What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What is Neem?

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The neem tree has been called "the village pharmacy" because its bark, leaves, sap, fruit, seeds, and twigs have so many diverse uses in the traditional medicine of India. This member of the mahogany family has been used medicinally for at least 4,000 years and is held in such esteem that Indian poets called it Sarva Roga Nivarini, meaning "the One That Can Cure All Ailments." Mohandas Gandhi encouraged scientific investigation of the neem tree as part of his program to revitalize Indian traditions, which eventually let to more than 2,000 research papers and intense commercial interest.

At least 50 patents have been filed on neem and neem-based products in the United States for control of insects in food and ornamental crops. However, the Indian government and many...

The uses of neem are remarkably diverse. In India, the sap is used for treating fevers, general debilitation, digestive disturbances, and skin diseases; the bark gum for respiratory diseases and other infections; the leaves for digestive problems, intestinal parasites, and viral infections; the fruit for debilitation, malaria, skin diseases, and intestinal parasites; and the seed and kernel oil for diabetes, fevers, fungal infections, bacterial infections, inflammatory diseases, fertility prevention, and as an insecticide. 1 However, there is no reliable research evidence to support any of these uses.

As with many plant products, test tube studies indicate that, on direct contact, neem can kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria, fungi, and viruses. 2 3 4 5 This does not...

Safety Issues

Based on its extensive traditional use, neem seems to be quite safe. However, formal safety testing has only involved neem oil, the insecticide product made from the plant. While neem has been found adequately safe for use as an insecticide, animal studies suggest that long-term oral use of neem oil might produce toxic effects. 6 In addition, other animal studies suggest that whole neem extract (which includes more substances than neem oil) may damage chromosomes, at least when taken in high doses or for an extended period of time. 7 For all these reasons, as well as the lack of comprehensive safety investigation of neem products other than neem oil, we recommend that young children, pregnant or nursing women, or individuals with severe liver or kidney disease...