Neem Oil --Top 7 Health Benefits
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December 15, 2014
By Joseph Strongoli, Contributing Columnist

Never heard of Neem oil? You’re not alone.  Neem oil has been in use in
Ayurvedic medicine for over 4000 years and it seems that modern
medicine is finally taking notice: this miracle plant has been declared the
‘Tree of the 21st Century’ by the UN.

Neem oil is a product of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica), a tropical
evergreen tree native to the Indian subcontinent. The yellow to
brownish oil is a vegetable oil pressed from the fruits and seeds of the
neem tree. Its odor is a pungent mixture of peanut and garlic, and it is
bitter to the taste.

While the neem tree is native to India, the Philippines, and Indonesia, it
can now be seen growing successfully in 72 countries worldwide, in
Asia, Africa, Australia, and North, Central, and South America. India
leads the globe in neem seed production at  442,300 tons of seed
produced annually, yielding 88,400 tons of neem oil.

Over 60 different types of biochemicals have been purified from this
wonder plant. It’s utilities in medicine and beyond are seemingly never-
ending. Some of its medical benefits include antiseptic, antiviral,
antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, antiulcer and antifungal properties.
Besides its several medical uses, neem oil is also used in various
household products, like cosmetics, pesticides, and antibacterial and
antifungal products, and has various industrial applications, such as in
organic fertilizer, animal feed, pest management, eco-friendly
agrochemicals and afforestation.

Here are the top 7 health benefits of neem oil, based on medical studies:

Antimicrobial Activity

A 2010 study at Sichuan Agricultural University  led by Dr. YQ Zhang, et
al. in Ya’an City, China demonstrated the powerful antibacterial
properties of neem oil extracts. The  study showed significant activities
against multiple bacterial strains, including Staphylococcus aurous,
Escherichia coli, K. pneumoniea and Salmonella enteritidis.  

A 2011 literature review conducted by Dr. I.P. Ogbuewu, et al. at the
Federal University of Technology in Owerri, Nigeria highlighted research
that demonstrated over 14 common fungi species which are sensitive to
neem preparations, including the fungi responsible for athletes foot,
ringworm of the skin and nails, ringworm of the hair,  thrush, and
candidiasis. Neem products also work as effective plant fungicides,
against Cercospora, Anthracnose, Downy mildew, and Black sigatoka.

The same literature review also showed the neem’s antiviral activity
against Small Pox, Chicken Pox, Fowl Pox, Polio, and Herpes.

In all, the literature review counted bactericidal activity against 20
strains of pathogenic bacteria.

Anti-inflammatory Activity

A 2011 study led by Dr. M. Thoh at the Laboratory of Immunology at
the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics in Hyerabad, India
found that azadirachtin, one of the organic compounds found in neem
oil, has significantly inhibitory effects on inflammation in the body.
Ayurvedic tradition has used topical neem oil to calm inflammatory skin
conditions, joint pains, and muscle aches for centuries.

Antioxidant Effects, Fights Aging

A 2009 study led by Dr. P. Manikandan at Annamalai University in Tamil
Nadu, India found that neem leaf extracts had protective antioxidant
effects against hydrogen peroxide induced oxidative damage to red
blood cells.

Fights Cancer

A 2011 review of anticancer biology research on neem oil conducted by
Dr. Rajkumar Paul et al at the Rajiv Gandhi Technological University in
India highlighted diverse research showing the anti-cancer properties
in the forms of preventative, protective, tumor-suppressive,
immunomodulatory, and apoptotic effects against various types of
cancer and their molecular mechanisms.

Chronic Skin Ailments

A 2008 review conducted by Dr. J.J. Thas at the Friends of Siddha
Medicine Institute in Tamil Nadu, India has confirmed what Siddha
medicine has known for thousands of years: neem oil has a miraculous
healing effect on a variety of skin conditions, such as
acne, alopecia,
leprosy, diabetic ulcer, vitiligo, pemphigus, pompholyx, psoriasis,
eczema, ringworm and warts.

Furthermore, neem oil has been used for generations in cosmetics, to
rejuvenate and beautify the skin.

Digestive Conditions

Neem extract has been used in ayurvedic practices as a treatment for
ulcers and other types of gastric problems. A 2004 study conducted by
Dr. U. Bandyopadhyay , et al. at the Indian Institute of Chemical
Biology in Kolkata, India showed neem’s gastroprotective effects:
when treated with neem extract, patients with acid-reflux,
gastroduodenal and gastroesophageal ulcers were healed within a
matter of days via the reduction of gastric hypersecretion.

Parasites and Pests

Neem has been found to rid the body of many forms of parasites,
external and internal.  A 2012 study conducted by Dr. F. Abdel-Ghaffar
at the Department of Zoology at Cairo University in Giza, Egypt found
that an anti-louse shampoo based on neem extract was effective in
killing lice and louse found on the bodies of participants, by interfering
with their life cycle through hormone imitation. A 2012 study
conducted by Dr. K. Luong, et al. at the Dept. of Entomology at UC
Riverside found neem extract to be a powerful insectide against several
species of mosquito, and successful in reducing the transmission of
malaria. All in all, a 1990 study conducted by Dr. H. Schmutterer at the
Giessen University in Germany counted 413 insect and pest species
sensitive to neem products.


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