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Herb of the Month (May): Neem

Updated: May 27, 2020

Get clean, green and trim with antiviral, anti-inflammatory Neem

English Name: Neem

Sanskrit Name: Nimba

Botanical name: Azadirachta Indica

Beat the bloat (sausage fingers anyone?)

As we swiftly move from the cooler wet months of spring to warmer summer days we can begin to feel the effects of the changing environment in our body. We may begin to sweat a lot more as our we acclimatise to the changing heat and we may find our hands and feet feeling a little swollen after exercise. By May, much of the winter fat will now be purged from the body and you might already be feeling a little lighter and fresher, if that's you, congrats! If not, don't worry, some of us (Kapha Pitta types) might need a helping hand, particularly if heavy wintery foods are still a big part of our diet (sadly, heavy meats and lots of grains should be put away until Autumn).

Fortunately, a fantastic herb in the Ayurveda arsenal is Neem. Neem supports the bodies natural cleansing processes and, as a potent detoxifier and anti-inflammatory, helps to reduce swelling in the body and pain of inflammatory conditions such as ama vata (rheumatoid arthritis).

Natural anti-everything (everything bad anyway!)

Being an effective natural anti-inflammatory and detoxifier, Neem has also been used in Ayurveda for thousands of years as an antibiotic, antiviral, anti-fungal and antiseptic. Neem is considered to be an infectious disease panacea as it contains a vast spectrum of antioxidants which have potent free radical scavenging action. Interestingly, Neem leaves also contain a phytochemical which act as a neurotoxin to intestinal parasites, making it useful in the treatment of intestinal worms.

The antiviral properties of Neem have also been investigated with research showing that certain extracts of neem leaf and neem seed are effective against the malarial parasite. The compound Gedunin, is argued to be as effective as quinine on malaria-infected cell cultures (Khalid et al, 1986; Khalid et al, 1989).

Health benefits

Neem, being cooling, bitter and astringent, is used primarily in pitta and kapha disorders such inflammation, fever, inflamed and weepy skin conditions and when there is ama (heavy toxic load), weight gain and congestion. With Summer being a pitta dominant season, using Neem can help to clear excess heat (pitta) and cholesterol (kapha) from the liver and blood leaving your feeling lighter, cooler and fresher.

Ayurvedic perspective

Taste (Rasa): Bitter (tikta), kasaya (astringent)

Qualities (Guna): Light (Laghu), Dry (ruksa),

Virya (Potency): Cold (sita)

Vipaka (Post-digestive effect): Pungent (katu)

Dosha: Pacifies pitta (fire/water) and kapha (earth/water) dosha

Ayurvedic actions:

- Increases appetite (deepaniya)

- Reduces toxic load (pachaniya)

- Rakthasodhana (cleanses the blood)

- Reduces skin disease (kusthagna)

- Reduces coughs and wheezing (svasakasahara)

- Scrapes fat and cholesterol (lekhaniya)

- Supports management of rheumatoid (amavatahara)

- Antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-viral (bhutagna)

- Reduces fevers (jvaraghna)

Scientific actions – Antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, antiviral, antibiotic, immunomodulator. Contains a neurotoxin that paralyses parasites. Uterine tonic and hypocholesterolemic.

Contraindications/when not to use Neem

- Not safe during pregnancy

- Too potent for children

- Not suitable for those trying to conceive

- Not recommended for those with high vata, wasting or debility

- Neem oil should never be taken internally or applied externally neat


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