Azadirachta indica is "tailor-made for combating the serious problems confronting mankind today" says the Neem Foundation. " Studies through appropriate scientific channels are increasing and verifying the traditional uses and are finding even more uses for neem. Although major studies to conclusively prove neem's effectiveness are limited by financing and the general lack of knowledge in the West about it, preliminary studies suggest exciting uses for neem."
From the very beginning of recorded human history, people have used the mysterious neem tree. Today, rural Indians call this tree their "village pharmacy" because it is said to "cure" diseases and disorders ranging from bad teeth and bedbugs to ulcers and malaria. The seeds, bark and leaves contain compounds called limonoids with proven antiseptic, antiviral, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer and antifungal uses.
Neem has a cousin that is a very familiar tree in the United States called the Chinaberry. Many North Americans are familiar with the abundant Chinaberry tree,
Melia azedarach . Also known as umbrella tree, this naturalized western Asian tree is a colonizer of disturbed sites throughout the South. It can be messy with surface roots, brittle wood, and toxic berries. However, it has an ability to grow in hostile sites and produce desirable shade.
Neem, on the other hand, is a sturdy, broadleaved evergreen. In the seasonally dry hills of central India, Azadirachta indica , is very much in existence with the people and animals in villages and along roadsides. It will defoliate during periods of extreme drought or freezing temperatures. Native to the dry forest areas of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, neem thrives in the dry areas of the tropics and subtropics.
Mature neem trees are capable of withstanding mild freezes and can be grown in some of the United States south, along coastal California to San Francisco and on the East coast as far north as central Florida. In freeze zones they must be grown potted and taken in during cold snaps.
I was shocked at the reported uses of the neem tree. Most of this is supported by some scientific study. Much more investigation is needed, however.
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