|Binomial name||Azadirachta indica|
Other Common Names:
The other common names for the neem tree are Nim, Margosa Tree, Vepa, Nimbay, Yepa, Pichumarda and Indian Lilac.
Azadirachta indica is "tailor-made for combating the serious problems confronting mankind today" says the Neem Foundation. From the very beginning of recorded human history, people have used the mysterious neem tree.Neem, still called "the village pharmacy" in its native India, is one of the most ancient and widely used herbs in the world.
Azadirachta indica, or Neem Tree, is an evergreen tree native to Southeast Asia. The tree will reach up to 100 feet (~30 m) tall with limbs reaching half as wide. Its deep root system is well adapted to retrieving water and nutrients from the soil profile, but this deep root system is very sensitive to water logging. The (white and fragrant) flowers are arranged axillary, normally in more-or-less drooping panicles which are up to 25 cm (10 in.)long. The inflorescences, which branch up to the third degree, bear from 150 to 250 flowers.
Native to the dry forest areas of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, neem thrives in the dry areas of the tropics and subtropics.Neem trees have successfully been established in Australia, Haiti, West Africa, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and in the continental United States in Florida, California, Oklahoma, and Arizona.
The neem tree thrives in hot, dry climates where shade temperatures often reach 50 degrees celsius and annual rainfall ranges from 400 to 1,200 millimeters. The tree can withstand many environmental adversities including drought and infertile, stony, shallow, or acidic soils.
Azadirachta indica will grow in full sun to partial shade, growing best in a well-drained soil mix. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of 1 part peat moss to 2 parts loam to 2 parts sand or perlite. Even though the trees are very drought tolerant in nature, they are less so in containers. Trees should be well watered and allowed to dry slightly before watering again. They are fertilized on a monthly basis during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer. During winter months, water should be restricted and fertilizer avoided during this period. All repotting and pruning should be done at this time.Azadirachta indica is propagated from cuttings, layers, removal of suckers and by fresh seed. Fresh seeds germinate readily in 14 to 21 days at 68 to 72° F (19-22° C).Seed propagation is the usual method of propagating a neem. In India, the crows eat the ripe neem fruits and pass the seeds through the digestive system. The bird-drops disseminate the seeds; the seeds germinate wherever the crows drop them.
White sweet scented tiny flowers borne in panicles which consist of polygamous & protandrous flowers which are in bloom from February to May.
Pests and Diseases
There are two things that could trouble the neem plant but they are both related to over watering like slugs and root rot.
Leaf, flower, seed, bark and the fruits of the neem tree are the most commonly used parts for its commercial and medicinal purposes.
• The seeds, bark and leaves contain compounds called limonoids with proven antiseptic, antiviral, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer and antifungal uses.
• Neem extracts give significant protection from discomfort and speed the healing of gastric problems.
• In India, Bangladesh and Pakistan neem twigs are used daily for tooth-brushing which is probably one of the earliest and one of the most effective forms of dental care.
• Gum is used as a bulking agent and also for making special purpose food especially for diabetics.
• Extracts from this plant are also currently being investigated for use against retroviruses, such as the AIDS virus; for treating cancer, diabetes, and allergies; and for birth control in both men and women.
• Neem inhibits allergic reactions when applied externally or eaten.
• Neem quickly kills external parasites and a neem decoction is safer than and just as effective as standard treatments for head lice and scabies.
• Neem delays the coagulation of blood, calms erratic heartbeats and helps reduce elevated heart rates and high blood pressure.
• Neem oil is used for burning lamps.
• Effective in repelling pests that affect people, like mosquitoes, fleas, ticks and head lice.
• Neem cake is used as a fertilizer with insecticidal and fungicidal effect.
• The oil is also used in sprays against fleas in cats and dogs.
• Neem timber is used to make agricultural implements, axles, beams, boats, boxes, cabinets, carts, cigar boxes, crates, doors, oars, panels, wardrobes, window frames, yokes, etc.
The tender shoots and flowers are eaten raw, very popular in making Ugadi Pachadi in South India. It is traditionally recommended during early summer in Ayurveda (that is, month of Chaitra as per the Hindu Calendar which usually falls in the month of March - April), and during Gudi Padva which is the New Year in the state of Maharashtra, we find an ancient practice of drinking a small quantity of neem juice or paste on that day before starting festivities.. It is said that the neem once sheltered Surya from demons according to the Brahma Purana and the Padma Purana. It is also considered sacred because the six goddesses who regulate disease are believed to live in it. These goddesses are said to infect people as a punishment for misconduct. The presence of these goddesses makes the neem a test of truth, for those who utter falsehoods beneath a neem are believed to fall violently ill.
Today, rural Indians call this tree their "village pharmacy" because it is said to "cure" diseases and disorders ranging from bad teeth and bedbugs to ulcers and malaria.Neem trees are cherished in India, where they are considered good luck. Drinking water boiled with neem leaves is said to purify the blood and heal a skin afflicted with measles and chicken-pox sores. During the rains, when most epidemics occur, women pray to the neem and make offerings at its base. The neem is also sacred to Manasadevi, queen of the serpents, who protects people from snakebite and so, is offered neem leaves at her altars. It is further believed that if a person lives on food cooked on a fire of neem wood, he will be immune to snake venom. To protect against any lingering infection, the Puranas urge that neem leaves are chewed after attending a funeral and should be strewn as an antiseptic barrier on the threshold of a house where a death has occurred. This rule was adopted to protect the mourners from the epidemics in earlier times. It is also believed that those possessed by evil spirits should be made to inhale the smoke of burnt neem leaves. In many communities neem leaves are hung in bunches at the entrance to the house as a symbolic way to keep out infestations and evil spirit.