Neem, also known as nimba or margosa, is regarded by the ancients and modern science alike as a powerful healing herb with diverse applications. Described in the Ayurvedic texts as sarva roga nivarini - that which keeps all diseases at bay or arishtha - reliever of disease - Neem has been used in the Ayurvedic tradition for thousands of years to maintain health. The roots, bark, gum, leaves, fruit, seed kernels and seed oil are all used in therapeutic preparations for both internal and topical use.
Specific Benefits of Neem
Neem is regarded as a powerful supporter of the body's natural defense mechanisms. Thus it helps support natural immunity, and helps protect the body from free radical damage. Free radicals have been implicated in a number of diseases as well as premature aging.
Because it offers the bitter and astringent tastes, Neem is especially helpful for balancing Pitta and Kapha doshas.
Neem leaves are regarded by Ayurvedic healers as an effective internal cleanser. Neem leaves have a powerful purifying effect on the blood and help cleanse the liver and skin of toxins. Neem leaf tea with a dash of honey can help soothe a dry irritated throat.
Neem bark is cooling and astringent, and is particularly helpful when taken internally for Pitta-related issues such as excess stomach acid and premature thinning and graying of the hair. It is also helpful in alleviating tiredness and helps maintain oral health, including healthy gums. Externally, Neem bark has been used for centuries by people in India to clean the teeth and gums. It helps maintain oral health and purifies the breath because of its anti-bacterial property.
Neem's anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties have been well known for centuries and find extensive application today in soaps, shampoos and other skin formulations.
Neem is regarded as a twacha rasayana in the Ayurvedic literature - an herb that is excellent for the skin. Neem has a purifying and clarifying effect, drawing out excess oil and smoothing out blemishes, so it's wonderful for persons with Kapha (earth or water predominant) skin. It is also soothing for dry, irritated skin when combined with Aloe Vera or rose water. Because its cooling nature, Neem is also helpful for Pitta-related skin inflammation.
Neem also helps maintain healthy nails. Neem oil can help restore damaged cuticles or brittle or yellowed nails with regular use. Taking Neem internally also helps keep skin, hair and nails healthy. In addition to maintaining the color and strength of hair, Neem can also help with a dry, flaky scalp and lice. Mix a few drops of pure Neem oil with a base oil such as coconut for Pitta and sesame for Kapha and apply comfortably warm oil to the scalp, covering the hair strands as well. Wrap your hair in a warm towel and leave on overnight or for as long as you can before you shampoo.
Neem is also regarded as chakshushya - an herb that is good for the eyes.
With so many therapeutic applications, little wonder that Neem has been called the village pharmacy in India and is gaining increasing attention from researchers all over the world.
Shreelata Suresh is a yoga instructor from the Bay Area, and she writes on yoga and Ayurveda for different publications. To subscribe to free newsletters on Ayurveda, or for more information, please visit http://www.ayurbalance.com.
Information provided in this article is for the sole purpose of imparting education on Ayurveda and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have a medical condition, please consult your physician.