine causing a person’s blood to remain acidic. When left untreated, it could lead to problems like kidney stones and kidney failure.

Neem poisoning is not very common among adults, but there have been several reported cases of this type of poisoning among children. Studies suggest that azadirachtin, an active ingredient in neem can cause poisoning. Common symptoms include vomiting, seizures, toxic encephalopathy (a neurological disorder), Metabolic acidosis (a condition where the kidneys do not remove the acids from the body) and drug-induced liver damage (hepatic toxicity).

Neem oil that is known to have antibacterial and antifungal properties could sometimes cause allergic reactions. Although there have not been many reported cases, some people might be allergic to neem oil upon the application.


Almost all parts of neem plant are known to possess healing benefits. Neem can be effective in preventing gastrointestinal disorders, they can help protect the teeth and gums from diseases, and reduce cancer growth. Neem leaves can prevent asthma and neem oil can be used as a cost-effective contraceptive. However, over-consumption of neem can lead to kidney failure and liver damage. Some people might even be allergic to neem.

Neem in moderate quantities can provide all the health benefits and protect the body from various diseases.

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