The Benefits of Neem

What Should I Know About It?

neem
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Neem (Azadirachta indica) is a type of evergreen tree native to India. In ayurvedic medicine, neem extract has long been used for a variety of health-related purposes.

While neem oil is generally applied to the scalp or skin to treat conditions like dandruff and acne, extract of the neem leaf is typically taken orally. In some cases, the bark, flowers, and fruit of the neem tree are also used medicinally.

Uses for Neem

In alternative medicine, neem is said to help with a number of health problems, including:

Additionally, neem is purported to reduce inflammation, improve liver health, alleviate pain, preserve eyesight, stimulate the immune system, and protect against heart disease.

Health Benefits

Although few scientific studies have tested the health effects of neem, there's some evidence that it may offer certain benefits. Here's a look at some key findings from the available research:

1) Dental Health

Neem may help fight plaque buildup, according to a 2004 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. For the study, 36 men were assigned to six weeks of treatment with either a gel containing neem extract, or a mouthwash containing chlorhexidine gluconate (a substance commonly used to prevent gum disease).

Study results showed that the neem-based gel was more effective in reducing plaque buildup than the mouthwash.

In addition, a study published in the Indian Journal of Dental Research in 1999 determined that the use of chewing sticks made with neem extract may help protect against the buildup of bacteria associated with cavity formation and periodontal disease.

2) Ulcers

Neem shows promise in the treatment of gastric ulcers, suggests a 2009 report from Phytotherapy Research. Analyzing findings from preliminary studies, scientists concluded that neem bark extract may help aid in ulcer control (possibly by inhibiting the secretion of gastric acids).

3) Cancer

A 2011 research review published in Cancer Biology & Therapy indicates that neem may offer anti-cancer benefits, including immune-stimulating and tumor-suppressing properties. However, there is currently a lack of clinical trials testing the effectiveness of neem in prevention or treatment of any type of cancer.

Caveats

Little is known about the safety of long-term use of neem supplements.

Since neem may increase activity in the immune system, it's crucial for people with autoimmune disorders (such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis) to take caution when using neem.

In addition, people taking diabetes medication should consult their physician prior to using neem. Because neem may reduce blood sugar levels, using neem in combination with diabetes medicine may cause blood sugar to drop to dangerously low levels.

There's also some concern that neem may cause damage to the kidneys and liver.

It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get further tips on using supplements here.

Where to Find It

Widely available for purchase online, neem supplements can also be found in many natural-foods stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Using Neem for Health

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend neem as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using neem for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.

Sources

Almas K. "The antimicrobial effects of extracts of Azadirachta indica (Neem) and Salvadora persica (Arak) chewing sticks." Indian J Dent Res. 1999 Jan-Mar;10(1):23-6.

Maity P, Biswas K, Chattopadhyay I, Banerjee RK, Bandyopadhyay U. "The use of neem for controlling gastric hyperacidity and ulcer." Phytother Res. 2009 Jun;23(6):747-55.

Pai MR, Acharya LD, Udupa N. "Evaluation of antiplaque activity of Azadirachta indica leaf extract gel--a 6-week clinical study." J Ethnopharmacol. 2004 Jan;90(1):99-103.

Paul R, Prasad M, Sah NK. "Anticancer biology of Azadirachta indica L (neem): a mini review." Cancer Biol Ther. 2011 Sep 15;12(6):467-76.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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