Raised in Felicity, I knew of the neem tree from childhood. When I took an agri-course pertaining to insecticides, I discovered its varied uses.
Few trees have been so beneficial to mankind. The coconut palm and bamboo have helped man throughout his existence, yet the neem tree deserves to be called a wonder plant. Once you know this tree you will recognise it grows everywhere.
Originating in India and Burma, neem is a fast-growing evergreen usually with a straight trunk. Neem is respected by many ancient cultures. The botanical name for the neem tree is Azadirachta indica, and this name defines the tree. In Hindi Azad means free, dirakht means tree, and Indica is India; so it is the free tree from India.
In Sanskrit neem is called Sarva Roga Nivarini, the curer of all ailments, or in the Muslim tradition, Shajar-e-Mubarak, the blessed tree.
Neem is also called arista in Sanskrit—a word that means perfect, complete and imperishable. Neem comes from the Sanskrit name "nimba" from the term "nimbati syasthyamdadati" which means "to give good health". Neem is also called margosa and is related to the mahogany family.
The neem tree is a fast-growing tropical evergreen that can reach 20 feet in a few years, and unless topped it can grow to 80 feet.
Neem is an excellent tree for shade, especially when it is covered with clusters of tiny white blossoms with a great aroma.
Neem produces a small edible fruit with one or two seeds. It generally begins bearing this olive-sized fruit at three to five years, and can produce up to a 100 pounds of fruit annually when mature. The seed is rich in oil with tremendous medicinal and botanical properties. The oil is easily obtained by pressing the kernels in a juicer.
This tree requires very little water. In times of severe drought it will lose most of its leaves.
The neem tree thrives in Trinidad. Look for it in front yards as many Hindus include this tree in their prayers.
The neem tree is an investment in a family's future as it can live for more than a century. The wood is termite resistant, and used for carpentry as well as construction.
These trees grow quickly even in poor soils, and can neutralise soil acidity by dropping its alkaline leaves.
The neem tree is perfect for inside an apartment or on a patio. It may be grown in pots with a minimum of care. Indoor neem should be placed near a sunny window and occasionally moved outside. However, they will survive indoors even if they don't receive any natural light. Its small, white flowers will fill your living space with a very sweet, jasmine-like scent. They grow best with some organic fertilisers such as fish emulsion and bone meal. Most problems with neem are due to over-watering.
Because of its healing and medicinal properties neem has been used in traditional Indian medicine for more than 4,000 years, and is known as the village pharmacy.
The seeds, bark, and leaves contain compounds with proven antiseptic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal uses.
Recently, Western countries started researching the benefits of the neem tree. This tree could begin a new era in pest control, provide millions with inexpensive medicines, cut down the rate of population growth, reduce erosion, deforestation and control the global warming process.
This wonder tree has pesticide, germicidal, and medicinal properties, and is perhaps able of solving many problems facing mankind today.
DID YOU KNOW?
Neem cake, the residue from the seeds after oil extraction, is fed to livestock and poultry, while its leaves increase soil fertility reducing acidity. A tea of neem leaves is reported to repel termites.
Neem grows so quickly it reduces erosion, deforestation, and helps control the global-warming process.
Neem oil is used as lamp oil, while the fruit pulp is useful in the manufacture of methane. Neem extracts have been approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency for use on food crops. It is a potent insecticide, is non-toxic to birds, animals, beneficial insects or man and protects crops from over 200 of the most costly pests including locusts, brown plant-hoppers, nematodes, and mosquito larvae.
NEEM PASTE – for topical treatment of acne, eczema, psoriasis
A basic neem leaf paste can be made by simply pounding fresh neem leaves, using a mortar and pestle. Apply it onto the affected skin and leave for 20 minutes or until nearly dry and then rinse.
Another variation is to soak the leaves in hot water until they soften. Once soft, crush the leaves in the same water until you have a paste. A little known way to make a very effective neem paste is to use the soft skin/bark of a young branch. Rub it on a rough surface with a little water until you get a brown paste.
Get a young, flexible branch of a neem tree, a twig that won't have a real dense bark, just a thin skin. Peel that skin off. Now chew one end of the stick. All the fibres will separate and the end will turn into a little brush.
Chewing the twig is already helpful as it releases the beneficial ingredients in neem to kill harmful bacteria, reduce inflammation, and stop plaque from sticking to your teeth. It tastes bitter. Rub over all sides of all teeth. Be careful not to injure the gums in the process. This is the part where you actually clean the teeth. Spit out all the little bits of neem fibre. The neem toothbrush is disposable, meant to be used only once.
NEEM LEAF TEA FOR FLEA CONTROL IN PETS
Neem leaf is very safe even when ingested in small amounts and shows no adverse side effects. Place fresh or dried neem leaves in a bowl and cover with water in a ratio of about two pounds of leaves to six quarts of water. Allow to soak overnight. Keep water at room temperature.
The next day grind up the leaves in the water and then filter in two stages. Pour the mixture through cheese cloth and then through a filter paper like a coffee filter. The final result should be a clear liquid tea. Spray this neem tea on pets or apply liberally to a cloth and then rub the pet down for an excellent flea repellent. It may be used bi-weekly.
Even in modern times, the neem leaves and the neem tree
Neem continues on Page 31