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A Medicine Chest Hidden in the Neem Tree

Mukesh Khosla


Chance Discovery
The insect- repellant quality of neem was discovered quite by accident. Almost half century ago German scientist, Dr. Heinrich Schmetterer, was researching on a farm in Sudan when it was attacked by a swarm of locusts. Though he saved himself by diving for cover, the locusts laid waste to the entire farm. Later when the damage was being assessed a strange phenomenon was noticed. The locusts had destroyed everything except the neem trees.

The chance observation set Dr. Schmetterer thinking and when he returned to Germany he embarked on an extensive research to fathom the reason why the neem tree had been left untouched. Soon enough he had his answer. It was due to a complex compound found in the neem tree called azadirachton which repels over 250 species of crop destroying insects. The compound also retards development of larvae thereby decreasing the population of the pests.

Ever since the discovery in 1960, neem leaves have become a west-approved all-natural insecticide used in a variety of crops.

Potent Pharmacy
For decades now westerns scientists have begun decoding the therapeutic qualities of neem. German and American medical scientists in particular are carefully researching its healing and restorative properties and deducing things similar to what our ancestors have known all along - that neem has an overabundance of medicinal uses and can be a powerful pharmacy for a variety of ailments, adding years to a person’s life.

Ayurveda suggests many uses for neem. Its leaves are considered to be natural internal body cleansers. A concoction of the tree’s bark is said to be a natural antacid and also helps revitalise thinning hair. The neem flower can cure intestinal ailments while chewing its twigs can keep you away from a dental chair.

Neem has none of the side effects linked to many modern miracle drugs. It is nature’s most effective disease fighter. There is evidence to suggest that neem can reverse the process of clogging arteries, even after it has taken firm root. It acts as an antibiotic and anti inflammatory agent in fighting infections, relieving cold symptoms and combating allergies. Modern researchers have also discovered that neem seems to block the chemical process that turns normal cells into cancerous ones. In addition to this, it also stops the transformation of chemicals into carcinogens in the body.

Neem is a hardy tree and can be planted even in harsh soil conditions. It flourishes rapidly and does not demand abundant nourishment. It also has the unique quality of enriching the surrounding soil, making it more conducive for water retention as it contains compounds which neutralise the acidic content in the soil, thus benefiting the surrounding plants.

There is more to neem than meets the eye. In fact, a growing number of researchers believe that science hasn’t discovered even half the qualities of this wonder tree even as newer applications are being tested in the laboratories every few months.
It is not for nothing that a recent study by the American National Research Council says, “Neem is the most promising of all plants which may usher in a completely new era of pest control, provide millions with inexpensive medicines and even reduce the excessive temperature of an overheated globe.”


*With Inputs from Dr. S. K. Soni

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