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XI No.15 - Sunday December 30 - Saturday January 12, 2013


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Update by Saichon Paewsoongnern
 
 
 
The Wellness Column By Anchan Vegetarian
 

The Neem tree

One of the most discussed plants in the world, with applications in various fields such as medicine, pest control, wellness and beauty is our topic of discussion for this column. Azadirachta indica or Neem tree has received so many alternative names in different cultures over Asia that they are proof of its prolific use and effectiveness. This plant has been called the Sacred Tree, Nature’s Drugstore, Village Pharmacy and Panacea for all diseases, just to name a few.
Products made from Neem trees have been used for over two millennia for their medicinal properties. Neem products are believed to be anthelmintic(drive out worms and nematode), antifungal (helps against fungal infections, mainly exterior), anti-diabetic, antibacterial, antiviral and contraceptive. It is considered a major component in Ayurveda and Unani medicine and in these traditions is particularly prescribed for fungal and bacterial related skin disease treatment. All parts of the tree, seeds, leaves, flowers, bark and roots are said to have medicinal properties and are each used for preparing a wide variety of disease specific medical preparations.
Neem is a key ingredient in non-pesticide management or NPM, providing a natural alternative to synthetic pesticides for which one of the key applications can be found in natural, organic and permaculture farming. Neem seeds are ground into a powder that is soaked overnight in water and then sprayed onto the crop. To be effective it is necessary to apply repeatedly with intervals of 2 weeks on average. Neem does not directly kill insects on the crops but acts as a feeding inhibitor, a repellent, and a reproduction deterrent, protecting the crop from damage. The insects either scurry or starve and die within a few days, the eggs are prevented from hatching at the same time, and so with every repeat cycle, both eggs and existing or newly arrived individuals in the fields are treated.
Neem oil is also used for preparing cosmetics such as soap, shampoo, balms and creams as well as many oral health products. Traditionally, slender Neem branches have been chewed to clean one’s teeth. Neem twigs are still collected and sold in markets for this use, and in India one often sees youngsters in the streets chewing on Neem twigs for the great effects it has on dental hygiene. It certainly isn’t chewed for the taste, as it is one of the bitterest herbs in the world.
Let us take a further look at some more specific information about the medicinal properties of Neem. An extract of Neem leaves is thought to be helpful as a malaria prophylaxis despite the fact that comprehensive clinical studies are still being conducted. In several cases though, private initiatives were successful in preventing malaria.
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. We are talking about both external fungal infections as well as internal ones, far more dangerous and harder to treat. It is due time for more clinical research to be done on this plant so big organizations and NGO’s can adopt the use of these preparations.
In trials Neem oil has suppressed several species of pathogenic bacteria including Staphylococcus & Salmonella spp. There is also much interesting information about the antiviral activity of Neem. Its efficacy particularly against pox viruses is strong and astonishing, with daily evidence coming out of the research field. Small pox and chicken pox have traditionally been treated with a paste of Neem leaves, usually rubbed directly on to the infected skin.
It is also used to clear out infestations with dermatological insects. Applying Neem oil to the hair to kill head lice have shown to be very successful. Neem seed oil and leaf extracts may be the wonder cure for psoriasis. It relieves the itching and pain while reducing the scale and redness of the patchy lesions.
Neem may also be a ready source of low cost analgesic (pain relieving), or antipyretic (fever reducing) compounds. In trials, positive results have been obtained for significant analgesic, antipyretic & anti-inflammatory effects.
Contraceptive Agents : Indian scientists from the Defense Institute of Physiology & Allied Sciences (DIPAS) have applied for patents on chemicals isolated from the Neem oil which have proved to be promising contraceptive agents. If administered orally it can cause abortion after implantation has already occurred.
There are 2 varieties found in the market. One is the traditional green one. I recently purchased the red variety, with even higher beneficial properties. Let’ s wait for it to bloom and for the seeds to spread for the benefit of all mankind, especially now we have to continue after the apocalypse turned out to be a disappointment.
 


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The Neem tree

 

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