The Health Benefits of Neem

Neem

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Neem (Azadirachta indica) is a type of evergreen tree native to India. In Ayurvedic medicine, neem extract has long been used for a variety of health-related purposes.

While neem oil is generally applied to the scalp or skin to treat conditions like dandruff and acne, the extract of the neem leaf is typically taken orally. In some cases, the bark, flowers, and fruit of the neem tree are also used medicinally.

In alternative medicine, neem is said to help with a number of health problems, including:

Additionally, neem is purported to reduce inflammation, improve liver health, alleviate pain, preserve eyesight, stimulate the immune system, and protect against heart disease.

Health Benefits

Although few scientific studies have tested the health effects of neem, there's some evidence that it may offer certain benefits. Here's a look at some key findings from the available research:

Dental Health

Neem may help fight plaque buildup and prevent gingivitis, several studies suggest.

In a 2017 study, 20 subjects were given mouthwash with either chlorhexidine gluconate, a substance commonly used to prevent gum disease, or neem. The researchers found neem mouthwash was as effective as the medication and suggest neem may be a cost-effective alternative to chlorhexidine gluconate treatments.

An earlier study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology 36 men were assigned to six weeks of treatment with either a gel containing neem extract, or mouthwash containing chlorhexidine gluconate. Study results showed that the neem-based gel was more effective in reducing plaque buildup than the mouthwash.

In addition, a study published in the Indian Journal of Dental Research in 1999 determined that the use of chewing sticks made with neem extract may help protect against the buildup of bacteria associated with cavity formation and periodontal disease.

Ulcers

Neem shows promise in the treatment of gastric ulcers, suggests a 2009 report from Phytotherapy Research. Analyzing findings from preliminary studies, scientists concluded that neem bark extract may help aid in ulcer control possibly by inhibiting the secretion of gastric acids.

Cancer

A 2011 research review published in Cancer Biology & Therapy indicates that neem may offer anti-cancer benefits, including immune-stimulating and tumor-suppressing properties. However, there is currently a lack of clinical trials testing the effectiveness of neem in the prevention or treatment of any type of cancer.

Possible Side Effects

Neem supplements are likely safe when taken orally short term for adults, but should not be used in children.

While doses of up to 60 mg daily for up to 10 weeks have been safely used in human research, little is known about the safety of long-term use of neem supplements.

Since neem may increase activity in the immune system, it's crucial for people with autoimmune disorders (such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis) to take caution when using neem. People who are taking lithium or immunosuppressants should not take neem.

In addition, people taking diabetes medication should consult their physician prior to using neem. Because neem may reduce blood sugar levels, using neem in combination with diabetes medications may cause blood sugar to drop to dangerously low levels.

Neem may have a negative interaction with lithium, altering the body's ability to metabolize the drug and could lead to dangerous interactions.

There's also some concern that neem may cause damage to the kidneys and liver, and may lower sperm counts.

Selection, Preparation & Storage

Widely available for purchase online, neem supplements can also be found in many natural-foods stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements. Neem is sold as capsules, tinctures, powders, oils, cream, and in mouthwash.

There is no standard dosing for neem as there is not enough scientific evidence to support any dose. It is recommended to follow the instructions on the product label.

Dietary supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. To ensure you are purchasing a quality product look for a trusted independent, third-party seal on the label, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or ConsumerLab.

Common Questions

Is neem an effective insect repellant?

When it comes to repelling mosquitos and other insects, neem oil works similarly to citronella. You can use neem oil as an insect repellant by applying the oil to the skin or using it as a lantern or as incense. A 2015 study in Malaria Journal found a 20% neem formula is more than 70% effective against mosquitos and the protection lasts about three hours. Researchers noted, however, that neem is not as effective as DEET in repelling mosquitos.

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