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The neem tree, a member of the Meliaceae family, appears to have originated in India and Southeast Asia and been spread throughout drier lowland tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, the Middle East, the Americas, Australia, and South Pacific islands. The leaves, used as medicine, are generally available year-round as the tree is evergreen except during severe droughts or if exposed to frost.
Neem has a long history of use in the traditional medical systems of India (Ayurvedic, Unani-Tibb).1 Neem leaf and bark extracts are most consistently recommended in ancient medical texts and by herbal practitioners for gastrointestinal upsets, diarrhea and intestinal infections, skin ulcers and infections, and malaria.2 Neem twigs are the most regularly used toothbrush for a large portion of the population of India and other countries where the tree is common.3 The effectiveness of many of these uses has been confirmed in modern research studies, showing, for example, that neem bark extracts are effective for people with stomach ulcers, that leaf gel can effectively fight periodontal disease, and that leaf extracts can combat scabies infections.4, 5, 6 The claimed contraceptive effects of neem have been confirmed in some animal studies showing that seed extracts of neem are spermicidal.7
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2014.