Neem - traditional medicine

Neem has been widely valued for over 4000 years as a medicine in South Asia. Every part of it is used particularly to treat infections, skin conditions and reduce swellings. It is also used as a pesticide to protect food and other products from being eaten by insects and in cosmetics. Neem is often the subject of scientific experiments.

Neem remedies

Leaves, bark, twigs and the oil from the seeds have antimicrobial activity and can be applied to swellings and boils. One of the Sanskrit names for neem is 'pichumarda'. The word 'pichu' means leprosy, so its name reflects the use of its seed oil as a treatment for leprosy and other skin diseases. The oil was also used to massage people with swelling of the joints caused by arthritis. In India the twigs are sold in markets as tooth picks and chew sticks where they are believed to help clean teeth and kill bacteria.
A photograph of a sample of neem bark housed in Kew's Economic Botany Collection.
Neem bark has been used to treat a variety of conditions.

Extracts of the bark and twigs have been used to treat fevers, thirst, sickness and vomiting. Fever is a symptom of many diseases including malaria. When neem was used to treat malaria it was often mixed with coriander and ginger. This mixture was believed to be more efficient than quinine, a compound from a South American tree that is a well-known treatment for malaria. The bark has also been used to prepare various medicines to treat jaundice, anorexia, dysentery and worms.

The leaves have been prescribed to aid the digestive system and to stimulate the liver. Infusions of the leaves were also used to treat lung conditions and to decrease levels of glucose in the blood of patients suffering from diabetes.

This information is provided for general interest only. It is not intended as guidance for medicinal use. Further information on using herbal medicines is available.