Neem has become a valued addition to the cornucopia of African botanicals. Also referred to as the miracle tree, the tree with a million benefits and the tree that denotes “good health” in our Ayurveda. No wonder neem leaves have all these positive connotations attached to it because it is a powerful, natural remedy and medicinal plant found in Ghana (even for free) and incorporate into your life.
Keep on reading if you want to find out about the neem benefits and some easy home recipes!
What is neem and where does it come from?
Scientifically known as ‘Azadirachta indica’, neem is a medical plant native to India and found across most African countries. An interesting fact about its meaning, is that in Sanskrit neem is arista, which means something that is perfect, imperishable and complete.
Every part of the tree – leaf, seeds, roots and bark – contain important compounds that have many medicinal and beauty properties. Just its leaf contains over 130 different types of biological compounds, such as nimbin and nimandial which help heal the body and promote healthy living.
Its existence within traditional medicine dates back almost 2000 years. According to environmentalists, the tree was brought into East Africa during the 9th century by East Indian immigrants because of its medicinal properties.
Apart from Ghana, it can also be found in Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Mali, Benin, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique.
If you look around closely, you will find the neem tree growing around many parts of Accra. It thrives well when planted in any environment.
Different forms of neem
Neem can be found in four different forms:
- Leaves: if you have access to the leaves directly, you can transform them into a liquid (which can be used to cure different types of infections we will see later on) or into a paste, also used as a remedy to treat different skin and hair conditions.
- Powder: If you do not have access to the neem leaves, or want something already made you can use, you can buy neem powder.
- Tablets: You can take neem tablets which are a great way to boost your immunity, support liver and kidney functions and help balance blood sugar levels.
- Oil: Neem oil has become a potent ingredient to treat many skin conditions and it’s widely used as a beauty product in Ghana.
Benefits of neem
As we have already mentioned, the benefits of neem are numerous, one of the reasons we wanted to introduce this natural remedy to you!
It is said that drinking neem juice has tons of benefits. It helps purify the blood and digestive tract from bacterial, fungal, viral infections and parasites. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it may also help in fighting common illnesses such as cold and cough.
The best way to have your juice is by getting some neem leaves and boiling them until the water turns into a brownish colour. The taste is very bitter (not the most nice juice you will taste) but you will definitely notice some of the benefits. Our best advice is to drink a glass of it first thing in the morning. You can also check out this neem juice recipe or this ginger and neem tea recipe.
Loaded with anti-oxidants
Being rich in antioxidant nimbolide and quercetin, it helps protect from free radical damage, which otherwise can lead to other health complications like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc
Boosts your immune system
Not the most pleasant taste, you can chew neem leaves. Take a handful of leaves, wash them thoroughly and chew them on a daily basis to keep viral infections away!
Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal
It may help kill the unhealthy bacteria and thus clean the gut. Its anti-fungal properties may be helpful in the humid climate of Ghana.
Good for skin and hair
Drinking, eating or applying neem paste is great for your skin and hair health. It may help treat various skin conditions such as acne and treat hair conditions like dandruff or lice by massaging it onto your scalp.
May help to maintain the alkaline level of saliva, fight germs and give fresh breath. By decreasing the microorganisms present in the mouth, it may also help to prevent dental caries.
The uses of neem
Natural insect repellent
The oil extracted from the seeds can be used as a natural insect repellent. Do check out our other recommendations for natural remedies to stop mosquito bites.
Neem twig as a toothbrush
Traditionally, natives chewed the twigs which served as effective, impromptu toothbrushes. However, they’re not as popular as the traditional and natural Ghanain toothbrushes.
It has been used in the traditional treatment of malaria for centuries. You may find Ghanaians who will prefer to treat malaria in a natural way using neem. They do this by boiling leaves and drinking the liquid a couple of times per day.
It is also a great natural remedy used to reduce fever. It is also used as a malaria prevention. Drinking neem teas or chewing a couple of leaves every day may reduce the possibility of contracting malaria.
Treating dandruff and lice
Antifungal and antibacterial properties that help remove dandruff once and for all and work wonders for itchy and flaky scalps. They reduce dryness, flakiness, itchiness and leave your scalp moisturized and healthy.
Treating certain skin conditions
Neem is used to treat acne, reduce blemishes, soothe irritated skin, and moisturise your skin. Neem oil extracted from neem leaves is a cooling, drying and non-comedogenic oil that you can use to zap excess oil from the face and keep it clean and oil-free.
Its antioxidants, moisturizing triglycerides and vitamin E help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines and dark spots. The vitamin E also helps in moisturising the skin.
The same way you would prepare the tea (by boiling the neem leaves), you can use the liquid as a toner and apply it on your face to help treat acne, inflammation, eczema or infections. You can also massage it directly on your scalp to treat dandruff, hair fall and irritation.
It is as simple as taking a cotton, soaking it in the liquid and applying it on your skin/hair for approximately 10-15 minutes. You can repeat this routine every day.
Boil neem leaves or powder. Place your face over the pot and cover yourself with a cloth. Let the steam touch your skin for at least 10 minutes. As your skin softens from the steam, the active ingredients will penetrate and tackle the infections.
Neem face mask / scalp mask
Grind some fresh leaves into a paste and add some aloe vera gel or natural yogurt. Apply the paste onto clean skin and massage it in slightly. Let it sit for approximately 15 minutes or until you feel it has dried. Then rinse off with warm water.
You can do this a couple of times per week. The leaf extract accelerates wound healing and its anti-bacterial properties help combate acne. The aloe vera soothes, moisturises and even helps to fade acne scars and hyperpigmentation. You can actually use this recipe on your whole body!
Add neem oil into your moisturiser!
As simple as adding a few drops of neem oil into your favourite moisturiser.
Pre-wash scalp oil
Last, but not least, take some neem seed oil or infuse a carrier oil like coconut oil, olive oil, or grape seed oil with leaves or powder. Warm it all together in a pan, let it cool for some minutes and massage it on your scalp.
You can wrap your head with a warm damp towel for 20 minutes or use a shower cap to create some warmth to help it absorb. Then wash it for one or two rounds with a natural hair cleanser.