Neem, a leafy tree also known as the "Indian Lilac" is commonly used in traditional Indian medicine. More than 140 active compounds have been isolated from this tropical plant. The leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds, gum, oil and bark all have health benefits. The powder is made by drying and grinding neem leaves or a blend of leaves, flowers, seeds, fruit and bark. Drugs.com notes that neem leaves have been used in the treatment of worm infections, leprosy and ulcers, and for heart disease. Neem powder is available in loose form or as capsules and tablets.
Drugs.com notes that neem has been used as an insecticide, insect repellent and fungicide. In traditional medicine, neem is taken internally as powder capsules and tablets or as an oil to help treat malaria, worms and ulcers. A review published in "Current Medicinal Chemistry" reports that this herb has anti-bacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal qualities, which may help the body fight off disease-causing pathogens and infection. Additionally, the immuno-modulating, anti-allergenic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of neem may help balance the immune system.
Research published in the journal "Life Sciences" in 2004 concluded that neem bark extract may help treat stomach ulcers. Researchers gave patients with digestive ulcers a dose of 30 milligrams of powdered extract twice a day for 10 days. After treatment with the neem extract, the patients showed a 77 percent decrease in stomach acid, helping heal and prevent ulcers in the digestive tract.
Effect on Diabetes
Compounds found in the outer shell or husk of neem seeds may help treat Type 2 diabetes and protect the heart from complications related to diabetes. An animal study published in 2008 in the "Journal of Ethnopharmacology" reported that neem extract helped treat diabetic rats that were also given insulin. Additionally, neem prevented heart damage in the animals. However, further clinical research is needed to determine if the neem extract would have the same benefit for people.
Prevent Dental Decay
Many of the medicinal compounds found in neem powder -- anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and others -- may also treat dental disorders and keep teeth and gums healthy. Neem powder can be used as a natural toothpaste to clean your teeth. Research published in the "Journal of Ayurveda Integrative Medicine" reported that even chewing on sticks from the neem tree may help reduce dental plaque and control bacteria in the mouth.
Contraindications and Considerations
Drugs.com warns that neem seeds are toxic in large doses and neem oil has been reported to have caused poisoning in infants. Ensure that your neem powder supplement is from a reputable supplier and use it only as directed. If you use neem powder as a skin salve or to clean your teeth, test it for an allergic reaction by rubbing a small amount on the inside of your elbow. Limited clinical studies support the health benefits of neem powder or determine an accurate dosage and method of use. Consult your doctor before using any type of neem product to treat an infection or other medical ailment.
- Current Medicinal Chemistry: Medicinal Properties of Neem Leaves: A Review
- Journal of Ayurveda Integrative Medicine: Tooth Brushing, Oil Pulling and Tissue Regeneration: A Review of Holistic Approaches to Oral Health
- Neem, A Treatise: Neem in Health and Cosmetics; Alka Tomar, et al.
- Drugs.com: Neem
- Journal of Ethnopharmacology: Protective Role of Extracts of Neem Seeds in Diabetes Caused by Streptozotocin in Rats
- Life Sciences: Clinical Studies on the Effect of Neem (Azadirachta indica) Bark Extract on Gastric Secretion and Gastroduodenal Ulcer
Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.