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Know Your Naturals: Neem

The Latin name: Azadirachta indica

 
Also known as the nimtree, the rather romantic sounding Indian Lilac. Our  personal favourite is the KiSwahili name mwarobaini meaning ‘of forty’ due to the common East African belief it can cure 40 diseases.
 
 
Where to find it: 
Typically found in tropical regions, the Neem Tree is native to India, although can be found in many parts of Africa and the Middle East. Part of the mahogany family, the neem tree is known for growing very quickly in the right conditions. Our Neem Seed essential oil is from India, just in case you were wondering! 
 
What's it used for? 
From cooking with its leaves and flowers to treat digestive problems, to using it as a contraceptive, or to treat bruises and sprains, there is very little of the Neem tree which can't be utilised. It has even been used to treat malaria and HIV. 
 
The fruits, leaves, flowers, bark, roots, sap and gum have all found uses in different industries. It is particularly used in cosmetics for healthy skin and hair, but in other industries Neem leaves, oil and seed husks are useful as fuel, and using neem oil in lamps can also act as an insect repellent. It is used as a lubricant in rural India, and the gum is used in the textile industry and as a glue.
 
Ayurvedic practitioners have used neem oil historically in any number of ways. It has been referenced in texts as early as 2000BCE by Charake, and in 1500BCE by Sushruta.(National Research Council 1992) 
 
For centuries, communities in India, Africa and the Middle East have used neem twigs as a toothbrush. First by chewing on them and then splitting the twig to use it to clean the tongue. Research has shown that neem can help reduce the amount of plaque buildup on teeth as well as reducing gingivitis.
 
Why we like it:
As well as the essential oil, extracted from an olive-like fruit, which goes into truthpaste, we like the sheer versatility of the Neem Tree. Flowers and shoots can be eaten, it’s been used in medicine, farming and cosmetics.The list is vast. We love a natural alternative!
 
But truthfully:
Neem is quite bitter in smell (and taste!).
Avoid using Neem if you are, or suspect you may be pregnant. 
As with many essential oils, neem can be harmful to children under 7. We always advise to keep it well out of their reach
 
 
Resources:
G. Bodeker, G. Burford, J. Chamberlain and K.K.S Bhat (2001) Medicinal potential of Azadirachta indica and Acacia nilotica. International Forestry Review 3(4).

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