Neem is a tropical tree native to India, Southeast Asia and parts of Africa that has medicinal properties and also produces a mahogany-like wood valued for its timber. The leaves, stems, fruits and bark are used by native peoples to treat ailments such as skin infections, malaria and cardiovascular issues.
Neem is an evergreen tree that can reach 65 feet in height. The scientific name is Azadirachta indica A and it is also known as margosa, nimba, nimbatiktam, arishtha and praneem. In India it is commercially cultivated for its timber, a gum with commercial uses and neem oil.
Neem oil is used as an antiviral, anti-fungal and antibacterial agent, as it inhibits the growth of or destroys these organisms. Neem oil is also used as an analgesic to provide pain relief and as an anti-inflammatory. The oil, which is extracted from the leaves and seeds, also helps wounds to heal more quickly. In India, farmers use the leaves as an insect repellent and pesticide. The stem, root bark and fruits are often prepared as a tonic or astringent.
Neem oil or extract has received limited study in Western medicine. Scientists have discovered that it interacts with diabetes medications and interferes with the body's ability to expel lithium. Neem also interacts with immunosuppressants, drugs meant to inhibit the immune system that are often used after organ transplants.