Article submitted by Nirupa Gadi, Student at CHS
In September,I had gone on a two week long visit to India for my cousin’s wedding. At my grandfather’s house in Kanakaneri, a very rural town with lots of jungle, I discovered a very beautiful and unusual looking plant while I was walking through the 10-acre mango garden with my grandfather.
Picking a branch of the tree, I asked my grandfather what the plant was called. He replied by telling me that the plant was called neem-a highly medicated plant only found in Southern Asia. Because I want to become a medical doctor, news about such a plant sparked my interest. I read some scientific literature works and collected and compiled information on the plant.
Neem is a very fast growing evergreen; it is a part of the mahogany family and is very common in the dry, tropical regions of India. Its binomial name is Azadirachta indica. Neem is very relied upon in every part of the world, being used as a pesticide to stomach ulcers to even cosmetic uses.
In the process of discovery, I also noticed that neem is also used for agriculture and farming.
India is a very agrarian society, with over 100 million farmers living there. Of course, as many Montanans will know, the worst fear of any farmer is having their crops destroyed by insects.
Chemical insecticide may seem like a viable option, but they can leave residue in the plant and can be toxic. Instead, many farmers in India have decided to start using the plant as a pesticide.
The bitter tasting plant repels all insects, naturally and effectively, without damaging the crop. The plant is very toxic to insects but not to humans. You would be surprised to know that body soap and toothpaste being made from neem leaves and are being sold. Even the Montana State University Western Triangle Ag Research Center has begun to use extracts from this miracle plant for insecticide trials.
Medically speaking, the entire plant can be used to make medicine. The leaf of the plant is used for leprosy, eye disorders, intestinal worms, skin ulcers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, fever, gingivitis, and liver problems.
The bark can cure malaria, stomach and intestinal ulcers, skin disease, fever, and it is also a painkiller. The flower can control bile and mucus and kills off intestinal parasites immediately. Hemorrhoids, intestinal worms, UT disorder, leprosy, diabetes, eye disorders, can be cured with the fruit.
Neem twigs can be used for cough, asthma, hemorrhoids, intestinal worms, urinary disorders, and diabetes. The seed and its oil are used for leprosy, intestinal worms, and birth control. The stem, root, and bark can be used as a tonic, skin softener, or astringent (tissue contractor, for younger looking skin).
Before I had left for India, my biology teacher,. Steve Lockyer, had asked me to bring back an artifact from India that related to biology. Keeping this plant in mind, I created a herbarium with a branch that I had picked, framed it, and brought it back to school to show as demonstration to other students.
Neem is a very remarkable and beneficial plant, and I know that it can benefit us even more once people get word of its unique uses.
We have lots of natural resources, and we should keep exploring the possibilities of finding them and using them for our living.