Neem: A Tree for Solving Global Problems
Mrs. Richa N.Joshi
Neem is a member of the mahogany family, Meliaceae. It is today known by the botanical name Azadirachta indica A. Juss.
Indians know the neem as a virtual living pharmacy. Daily, millions of people brush their teeth with neem twigs. Dentists confirm that this practice guards against periodontal disease. A crude antiseptic soap is made from the pulp of the olive-like fruit. A paste made from the leaves has been found to successfully treat skin lesions. Small portions of leaves mixed with regular feed seem to affect intestinal parasites in livestock.1
It was noted that during periodic locust plagues, while acres of foliage were stripped bare, neem were left unscathed. Simply derived "tea" solutions made from the neem seed were effective in protecting foliage crops. Additionally, several compounds were isolated from the seeds of neem. One of these, azadirachtin, was found to both repel and disrupt the growth and reproduction of many destructive insect species. The tree has relieved so many different pains, fevers, infections, and other complaints that it has been called "the village pharmacy."
The Ayurvedic literature is replete with references to neem's genuine effectiveness for a myriad of ailments. In The Yoga of Herbs, Vasant Lad and David Frawley say, Neem is one of the most powerful blood-purifiers and detoxifiers in Ayurvedic usage. It cools the fever and clears the toxins involved in most inflammatory skin diseases. They describe the actions of neem as: antipyretic (fever-reducing), alterative (produces gradual beneficial change in body), anthelmintic (dispels parasites), antiseptic (destroys bacteria), and bitter tonic (strengthens the organism).2
Constituents in Neem:2
Its main chemical broadside is a mixture of 3 or 4 related compounds, and it backs these up with 20 or so others that are minor but nonetheless active in one way or another. In the main, these compounds belong to a general class of natural products called "triterpenes"; more specifically, "limonoids."
So far, at least nine neem limonoids have demonstrated an ability to block insect growth, affecting a range of species that includes some of the most deadly pests of agriculture and human health. New limonoids are still being discovered in neem, but azadirachtin, salannin, meliantriol, and nimbin are the best known and, for now at least, seem to be the most significant.
Azadirachtin is structurally similar to insect hormones called "ecdysones," which control the process of metamorphosis as the insects pass from larva to pupa to adult. It affects the corpus cardiacum, an organ similar to the human pituitary, which controls the secretion of hormones. Metamorphosis requires the careful synchrony of many hormones and other physiological changes to be successful, and azadirachtin seems to be an "ecdysone blocker." It blocks the insect's production and release of these vital hormones. Insects then will not molt. This of course breaks their life cycle.
Another feeding inhibitor, meliantriol, is able, in extremely low concentrations, to cause insects to cease eating. The demonstration of its ability to prevent locusts chewing on crops was the first scientific proof for neem's traditional use for insect control on India's crops.
Studies indicate that this compound also powerfully inhibits feeding, but does not influence insect molts.
Nimbin and Nimbidin
Two more neem components, nimbin and nimbidin, have been found to have antiviral activity.
The most analyzed compounds are as follows:
· Nimbin - anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic, antihistamine, anti-fungal
· Nimbidin - anti-bacterial, anti-ulcer, analgesic, anti-arrhythmic, anti-fungal
· nimbidol - anti-tubercular, anti-protozoan, anti-pyretic
· gedunin - vasodilator, anti-malaria, anti-fungal
· Sodium nimbinate - diuretic, spermicide, anti-arthritic
· queceretin - anti-protozoal
· salannin - repellent
· Azadirachtin - repellent, anti-feedant, anti-hormonal
Uses Of Neem:
Neem contains immune modulating polysaccharide compounds; the polysaccharide may be responsible for increasing antibody production. Other elements of neem may stimulate immune function by enhancing cellular mediated response. This dual action can help the body ward off the frequent infections that generally accompany AIDS.
The phenolic compounds containing catechin (which possess anti-inflammatory properties) may produce the anti-inflammatory effects. Another investigation found that quercetin, an antibacterial compound, exists in neem leaves. Other studies have shown that the polysaccharides in neem reduce the inflammation and swelling that occur in arthritis. Not only does neem help reduce inflammation; it also has pain suppressing properties. Neem can also help create a balance in the immune system, directly affecting the progression of arthritis.
Birth Control: 4
Neem has been shown to be a powerful, relatively inexpensive birth control agent for both men and women.
Using neem as a vaginal contraceptive inhibits the spread of micro-organisms including Candida albicans, C. Tropicalis, Niesseria gonorrhoeae, herpes simplex-2 and HIV-1, as well as resistant strains of E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus, in part by boosting immune-system activity in the vagina. Neem initially stimulates TH1 cells and macrophases, then causes an elevation of both immunoreactive and bioactive TNF-alpha and gamma-interferon in serum and mesenteric lymph nodes.
It has been found that polysaccharides and liminoids in neem bark, leaves and seed oil reduced tumors and cancers and were effective against lymphocytic leukemia.
Neem’s success has been noticeably remarkable with skin cancers. A number of reports have been made by patients that their skin cancers have disappeared after several months of using a neem-based cream on a daily basis. Injections of neem extract around various tumors have shown sizable reduction in a few weeks’ time.
Neem leaf extract significantly alters cancer development at extrahepatic sites by influencing hepatic biotransformation enzymes and antioxidants.
Neem twigs contain antiseptic ingredients necessary for dental hygiene. Neem powder is also used to brush teeth and massage gums. Neem extracts prevent tooth decay and periodontal disease.
Because neem is a tonic and a revitalizer, it works effectively in the treatment of diabetes, as well. .
Major causes of a heart attack include blood clots, high cholesterol, arrhythmic heart action and high blood pressure. Neem has been helpful in these conditions too. Its leaf extracts have reduced clotting, lowered blood pressure and bad cholesterol, slowed rapid or abnormally high heartbeat and inhibited irregular heart rhythms. Some compounds may produce effects similar to mild sedatives, which reduce anxiety and other emotional or physical states that may prompt a heart attack. The antihistamine effects of the nimbidin in its leaves cause blood vessels to dilate. This may be why the leaves help reduce blood pressure.
Both water and alcohol based neem leaf extracts have been confirmed as effective. It has been shown to block the development of the gamete in an infected person.
Neem leaf extract greatly increases the state of oxidation in red blood cells, which prevents normal development of the malaria virus. Irodin A, an active ingredient in the leaves, is toxic to resistant strains of malaris; 100 percent of the malaria gamete are dead within seventy-two hours with a 1 to 20,000 ratio of active ingredients. Gedunin and quercetin, compounds found in the leaves, are also effective against malaria.
Neem leaves have anti-inflammatory activity, similar to that in drugs such as phenyl butazone and cortisone. They can relieve pain and reduce acute pain edema.
The explanation of neem’s antianxiety effect may be its ability to increase the amount of serotonin in the brain. Because it works well in small amounts, it could be safer than drugs currently used for stress, which may cause many side effects.
In the Ayurvedic medical tradition, neem is considered a useful therapy for ulcers and gastric discomfort. Compounds in neem have been proven to have antiulcerative effects. Peptic ulcers and duodenal ulcers are treated well with neem leaf extracts; nimbidin from seed extracts taken orally prevents duodenal lesions and peptic ulcers, and provides significant reductions in acid output and gastric fluid activity.
Vitiligo is believed to be an autoimmune disorder that causes patches of skin to lose their color. It occurs in about five percent of the human population regardless of race, but most commonly in dark-skinned people. The two most common treatments are exposure to sunlight (or PUVA) or corticoster old drugs, but these are not always effective.
Other studies showed that the internal use of neem leaves and bark were effective even without the cream. It may be possible that neem oil applied to the affected areas could aid in the reversal of discoloration.
Extracts of neem reportedly affect the kissing bugs that transmit the much-feared Chagas' disease. They do not kill the insect; instead they "immunize" it against parasites that live inside it for part of their life cycle. Neem leaf extracts have negative effects on these pernicious insects. Feeding neem or more specifically a single dose of Azadirachtin to the bugs not only eliminate the parasites, but the Azadirachtin prevents the young from molting and the adults from reproducing. Neem leaf or seed extracts may also be sprayed throughout the home where the kissing bug lives; this eliminates the parasites and prevents the bugs from laying eggs.
Neem has been highly successfully against harmful fungi, parasites, and viruses. Although it can destroy these, it does not kill off beneficial intestinal flora nor produce adverse side effects. Neem is toxic to several fungi that attack humans, including the causes of athlete’s foot and ringworm and candida, which cause yeast infections and thrush. In fact, neem extracts are some of the most powerful Antifungal plant extracts found in the Indian pharmacopia that are used for these conditions. The compounds gedunin and nimbidol, found in the tree’s leaves, control the fungi listed above.
Neem has proved effective against certain fungi that infect the human body. Such fungi are an increasing problem and have been difficult to control by synthetic fungicides. For example, in one laboratory study, neem preparations showed toxicity to cultures of 14 common fungi, including members of the following genera:
Trichophyton- an "athlete's foot" fungus that infects hair, skin, and nails;
Epidermophyton- a "ringworm" that invades both skin and nails of the feet;
Microsporum- a ringworm that invades hair, skin, and (rarely) nails;
Trichosporon- a fungus of the intestinal tract;
Geotrichum- a yeastlike fungus that causes infections of the bronchi, lungs, and mucous membranes; and
Candida-a yeastlike fungus that is part of the normal mucous flora but can get out of control, leading to lesions in mouth (thrush), vagina, skin, hands, and lungs.
In trials neem oil has suppressed several species of pathogenic bacteria, including:
Staphylococcus aureus. A common source of food poisoning and many pus-forming disorders (for example, boils and abscesses), this bacterium also causes secondary infections in peritonitis, cystitis, and meningitis. Many strains are now resistant to penicillin and other antibiotics, one reason for the widespread occurrence of staphylococcal infections in hospitals
Salmonella typhosa. This much-feared bacterium, which lives in food and water, causes typhoid, food poisoning, and a variety of infections that include blood poisoning and intestinal inflammation. Current antibiotics are of only uncertain help in treating it.
However, neem has many limitations as an antibiotic. In the latter test, neem showed no antibacterial activity against certain strains of the above bacteria, and none against Citrobacter, Escherichia coli, Enterobacter, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Proteus mirabilis, Proteus morgasi, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Pseudomonas EOI, and Streptococcus faecalis.
In India, neem is also used to treat viral diseases such as small-pox, chicken-pox .
The fact that neem affects the cell-mediated immune system is particularly important to most people. Led by "Killer T" cells, the cell-mediated immune system is the body's first defense against infection. Killer T-cells are able to destroy microbes, viruses and cancer cells by injecting toxic chemicals into the invaders. Neem also boosts the body's macrophage response, which stimulates the lymphocytic system, and boosts production of white blood cells.
Neem oil acts as a non-specific immunostimulant and that it selectively activates the cell-mediated immune mechanisms to elicit an enhanced response to subsequent mitogenic or antigenic challenges.
Neem products are unique in that (at least for most insects) they are not outright killers. Instead, they alter an insect's behavior or life processes in ways that can be extremely subtle. Eventually, however, the insect can no longer feed or breed or metamorphose, and can cause no further damage.
The seeds and leaves contain compounds with demonstrated antiseptic, antiviral, and antifungal activity. There are also hints that neem has anti-inflammatory, hypotensive, and anti-ulcer effects. There is a potential indirect benefit to health as well. Neem leaves contain an ingredient that disrupts the fungi that produce aflatoxin on moldy peanuts, corn, and other foods-it leaves the fungi alive, but switches off their ability to produce aflatoxin, the most powerful carcinogen known.
Neem produces several useful fuels. As mentioned above, its oil is burned in lamps throughout India. In addition, its wood has long been used for firewood. Moreover, the husk from the seeds containing no oil and representing the bulk of the wastage in pesticide manufactureis mainly employed as fuel. Charcoal made from this neem wood is of excellent quality, with a calorific value only slightly below that of coal.
Neem Leaf :2
Ingredients: Pure Certified Organic neem leaf, (no stems or bark) made up of 20 percent fibre, 50 percent carbohydrates, 15 percent proteins, 5 percent fat, 8 percent ash, 2 percent calcium & contains essential amino acids.
There are reports that neem leaf also contains carotene and ascorbic acid.
The fine neem powder can be used to make tincture, teas or used as a bitter spice on foods. For external use, the powder can be incorporated into cosmetics, face masks or herbal preparations.
Neem leaves are now known to contain nimbin, nimbinene desacetylnimbinase, nimbandial, nimbolide and quercentin.
The bark of the neem tree is considered equal to the leaf in healing properties in the Ayurvedic system. It is generally known for its marvelous powers of preventing and healing gum diseases and other dental problems. The bark is now known to possess large numbers of catechins and powerful immunomodulatory and imino stimulating compounds.
The bark has been found to contain 3.43% protein, 0.68% alkaloids and 4.16% minerals.
The neem seed kernel is very rich in fatty acids, often up to 50 percent of the kernel's weight. Neem seed oil is very bitter with a garlic/sulfur smell and contains vitamin E and other essential amino acids.
Studies of the various components of the oil have found the percentages of the following fatty acids:
Oleic acid - 52.8%, stearic acid - 21.4%, palmitic acid - 12.6%, linoleic acid - 2.1% and various lower fatty acids - 2.3%.
2. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, 1998 Nov; 36(11): 1151-3
3. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2002 Feb; 79 (2): 273-8
4. American Journal of Reproductive Immunology, 1997 Jun; 37(6): 485-91
5. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 1997 Jan; 55(2): 133-9
6. International Journal of Immunopharmacology, 1992 Oct; 14(7): 1187-93
Mrs. Richa N.Joshi.
Lecture in Pharmaceutics,MAEER’S Maharashtra Institute Of Pharmacy,Pune-411038.
Richa have 10 national papers on her credit.
Principal, Proffessor,MAEER’S Maharashtra Institute Of Pharmacy,Pune-411038.
Student,MAEER’S Maharashtra Institute Of Pharmacy,Pune-411038.