Neem comes from a tree, Azadirachta indica, that grows in parts of Asia such as India and Pakistan. People can use parts of the neem tree, such as its leaves and bark, for medicinal purposes. The fruit and flowers of the tree are also beneficial to people. Neem uses also include pesticides and cleansers.
People living in India have known of the many neem uses for thousands of years. The Vedas, ancient Sanskrit texts, explain how to use every part of the tree medicinally. Due to the many neem uses, Indians commonly refer to the tree as the "Village Pharmacy." They use its leaves to brush their teeth and as a treatment for arthritis, fever and parasites.
Another common use for neem is treating skin problems, such as eczema and acne. Washing the face with a gentle neem soap may help clear up a person's acne, since neem has some antibacterial properties. Neem leaf paste can be used to treat specific blemishes. Applying neem oil to the skin can help to prevent flare-ups of eczema by keeping the skin properly moisturized. Other neem uses for eczema include calming irritation and inflammation if a person is experiencing a flare-up.
Two compounds found in neem, nimbin and nimbidin, give it its anti-inflammatory properties. Nimbin also fights bacteria and fungus while nimbidin can work as an analgesic and help fight pain. The tree contains many other chemicals such as salannin, azadirachtin, and quercetin which can act as insect repellents, pesticides, and fungicides.
Neem's anti-insect properties make it a suitable treatment for scabies and head lice in humans. Traditional neem uses for scabies involve mashing the tree's leaves into a paste and spreading the paste all over the body. An easier way to use neem to treat scabies is to add a few tablespoons of the oil to a warm bath and soak in the tub for about 20 minutes. A person can also treat scabies locally by applying neem lotion to the affected part of his skin.
Head lice can be killed by neem. A person can wash his hair with a shampoo that contains neem extract to kill the lice. A more effective way of killing lice and their eggs may be to apply neem oil directly to the scalp and let it sit for several minutes, then rinse. Since neem is effective at killing insects, it is also used as a pesticide in the garden.