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Neem is an amazing Ayurvedic herb used for thousands of years for inflammation, infections, antioxidant support, dental health, and skin health. It is a tall tree (Azadirachta indica) in the Mahogany family native to India and Burma but now also in the Caribbean and South America. There are millions of neem trees in India and surrounding countries, found in areas like road-sides and backyards. Neem oil is obtained from the seeds within the fruit. The kernel contains up to 50% oil. More than 100 constituents have been isolated from the neem tree, and all the parts are used medicinally: leaves, flowers, seeds, fruits, twigs, roots and bark.

Dosha: PK-

Taste: Bitter, pungent, astringent

Energetics: Cooling

Traditionally, neem is a valuable herb used medicinally by local populations. This practice has continued into modern times.

  • Neem oil and tea was applied on babies and toddlers for illnesses, cuts, rashes, eczema
  • Neem leaves were boiled in water and used for washing wounds
  • Neem leaves were given for children’s intestinal worms, malaria, and fever
  • Neem is added to soaps
  • Neem is added to shampoos for controlling dandruff, scalp issues, and healthy hair
  • Neem is added to toothpastes and tooth powders for its antibacterial effects to support teeth and gum health
  • Neem twigs have been used for centuries to clean teeth as natural toothbrushes.
  • Neem is added to skin care products for psoriasis, eczema, and acne
  • Neem is taken internally as a supplement

Dental Health

Studies in Germany have shown that neem extract prevents tooth decay and is anti-inflammatory on the gums. It helps reduce the risk of periodontal disease and studies show it inhibits bacteria that’s involved in creating cavities. Neem is now added to more toothpastes and you can do an infusion of neem leaves to use as mouthwash. I love neem so much that I made my own Tooth Powder with Neem

First Aid

Neem is antibacterial, antiviral, and healing agent, thus it is great to have as a first aid option.

  • Cuts and wounds – Apply oil, or wash with neem soap. It increases blood flow and helps heal.
  • Burns – Apply oil or cream to decrease pain, kill bacteria, and stimulate immunity for healing
  • Sprains and bruises – Apply leaf tea, cream, or oil. It heals and increases blood flow
  • Ear ache – Apply directly to the ear canal to decreases inflammation and kill bacteria
  • Fever – Drink leaf tea to reduce fever

Infectious Diseases

Neem has shown in studies to inhibit various microorganisms that cause diseases. It is antimicrobial against food-borne pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus/pyogenes, E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Bacillus cereus, and Salmonella, as well as various gram-negative bacteria. It kills sandflies causing Leishmaniasis. It inhibits the malaria parasite and chloroquinine-resistant malaria and reduce transmission of malaria. It is used to treat cholera and diarrhea especially traditionally in India. It inhibits Dengue virus. It reduces Chagas disease which affects millions of people in developing countries.

Skin and Hair

Neem has many skin benefits and applications. You can use neem oil, soap, cream or bath for healing eczema and psoriasis, while reducing inflammation. Neem lotion is good for dry skin and wrinkles. Neem in shampoos and hair products helps reduce dandruff, scaly flakes, and heal scalp issues. Neem is used in mosquito repellants and kills lice. Neem soap or cream is used to reduce acne and reduce acne-causing bacteria. You can do a neem powder paste for your hair as a hair mask to promote hair growth and quality.

Digestion

Neem is a bitter herb! Bitters have many digestive benefits, including stimulating digestive juice secretions, detoxifying the body, are antimicrobial, and support the liver. Neem is also anti-inflammatory and helps against inflammatory bowel disease and ulcers.

Blood Cleansing

Neem is a bitter herb, and like other bitters, it is known to support the liver detoxification pathways. It cleanses the blood and skin through its cooling properties (cooling pitta skin inflammation), removing toxins, providing antioxidant support, and supporting the immune system.  

Cancer

There are many studies showing anti-cancer effects of neem preparations and extracts. It works on various aspects of cancer such as antioxidant defenses, inhibition of proliferation, modulating various cell signaling pathways, tumour suppressor genes (e.g., p53, pTEN), angiogenesis (VEGF), transcription factors (e.g., NF-κB), and apoptosis factors (e.g., bcl2, bax).

I encourage you to get more neem into your life! Whether it is through herbal supplements or external uses, I’m sure you can benefit from its healing properties.

 

References:

Neem: A Tree for Solving Global Problems Report, National Research Council 1992 

Udeinya IJ, et al. Fractions of an antimalarial neem-leaf extract have activities superior to chloroquine, and are gametocytocidal. Ann Trop Med Parasitol. 2006. 100(1):17-22.

Mahfuzul Hoque MD, et al. Antibacterial activity of guava (Psidium guajava L.) and Neem (Azadirachta indica A. Juss.) extracts against foodborne pathogens and spoilage bacteria. Foodborne Pathog Dis. 2007. 4(4):481-8

Prashant GM, et al. 2007. The effect of mango and neem extract on four organisms causing dental caries: Streptococcus mutans, Streptococcus salivavius, Streptococcus mitis, and Streptococcus sanguis: an in vitro study. Indian J Dent Res. 18(4):148-51.

Abdel-Ghaffar F, Al-Quraishy S, Al-Rasheid KA, Mehlhorn H. 2011. Efficacy of a single treatment of head lice with a neem seed extract: an in vivo and in vitro study on nits and motile stages. Parasitol Res.

Harish Kumar G, et al. 2009. Nimbolide a limonoid from Azadirachta indica inhibits proliferation and induces apoptosis of human choriocarcinoma (BeWo) cells. Invest New Drugs. 27(3):246-52.

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There is an important Ayurvedic herb that I want to talk to about, and that is Gotu Kola! Cantella asiatica has been thought of as a promoter for longevity and used by South East Asian cultures for millennia. It grows in the Himalayas and was used by yogis for meditation, as it has been said to develop the crown chakra (at the top of the head) and is a very spiritual herb. In Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine it was used for many health issues. In fact, a study in 2018 that examined the indigenous uses of plants as medicine in Northern Bengal of India, found that among the 100 plant species used locally, gotu kola was the most widely used, and for conditions such as diabetes, pain, jaundice, typhoid, gastroenteritis, pneumonia, and dysentery.

Dosha – VPK =

Taste: bitter, sweet, astringent

Energetics: cooling

Parts used: aerial parts

Ingredients

Gotu kola has carotenoids, B vitamins, vitamin C, protein, minerals, flavonoids, volatile oils, tannins, polyphenols. It also has asiaticoside and madecassoside which are anti-inflammatory and antioxidants. It also contains Asiatic acid and saponins. These ingredients make gotu kola good for inflammation, memory, wound healing, and promote collagen. 

Skin

Gotu Kola is known for skin healing and skin issues. Ayurveda used it for wounds, burns, scratches, eczema and skin inflammation. It promotes collagen and healing of scar tissue. Research has shown it improves wounds, burns, and psoriasis by increasing collagen synthesis, hyaluronic acid content, and inhibiting inflammation and scar formation. Studies on people also showed beneficial effects on cellulite. Madecassoside is prescribed in Asia for wound healing and scars.

Nervous System and Memory

Gotu kola was used in Ayurveda as a nerve tonic. In fact it has shown in many studies to be neuroprotective and enhance memory. It promotes enhanced scores on intelligence tests. It improves memory and cognitive function. Gotu kola promotes axonal regeneration following nerve damage. Madecassoside and Asiatic acid are agents that decrease neuroinflammation. Gotu kola has shown promising results in Alzheimer’s disease studies as well.

Adrenals

Gotu Kola has shown anti-stress and reduction of anxiety properties in humans.

Cardiovascular

Gotu kola helps reduce arterial plaque and Asiaticoside is anti-inflammatory and inhibits early events of atherosclerosis.

Digestion

Gotu kola helps protect against stomach ulcers and protects the mucosal lining of the stomach, where ulcers form.  

How to take Gotu Kola

You can eat gotu kola as a leafy green mixed with other greens in salads (such as Gotu Kola Sambola from Sri Lanka) or cooked into various recipes. You can make a tea, or blend some leaves into a smoothie. You can also blend gotu kola leaves alone into a smoothie and then use a strainer to separate the juice and drink it this way.

You can also find Gotu Kola in the form of pills, powders, tinctures, teas, and the dry herb, or even grow your own! There are many ways you can benefit from taking this wonderful herb!

 

 

References

Antony Joseph Raj et al. Indigenous uses of ethnomedicinal plants among forest-dependent communities of Northern Bengal, India. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2018; 14: 8.

Wiesława Bylka et al. Centella asiatica in cosmetologyPostepy Dermatol Alergol. 2013 Feb; 30(1): 46–49.

Liu M et al. Anti-rheumatoid arthritic effect of madecassoside on type II collagen-induced arthritis in mice. Int Immunopharmacol. 2008 Nov;8(11):1561-6.

Xu Y et al. Gotu Kola (Centella Asiatica) extract enhances phosphorylation of cyclic AMP response element binding protein in neuroblastoma cells expressing amyloid beta peptide. J Alzheimers Dis. 2008 Apr;13(3):341-9.

Ahmad Rather M et al. Asiatic acid nullified aluminium toxicity in in vitro model of Alzheimer’s disease. Front Biosci (Elite Ed). 2018 Jan 1;10:287-299.

Hossain S et al. Medicinal value of asiaticoside for Alzheimer’s disease as assessed using single-molecule-detection fluorescence correlation spectroscopy, laser-scanning microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and in silico docking. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2015 Apr 14;15:118.

Soumyanath A et al. Centella asiatica accelerates nerve regeneration upon oral administration and contains multiple active fractions increasing neurite elongation in-vitro. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2005 Sep;57(9):1221-9.

Sasmita AO et al. Madecassoside activates anti‑neuroinflammatory mechanisms by inhibiting lipopolysaccharide‑induced microglial inflammation. Int J Mol Med. 2018 Feb 9.

Wattanathorn J et al. Positive modulation of cognition and mood in the healthy elderly volunteer following the administration of Centella asiatica. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008 Mar 5;116(2):325-32.

Sirichoat A et al. Effects of Asiatic Acid on Spatial Working Memory and Cell Proliferation in the Adult Rat Hippocampus. Nutrients. 2015 Oct 5;7(10):8413-23.

Belcaro G et al. Pycnogenol® and Centella asiatica to prevent asymptomatic atherosclerosis progression in clinical events. Minerva Cardioangiol. 2017 Feb;65(1):24

Jing L et al. Anti inflammatory effect of asiaticoside on human umbilical vein endothelial cells induced by ox-LDL. Cytotechnology. 2018 Feb 19.

 

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