Even before ancient herbalists discovered the analgesic qualities of the willow tree, from which aspirin is derived, people used branches, fruit and leaves from the neem as home remedies. A key advantage of using neem, as opposed to some medical treatments and other herbs, is its compliance with the first tenant of the Hippocratic Oath taken by all physicians: "First, cause no harm." Over thousands of years, neem has been used by hundreds of millions of people and no hazards have been documented for normal dosages. Only at very high levels may neem be toxic, something each of us understands can be true of anything taken internally.
Neem in the Indian Vedas
Neem is also called ‘ Arista ’ in Sanskrit- a word that means ‘perfect, complete and imperishable’. The Sanskrit name ‘ Nimba ’ comes from the term ‘ Nimbati Syasthyamdadati ’ which means ‘to give good health’. ‘ Pinchumada ’ another name of Neem in Sanskrit means the destroyer of leprosy and healer of skin infections. Its medicinal qualities are outlined in the earliest Sanskrit writings and its uses in Hindu medicine that dates back to very remote times. The earliest authentic record of the curative properties of Neem and is uses in the indigenous system of medicine in India is found in Kautilya’s “Arthashastra" around 4th century BC.
Neem's medicinal properties are listed in the ancient documents ‘ Carak- Samhita ’ and ‘ Susruta-Samhita ’, the books at the foundation of the Indian system of natural treatment, Ayurveda. Ayurveda is the ancient Indian system of medicine, which emphasizes a holistic approach to human health and well being. It is described in the Ayurvedic texts as ‘ sarva roga nivarini ’ (a universal reliever of all illness). Neem has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for more than 4,000 years due to its medicinal properties. Records show that the non-edible Neem oil was perhaps the oldest known medicinal oil. Almost every part of the Neem tree has been documented for some medicinal use. They are: Tonic and anti-periodic (root bark, stem bark, and young fruit), antiseptic and local stimulant (seed, oil, and leaves), stimulant tonic and stomachic (flowers), demulcent tonic (gum), and refreshing, nutrient, and alternative tonic (toddy). Neem bark leaves, and fruits have been used in Ayurvedic medicines for a long time and are described in ancient writing of Sushruta.
The ‘ Upavanavinod ’, an ancient Sanskrit treatise dealing with forestry and agriculture, cites neem as a cure for ailing soils, plants and livestock. Neem cake, the residue from the seeds after oil extraction, is fed to livestock and poultry, while its leaves increase soil fertility. The ‘ Brihat Samhita ’ of
Unani scholars knew Neem’s properties beneficial to human health and named it as ‘ Shajar-e-Munarak ’, or the blessed tree. Persian scholars called Neem “Azad dirakht-I-Hind,” meaning the noble or free tree of India
Neem in Hindu Mythology
Neem is deeply imbued with spiritual meaning. Its curative properties were attributed to the fact that a few drops of heavenly nectar fell upon it. A lot of stories had been muttered in the past of Ancient Indian History consider Neem to be of divine origin. Few are here:
Few drops of Amrita (Ambrosia, the elixir of immortality) was dropped on the Neem trees which was carried by The Garuda (part human and part bird: creature from Hindu Mythology) to the heaven.
In other story, Amrita was sprinkled by ‘ Indira ’ (the celestial kind) on the earth, which gave rise to the neem tree and thereby bestowing upon it numerous of much properties of much use to humans better than those of ‘ Kalpa-vriksha ‘, the wish-fulfilling tree.
In another instance neem tree is related to ‘ Dhanmantri ’ (the Aryan god of medicine). The ancient Hindus believed that planting neem trees ensured a passage to heaven. It was believed that the goddess of smallpox, ‘ Sithala ’, lived in the neem tree.
Neem and Rural India
Even today, rural Indians refer to the neem tree as their village pharmacy because they use it for so many ailments. Access to its various products has been free or cheap. There are some 14 million neem trees in India and the age-old village techniques for extracting the seed oil and pesticidal emulsions do not require expensive equipment. Its leaves are stung on the main entrance to remain away from the evil spirits. Brides take bath in the water filled with the Neem leaves. Newly born babies are laid upon the Neem leaves to provide them with the protective aura. Neem gives out more oxygen than other trees. The neem tree is also connected with the Sun, in the story of Neembark 'The Sun in the Neem tree'.
Neem Industry in India
Neem is a mature and organized industry in India with a well-laid out system of collection, processing and marketing. In the last couple of years, products made out of Neem are gaining greater acceptance in certified organic farming. In the last 70 years, there has been considerable research upon the properties of neem carried in institutes ranging from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute and the Malaria Research Centre to the Tata Energy Research Institute and the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC). A number of neem-based commercial products, including pesticides, medicines and cosmetics, have come on the market in recent years, some of them produced in the small-scale sector under the banner of the KVIC, others by medium-sized laboratories.
Neem, still the holy tree for rural Indians
In Andhra Pradesh, south of central India, Neem in Telgu language is known as ‘ Vepa ’ or the purifier of air. Mere presence of the Neem tree near human dwellings is believed to materially improve human health and even act as a prophylactic against malarial fever and even cholera. In Uttar Pradesh in northern India, village surrounded with Neem trees, were frequently cited as proverbially free form fever, when the neighbouring villages without Neem suffered severely (Mitra 1963). Belief in curative properties of Neem in some population in India is so strong that it defies explanation. In south India, people lay a patient suffering from smallpox, chickenpox, or even syphilis on a bed of Neem leaves and fanned with a Neem branch. The medicinal properties of neem help him to suffer less and regain his health sooner. The Khasi and jaintia tribes in northeastern India use Neem leaves for curing diarrhea and dysentery, while leaves and fruits are used in treating tuberculosis and heart diseases. Because of such diverse curative properties, Neem is appropriately known as “ The Village Pharmacy ” in rural India and has secured a place in the Indian Pharmacopoeia. The common preparations are the powdered bark, the fresh leaves, a decoction and tincture of powdered bark, and a poultice of Neem leaves. The bark is said to be astringent, tonic and anti-periodic, while the leaves are said to act as a stimulant application to indolent and ill-conditioned ulcers.
Neem in other countries
Neem’s reputation as a reliever of sickness has traveled to far off countries in tropical Africa where it was introduced a century ago and even Latin America, where it was introduced in the past decade. In Kenya and neighboring countries in eastern Africa, Neem in Kiswahili language is known as ‘ Mwarunaini ’ meaning the reliever of 40 humans disorders. In Niger in West Africa the most often usage of Neem oil also is for medicinal purpose.
Neem et archéologie/ Neem et L’Inde ..,
Amrita was sprinkled by ‘ Indira ’ (the celestial kind) on the earth, which gave rise to the neem tree
Sarva Roga Nivarini
Neem, an universal reliever of all illness
The Village Pharmacy
Neem, the holy tree for rural Indians