Neem – The Wonderful Bitter HerbDr. Surya Bhagwati
Neem or Margosa, botanically described as Azadirachta indica, is one of the most fascinating plants to medical researchers for a variety of reasons. Native to India, the plant has been used in the treatment of a number of medical conditions for millennia. In fact, its uses have been clearly documented in Ayurvedic and Siddha medicinal texts dating back more than 2000 years ago. Some of these palm leaf manuscripts are still preserved in museums and research centers across the world. From this inherited knowledge and through modern research, we know that neem is endowed with antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties, among others. Let’s take a closer look at some of the many health benefits of neem and how it can be used to improve health naturally.
Health Benefits of Neem
Flavored and gel-based toothpastes may have become trendy with globalization, but neem-based dental care products are now making a huge comeback. The plant has long been the mainstay of Ayurvedic oral care solutions, believed to help protect against dental decay and oral infections. These Ayurvedic teachings are now being confirmed through clinical studies that highlight the efficacy of neem for dental care. These studies have demonstrated the power of neem to help fight plaque buildup and protect against gingival or gum disease and cavity formation. These benefits are linked to the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of the plant.
Neem remains one of the primary ingredients in most Ayurvedic hair care products, whether we’re talking about shampoos or hair oils. There are clear benefits to using such products as neem may help fight dandruff and associated hair loss because of its antifungal and anti-inflammatory effect. Some studies also show that neem works as an antiparasitic agent, helping fight hair lice infections.
Neem extracts including neem powder, oil, and polyherbal formulations are commonly prescribed in Ayurveda to treat a number of skin conditions. These neem products can help deal with stubborn conditions like acne, eczema, warts, and so on. Because of its anti-parasitic properties, neem can also help in the treatment of common fungal skin infections such as ringworm and athlete’s foot. To treat such conditions, you can use neem oil or powder to make a paste that can be applied over the affected areas of skin.
Although neem is most commonly used in topical applications and oils that are used externally, it is also an important ingredient in many Ayurvedic medications for digestive disorders. It is regarded as a powerful digestive tonic that strengthens agni, your digestive fire, while lowering levels of ama or toxins in the body. These gastro-protective benefits have been confirmed in studies, which show that the herb can control gastric hypersecretion, reducing gastric acid production, while strengthening the gastric mucosal lining.
As we’ve already established, neem possesses strong antimicrobial properties. This makes it a useful ingredient in formulas to boost or support immune function. Neem extracts have been found to exhibit antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and anti-parasitic properties. Although more human trials are needed, existing research already shows that it can help in the treatment of bovine herpes, while one study also suggests that the bark extract may help fight herpes simplex virus type-1 infections in humans.
Neem is perhaps most highly valued in Ayurveda as detoxifier and blood purifier. It is especially effective as a detox agent when used in combination with other herbs like tulsi. Because of its tridoshic nature, neem helps to balance all three doshas and reduce the buildup of ama. A study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics demonstrates the hepato-protective power of neem, stimulating liver function and helping in the elimination of toxins from the body.
Although the mechanism of action is not clearly understood, many bitter herbs help in the prevention and treatment of diabetes, neem included. Anti-diabetic Ayurvedic medications have become increasingly sought after because of their efficacy and the low risk of side effects and neem is again an important ingredient in most of these products. Research shows that the ingestion of neem helps improve insulin sensitivity, reducing the need for insulin in the body. This reduces the risk of diabetes and can also lower drug dependence in diabetic patients.
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