Many people have heard of neem oil as an insecticide, but few are aware of the amazing and varied medicinal properties of neem leaves...
Neem leaf should get the attention it deserves.
So far it doesn't. Not in the western world, that is.
Many people have heard of neem oil as an insecticide, but few are aware of the amazing and varied medicinal properties of neem leaves.
In India the situation is different. Ayurvedic medicine has always strongly relied on the leaf.
Photo by Yeoh Ts via Flickr.com
Over 75% of Ayurvedic remedies contain neem, usually in form of leaf (or extract), sometimes the bark/fruit/flowers, and almost never the oil.
The leaf is also the part of the neem plant that western medicine knows the most about. The majority of scientific neem studies was done with neem leaf or neem leaf extracts.
Neem oil is neem seed oil, not neem leaf oil as some people wrongly assume. It can be made safe for consumption, and especially the use of neem oil for birth control (as a "male pill") continues to generate a lot of interest. However, it really needs special knowledge and treatment before neem oil can be taken internally.
Not so for the leaf. Neem leaves are considered safe to take internally on a regular or daily basis (provided you aren't pregnant or trying to conceive. See neem contraception.) In the thousands of years that people across India have been taking neem there have never been any reports of negative side effects from leaves.
Of course, you should still use common sense, as you should with any herbs. Start by trying a little to make sure you don't show any allergic reaction, and generally don't overdo it. As magical as all the medicinal properties sound, neem is not a magical cure all that will simply fix anything if you just take enough... But it can help with a lot, if taken sensibly.
In 2005 scientists published a research report, Medicinal properties of neem leaves: a review. It is a compilation of existing scientific studies and clinical trials. It shows very impressively just how versatile the leaves are. Here is what it says about the benefits of neem leaves:
"Neem leaf and its constituents have been demonstrated to exhibit immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, antihyperglycaemic, antiulcer, antimalarial, antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic properties."
Now that's a mouthful...
Go to PubMed (the government site is a service of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health) and do a search for neem and leaf or leaves to see some of the studies that have been published since.
Given, the very scientific titles may not make sense to everybody, but some words might jump out at you: HIV/AIDS, tumor cells, cardioprotective, immune response, anti-tumor immunity...
Well, making sense of the scientific gibberish, that's what this site is here for. Below is more information to help you better understand the benefits of neem leaves and to show you how to use the leaf.