Neem tree is indigenous to India, Burma, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. It is referred by variant names as Dogon Yaro (Nigeria), Neeb, Margosa (Arabic), Azad Dirakht (Persian). This evergreen shady tree grows luxuriously in the tropical and semi-tropical zones of the world and reaches height up to 20 meters and sometimes above. Oil can be extracted from the neem tree essentially from its fruit kernel. Approximately 2kg of kernels can be hauled from single neem tree. The neem oil contains active and potent chemical ingredients collectively referred to as limanoids such as nimbin, nimbinin, nimbidin and azadirectin whose application helps alleviate many ailments in humans, plants and animals. The neem oil is used in the preparation of cosmetics, creams and toiletries. It is known to have antifungal, antihelmintic, antidiabetic, antibacterial, anti-infertility and antiviral properties. This makes this all purpose tree revered amongst the local population. They use different parts of the tree variously such as
• Neem twigs serve as natural and very effective tooth cleanser.
• The tree is endowed with a thick crown embellished with dark green leaflets adorning the entire cover whilst providing cooling effect to people sitting under its soothing shade.
• The tree is an effective carbon dioxide sink and emitter of the life giving oxygen. In the rural heartlands village folks can be seen sitting under its blessed shade. Farmers slogging in the fields since early mornings relax under its comforting shade during lunch hours before collecting their energies to work for the next half of the day especially during summers.
• The gum extracted from the bark of neem tree is widely used in the preparation of unique food especially catering to the needs of the diabetic patients. It is known to be naturally rich in proteins.
• Practically every part of the neem tree is used in the preparation of medicines of the specific types.
• Neem oil is used in curing acne, maintaining skin elasticity and other skin ailments such as psoriasis and eczema besides its use as fuel in burning lamps in villages.
• Neem tree is imbued with several non-toxic biopesticidal properties. It does so by altering the life cycle and growth regulating activities such as molting of the insects through its constituent azadirectin contained in its leaves, bark and kernel. This chemical is an effective antifeedent and prevents the glutton larva from feeding on leaves etc. Dried leaves are placed amongst expensive silk clothes to prevent the attack by mites and boll weevils.
• Drinking water in which neem leaves have been boiled helps in eliminating belly worms. Treating hair with a last rinse with such a decoction helps in getting rid from head lice.
• Mix 50:50 neem oil and coconut oil and massage on hair. This not only provides relief from dandruff but help the scalp healthy. It helps to keep in mind that scalp devoid of fungus helps in the healthy growth of head hair and also it’s prevents graying.
• Interestingly neem oil has spermicidal properties. Application of Neem oil inside the vagina helps delay conception.
• The wood of neem tree is hard and has antiseptic properties making it desirable to be used as timber for making furniture.
• Its fruit pulp can be used as effectual manure to uplift soil fertility especially for vegetable plants.
Currently much research is on going on this well-regarded tree as solution to several of the modern day ailments as cure for cancer, providing relief from ulcer, diabetes and also AIDS.
The patenting of the extracts of the neem tree by the developed countries primarily USA had caused much furore amongst the Indian farmers following the presentation of ‘Drunkal Draft’ in 1994. Indian farmers exhibited their agitation against biopiracy of the indigenous knowledge and the natural gift of biodiversity besotted on them by Mother Nature. They opposed all those foreign companies who would try to confiscate the much valued facts native to the inhabitants of India since times immemorial. The agitation was successfully led by the renowned environmentalist Dr. Vandana Shiva and carried forward to the European Patent Office. Thankfully the patents on most of the biodiversity including on the ingredients of neem were revoked.