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Interesting Facts About the Neem Tree-Description and Uses

A graduate in botany, Nithya Venkat enjoys writing about plants that help sustain life on planet Earth.

Neem Tree

Neem Tree

The neem tree is an evergreen tree that belongs to the mahogany family, Meliaceae. It is commonly called “Indian Lilac” or “Margosa.” The neem tree is valued for its medicinal properties. It has been used in ayurvedic medicines since ancient times.

Neem tree is native to the Indian subcontinent and the dry forest areas throughout South and Southeast Asia. These trees are grown mainly in India, from the southern tip of Kerala to the Himalayan region. Neem trees are hardy and can grow in harsh conditions that are not ideal for plant growth.

The neem tree flourishes in areas with annual rainfalls of 400 - 1,200 mm under extremely hot conditions where the maximum shade temperature may soar past 50 degrees Centigrade.

Neem trees can grow where the soil is sterile, stony, and shallow or has a hardpan beneath the soil's surface. Once the neem tree is well established, it is highly drought tolerant and can survive 7 - 8 months of dry seasons.

They grow well in acidic soils because the fallen leaves neutralize the acidity of the soil. Neem trees cannot withstand waterlogged soil or cold temperatures.

Scientific Classification

Kingdom - Plantae

Division - Magnoliophyta

Class - Magnoliopsida

Order - Sapindales

Family - Meliaceae

Genus - Azadirachta

Species - indica

Neem Tree - Flowers

Neem Tree - Flowers

Unripe Neem Fruits

Unripe Neem Fruits

Neem Tree - Description

Neem tree is an evergreen tree with a height ranging from 15 - 20 meters tall. It is evergreen, but it can shed almost all of its leaves during severe drought conditions. It can grow up to 40 meters tall in ideal conditions. The crown width can extend up to 20 meters. The trunk of the tree is covered with a furrowed bark.

The neem tree has a strong taproot system with extensive lateral roots that penetrate deep into the soil and produce suckers when damaged. The entire root system can reach lengths that are twice the height of the tree.

Leaves

The leaves are compound alternately arranged with 20 - 30 serrated dark green leaflets. Each leaflet is about 3 - 8 cm long. The terminal leaflet is usually absent. The petioles are 70 - 90 mm long. Young leaves are reddish to purple in color.

Flowers

The flowers are small, cream-colored, bisexual, borne in axillary clusters. Each inflorescence is 15 cm long and has 150 - 250 individual flowers. Each flower is 1 cm in diameter with five petals, ten stamens, and one style. Male and female flowers are produced on the same tree. The flowers have a honey-like scent and attract bees.

Fruits

The fruit is glabrous, olive-like, ellipsoidal drupe measuring 1 - 3 cm in diameter. The fruit is yellow or greenish-yellow when ripe and has a sweet pulp with a single seed at the center. The kernel of the fruit is most effective in killing pests and is used to produce pesticides. Birds, bats, and baboons distribute the seeds.

The neem tree begins to bear fruit after 2 - 5 years and reaches full production after 10 - 15 years. These trees have a long life span and may live for more than two centuries in ideal growing conditions.

Neem Tree - Uses

The tree is regarded as a “village dispensary” in India. Every part of the tree has been used as a traditional medicine against many ailments. Neem is extensively used in Ayurveda, Unani, and homeopathic medicine.

In the Sanskrit language, neem is known as “arista,” which means something perfect, imperishable, and complete. The leaves, seeds, roots, and bark of the neem tree have compounds that have medicinal properties.

The neem tree has many complex constituents such as azadirachtin, nimbidin, nimbin, nimbolide, and limonoids that effectively treat various diseases.

Ayurvedic medicine neem extracts are used to treat warts and chickenpox by applying a paste of the neem leaves to the infected area and by giving a neem bath.

Neem capsules or neem tea is prescribed to reduce fever, especially malaria. Neem extracts have anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce swellings and pain in joints.

Neem extracts are used in toothpaste and mouthwashes because they protect the teeth from decay. In India, neem twigs are chewed to maintain dental hygiene. Neem flowers are used in cooking and to extract honey.

Neem cake is used as manure in organic farming; it is the by-product obtained in the cold pressing of neem tree fruits and kernels and the solvent extraction process for neem oil.

Biopesticides for organic farming use formulations of neem oil to repel a wide variety of pests, including aphids, mealy bugs, fungus gnats, whiteflies.

Recent research on the neem tree has shown that neem extracts are effective in controlling diabetes. Clinical research work during the last decade is aimed at the effectiveness of neem extracts in treating cancer.

Neem Oil

Neem Oil

Neem Oil-Skincare

Neem oil is obtained from the fruits and seeds of the neem tree. The color of the neem oil varies depending on the number of days the seeds are soaked in water. It can be golden-yellow, greenish-brown, dark red, or reddish-brown. It has a strong odor that is said to combine the odors of peanut and garlic.

Neem oil is used in many cosmetic products for skincare. It is used to manufacture soaps, shampoos, skincare creams, and lotions. The vitamins and fatty acids in neem oil help improve and maintain skin elasticity by boosting collagen production, reducing wrinkles and fine lines on the skin.

Neem oil is effective in healing wounds, treating acne, minimize warts and moles. It is also used to treat skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema and to control chronic dandruff.

Growing a Neem Tree

Neem trees can be grown from seeds or cuttings. It is easy to prepare neem seeds for planting.

Growing from seeds

When the fruit falls from the tree, the fruit pulp can be removed by rubbing against a coarse surface when it is moist. The pulp is then washed to bring out the white seeds. These seeds are short-lived and viable for about 10 - 12 days and have to be planted as soon as possible.

The seeds need a temperature between 20 degrees centigrade to 25 degrees centigrade to germinate.

Growing from cuttings

Neem trees can be grown from hardwood or softwood cuttings. They can be grown from root or shoot cuttings. The best way to root cuttings is in a pot filled with soilless compost or a sterile rooting compost. Cuttings can be rooted outdoors in warm climates.

References

Neem Tree

USDA - Classification of the Neem Tree

Herbal Remedies: Health Benefits of Neem

Therapeutics Role of Azadirachta indica

Biological Activities and Medicinal Properties of Neem

Neem Tree-Description & Uses

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Nithya Venkat

Comments

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 05, 2021:

Thank you for reading and commenting Marlene. It is nice to have a neem tree growing in the backyard.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on February 03, 2021:

I am starting to hear more and more about the neem tree. Your article filled me with much-needed information about this fabulous tree and all the benefits it delivers. I want to try to grow a neem tree in my back yard.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 02, 2021:

I am happy to know that you came to know about the Neem tree through this article Devika. Thank you for your visit and comments.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 02, 2021:

The neem tree extracts are used to make skincare products and it is effective in repelling mosquitoes too. Thank you for your visit and comments.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 02, 2021:

Thank you MG for your visit and comments. Neem tree is common in India and has many benefits.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 02, 2021:

Thank you Peggy for your visit and comments.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 02, 2021:

Thank you manatita44, Jai Ram!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 02, 2021:

Nithya The Neem tree is new to me and I learned a lot from the interesting facts you shared. Nature is amazing!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on February 01, 2021:

This is so interesting. We have a tree in our garden in the Philippines and smoke the leaves to drive the mosquitoes away. I didn't know it is also used for skin and hair care.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on January 30, 2021:

This is a nice article on the neem tree which is so common in India. It is supposed to have many medicinal properties.Thanks for the information.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 30, 2021:

I like the feathery appearance of this tree. Thanks for writing about all the many uses coming from the neem tree.

manatita44 from london on January 30, 2021:

I know of it and in fact I believe we had one at the back of the YMCA in Accra, Ghana. They used it for Malaria plus.

You've covered the vast properties of this medicinal plant excellently. Jai Ram!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on January 30, 2021:

Thank you, Liz and I am glad that now you know about the neem tree through this article.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on January 30, 2021:

Thank you Chitrangada it must be wonderful to have so many neem trees around,

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on January 30, 2021:

Thank you Ann the neem tree is great to have around and has many uses.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on January 30, 2021:

Thank you Umesh.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on January 30, 2021:

Thank you John the neem tree is a gift from mother nature.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on January 30, 2021:

Thank you, Bill, the willow tree is beautiful with arching branches.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on January 30, 2021:

Thank you Ruby, God has blessed us with many useful trees.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on January 30, 2021:

I have never heard of the neem tree and it's many uses, While reading your article I thought of God's goodness to us by the many plants and trees that we use medically. Thanks for sharing Nithya,

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 30, 2021:

I love learning about new things, and you never disappoint with your information. I agree with Ann, the first thing I thought of was the willow tree. Anyway, thank you for a wonderfully informative article.

Be well!

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on January 30, 2021:

Nithya, what an invaluable tree. So many uses and benefits, and it is even attractive. Thank you for this informative article.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on January 30, 2021:

Very informative.

Ann Carr from SW England on January 30, 2021:

What a great tree to have around! It has so many uses! I hadn't heard of it before so thanks for the education. You always come up with such interesting things. The first image reminded me of the dipping fronds of a willow tree; it looks elegant. I love trees - all of them!

Great hub!

Ann

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on January 30, 2021:

Excellent and informative article about the Neem tree.

There are so many of them growing here, everywhere. Every part of the Neem has immense health benefits, and you mentioned it all.

Thank you for sharing the botanical terms.

Liz Westwood from UK on January 30, 2021:

This is a detailed and well-illustrated fact file on the Neem tree. I had not heard of it before. I have learnt a lot from your informative article.

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