Azadirachta indica (Neem) is a type of evergreen tree with origins in India. In Ayurvedic tradition, neem extract has long been used for various health-related purposes, including constipation, asthma, cough, gastric ulcers, diabetes, indigestion, urinary tract infection, and periodontal disease .
Neem is also purported to improve liver health, reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, stimulate the immune system, preserve eyesight, and protect against heart disease.
Neem leaves are comparatively abundant in active ingredients like Nimbin and Azadirachtin. These molecules can give you acne-free skin, dandruff-free hair, an ulcer-free stomach, and plaque-free teeth. Research studies on the effects of neem leaves against fevers and malaria have been gaining more attention.
Benefits of Neem Leaves
1. Possess Antioxidant Effects
According to studies, neem leaf extracts, flowers, and bark have predominant antioxidant properties. Polyphenols like nimbolide and Azadirachtin are majorly responsible for this effect. They scavenge free radicals from the body and prevent them from damaging vital organs and tissues .
Thus, using neem extracts or leaves can minimize the risk of cancers, atherosclerosis, cirrhosis, diabetes, and other inflammatory ailments. Dried neem leaves also have been shown to boost immunity in animal studies.
2. May Help Manage Hypoglycemia And Diabetes
Multiple animal studies confirm the antidiabetic effect of neem leaves. In subjects handling diabetes, 250 mg of neem leaf extract per kg of body weight was proved to lower glucose levels.
The leaf chemicals repress the activity of enzymes that are engaged in glucose metabolism. They regulate the amount of glucose released into the bloodstream, thereby preventing spikes in sugar levels.
Some animal trials claim these extracts could regenerate the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Neem leaves also lower triglyceride (cholesterol) and creatinine levels. This way, they may protect the pancreas, heart, kidneys, and liver from diabetes-induced inflammation.
3. May Heal Acne And Face/Skin Issues
Neem leaf extracts are applied externally on blisters and boils in traditional medicine. They are often used in anti-acne products. Along with neem, licorice, holy basil, and green tea extracts were identified with the potential to inhibit acne-causing bacteria (Staphylococcus epidermis and Propionibacterium) .
Decoctions and poultices of neem leaves are used to treat ringworm, septic sores, eczema, and maggot-infected wounds and burns. The active neem compounds can treat several bacterial and fungal skin infections, including athlete’s foot and abscesses.
4. May Protect The Liver
Neem’s bioactive constituents, including Azadirachtin, have potent hepatoprotective (liver-protective) properties. Animal subjects show a reduction in inflammatory liver enzymes’ levels when treated with these extracts.
Neem leaves could prevent changes in bilirubin and protein levels, which can lead to liver damage. Hence, you may use the extracts to treat liver injuries caused by drug overdose, especially those caused by generic paracetamol derivatives and an anti-tuberculosis medication overdose.
5. Have Anti-inflammatory Properties
Clinical trials show the anti-inflammatory effects of neem leaves at a dose of 200 mg/kg. Phytochemicals such as Nimbin suppress the functions of the immune system cells (e.g., neutrophils, macrophages) in response to inflammation.
The leaves could reduce pain, fever, and edema (swelling) in study subjects. They induce cell death in cancer cells and prevent cell death in damaged tissues. Hence, neem extracts have been used in dealing with inflammatory diseases of the heart, skin, liver, and kidneys.
6. May Exhibit Antimicrobial Effects
Neem seed, bark, leaf, and fruit extracts were investigated for their antimicrobial properties. The leaves showed a substantial effect on foodborne pathogens. Consuming them orally could kill endodontic fungi and bacteria. Cladosporium, Aspergillus, Alternaria, and related fungal species are notably susceptible to neem leaves.
These leaves have also been investigated for their antiviral effects. According to experimental research, they interfere with the viral replication cycles. This leads to the inactivation of the virus and minimizes the new virus yield in the host. Put merely, neem extracts can effectively lower the severity of a viral infection.
7. May Promote Dental Health
Azadirachtin, Nimbidin, and nimbinin, the main active constituents of neem leaves, are responsible for their antibacterial effects. They are also found in the bark of this tree. Both of these (neem bark and leaves) are used in many kinds of toothpowders and toothpaste.
They eliminate fungi and bacteria inhabiting the gums and teeth. The extracts, thus, can relieve tooth decay, gingivitis, mouth ulcers, plaque, and dental caries. Several neem products (oil, twigs, gel-cream, mouthwashes, etc.) have also been reported to help in dealing with oral cancers.
8. May Help Treat Parasitic Diseases And Malaria
This plant is proven to have antiplasmodic and antimalarial effects. Studies show how neem extracts could minimize the number of malarial parasites by 50%. Limonoids and Azadirachtin available in these extracts eliminate Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium berghei in affected individuals.
However, some trials claim neem to be unsuccessful against these parasites. Hence, advanced studies are required to substantiate the efficacy and safety of neem leaves as an antimalarial drug replacement.
9. May Aid Cancer Treatment
The extracts of leaves, seeds, flowers, and fruits of neem have shown antitumor effects against different cancer types. Their phytochemicals induce cell death and inhibit cell proliferation in cancer cells. They also boost the immune response against the migration of tumors.
Terpenoids, Flavonoids, tannins, proteins, coumarins, and polysaccharides in neem seeds and leaves have been associated with such anticancer effects. They have antioxidant, cytotoxic, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Therefore, neem is one of the most researched herbal remedies for helping the treatment of ovarian, cervical, stomach, breast, oral, blood, prostate, and liver cancers.
Though proof is insufficient, neem leaves are believed to ease digestion. They reduce gut inflammation, ulcers, and other related issues if taken in limited amounts. As neem treats almost every organ system of the body, various kinds of neem products have been produced to date.
Ancient and modern research emphasizes the health benefits of neem leaves. The leaves have potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antimalarial, antipyretic, and anticancer effects. Use them in small, regulated amounts to maximize their benefits on the liver, heart, skin, eyes, hair, brain, teeth, and gut.
But, beware of their adverse effects. Talk to the healthcare provider about the dosage and safety of neem leaves before taking the plunge.