NEEMOLOGY - SCIENCE OF NEEM
Dr.Ilangovan Ramasamy, Ph.D
The neem tree (Azadirachta indica) is regarded as one of mother nature's gift to the world. In India , it is commonly found in house compounds in both villages and cities. Green twigs are used as toothbrushes to combat teeth decay. Its extracts have a powerful pesticidal activity and are used by both households and farmers to control a wide variety of pests (insects, fungi, bacteria, viruses, nematodes, rodents etc.). There is no wonder, there are two big neem trees in front of my house. Still I remember that at the age of nine, I did collection of neem seeds (hand picking) tree by tree everyday and collect the seeds for sale. These extracts have considerable antiseptic affects and are used as a skin care agent in soaps and shampoos. The leaves are often mixed with rice and consumed as a cure all and prophylactic against bacterial and helminthic infections. Neem leaf pastes are used to repair scarred skins arising from the effects of chicken pox. Not surprisingly, many believe that the neem tree itself can ward off demons.
Neem Uses in Animal and Human Care:
The native peoples of India have used Neem and Neem extracts for hundreds of years. Before toothpaste was introduced, Indians chewed neem twigs to effectively keep their teeth healthy. In Germany, Neem extract has been added to several commercial toothpaste's to prevent tooth decay and to prevent and heal gum inflammations. The seeds, leaves, and bark of the neem tree are all useful therapeutically. Neem extract from leaves, seeds, and seed oils contains a compound called SALANNIN. It is a safer and more effective insect repellent than DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). DEET is currently used in most commercial insect repellents and in some anti-flea shampoos. There are major drawbacks associated with DEET's use: DEET is not recommended for use on small children, young animals, or broken skin. Further, labels on products containing DEET advise to wash treated skin with soap and water after use. DEET can dissolve most synthetic fabrics, with the exception of nylon. Researchers believe that DEET may be at least partially responsible for Gulf War Syndrome. Neem, on the other hand, has been safely used for hundreds of years.
Neem extract has been found to repel malaria-causing mosquitoes for up to twelve hours. It is also effective in repelling biting fleas, sand fleas and chiggers, ticks, and black flies.
Neem oil has great healing properties associated with its use. Cuts, scrapes, and rashes may be safely salved with Neem lotions and ointments. Products containing DEET warn against getting the product into damaged skin or open sores. Neem has been shown to have some success in treating psoriasis. Application of neem to the skin, when used in conjunction with oral treatments, have been shown to be at least as effective as coal tar and cortisone treatments, and is not associated with any side effects. Coal tar, on the other hand, is both messy and smelly to use. Cortisone treatments may thin the skin upon repeated application.
Neem is antibacterial in nature. In particular, Staphylococcus aureus (which causes food poisoning, boils, and abscesses) and Salmonella thyphoss (which is responsible for food poisoning, typhoid, intestinal inflammation, and blood poisoning) are suppressed by neem. Current antibiotics are not typically useful against these two bacteria.
Neem is also antiviral in nature. German researchers have used alcohol extracts of neem seed kernels to neutralize the herpes virus.
Neem is effective against at least fourteen different, commonly found fungi. These include Trichosporon (which causes intestinal tract infection), Geotrichum (which causes bronchi, lung, and mucous membrane infections), Trichophyton (which is responsible for athlete's foot), and Epidermophyton (which causes ringworm). As one can see, Neem has many potential uses. The oil can be applied directly to the hair to kill head lice. An Indian study has shown neem to be effective against scabies. Topical applications of neem may provide both pain relief and fever reduction.
Ingestion of neem leaf has been shown to help irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders. In an experiment dealing with birth control and fertilization, a 100uL application of neem oil to the uterus of test animals caused the animals to remain infertile for 107 to 180 days. Application of the oil did not cause any problems with ensuing pregnancies. Neem oil is now sold in India as a douche contraceptive. Neem products may be considered "guilt-free." The tree grows abundantly and is very resilient. It can survive in even the poorest of soils.
Almost every part of the plant is used, which contributes to it's overall efficiency. No side effects have ever been associated with the proper use of neem. Due to its inherent properties, future uses for neem and neem products may include treating sexually transmitted diseases, blood disorders, parasites, digestive disorders, and certain cancers.
Neem Uses in Agriculture:
Neem based products, a nontoxic alternative to modern day pesticides (500 insect pests now developed resistance) harmless to humans and other animals, less prone to pest resistance, and biodegradable and most cost-effective sounds too good to be true. In the past two decades scientists have isolated over 400 different insect species that are affected by the bioactivity of neem. A broad range of mites, nematodes, bacteria, fungi, etc. are also affected. Use of neem products in agricultural pest control has many merits. However, the costs of commercial neem products are beyond the economic capabilities of the majority of farmers. Under these circumstances, the development of commercial neem pesticides, which can be provided to every farmer's at affordable prices, is the highest priority. Our botanical formulations were aimed at developing commercial neem-based pesticides using the combination of traditional and latest technologies. A number of neem formulations were developed using cold press extraction method. Incorporation of other vegetable oils and plant extracts was also tried in an attempt to improve bio-efficiencies. The use of organic solvents was minimized in order to increase product safety. Collaborative International Pesticide Analytical Council (CIPAC) standard procedures were adapted to standardize the products.
The Work Force of Neem:
The first thing that science has done for Neem is identify the active ingredients and what conditions they address. I am going to give a list of the more common compounds that have been identified and what conditions they address. However the research is ongoing and scientists feel that there are many more compounds yet to be identified,
Nimbin: anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic, anti-histamine, anti-fungal
Nimbidin: anti-bacterial, anti-ulcer, analgesic, anti-arrhythmic, anti-fungal
Ninbidol: anti-tubercular, anti-protozoan, anti-pyretic
Gedunin: vasodilator, anti-malarial, anti-fungal
Sodium nimbinate: diuretic, spermicide, anti-arthritic
Salannin: insect repellent
Azadirachtin: insect repellent, anti-feedant, anti-hormonal
RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT
Most of our botanicals were tested in the laboratory, green house bioassays and field researches against various sucking insects, mites, lepidopterans, coleopteran beetles and weevils. Based on our experiments, we are designing our recommendations and packages for pest management programs. Our research and new product development is continuous process. Based on our continuous research since 1991, we have few products are ready for launching.
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