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Medicinal properties of Neem: New Findings
by D.P. Agrawal

More than 135 compounds have been isolated from different parts of neem and several reviews have also been published on the chemistry and structural diversity of these compounds. The compounds have been divided into two major classes: isoprenoids (like diterpenoids and triterpenoids containing protomeliacins, limonoids, azadirone and its derivatives, gedunin and its derivatives, vilasinin type of compounds and C- secomeliacins such as nimbin, salanin and azadirachtin ) and non-isoprenoids, which are proteins (amino acids) and carbohydrates (polysaccharides), sulphurous compounds, polyphenolics such as flavonoids and their glycosides, dihydrochalcone, coumarin and tannins, aliphatic compounds, etc.

Medicinal Uses

Various parts of the neem tree have been used as traditional Ayurvedic medicine in India. Neem oil and the bark and leaf extracts have been therapeutically used as folk medicine to control leprosy, intestinal helminthiasis, respiratory disorders, constipation and also as a general health promoter. Its use for the treatment of rheumatism, chronic syphilitic sores and indolent ulcer has also been evident. Neem oil finds use to control various skin infections. Bark, leaf, root, flower and fruit together cure blood morbidity, biliary afflictions, itching, skin ulcers, burning sensations and pthysis

Antiulcer effect

Neem leaf and bark aqueous extracts produce highly potent antiacid secretory and antiulcer activity.

Antifertility effect

Intra-vaginal application of neem oil, prior to coitus, can prevent pregnancy. It could be a novel method of contraception.

Antimalarial activity

Neem seed and leaf extracts are effective against both choroquin-resistant and sensitive strain malarial parasites.

Antifungal activity

Extracts of neem leaf, neem oil seed kernels are effective against certain fungi including Trichophyton, Epidermophyton, Microspor Trichosporon, Geotricum and Candida.

Antibacterial activity

Oil from the leaves, seed and bark possesses a wide spectrum of antibacterial action against Gram-negative and Gram-positive microorganisms, including M. tuberculosis and streptomycin resistant strains. In vitro, it inhibits Vibrio cholerae Klebsiella pneumoniae, M. tuberculosis and M. pyogenes. Antimicrobial effects of neem extract have been demonstrated against Streptococcus mutans and S. faecalis.

Antiviral activity

Aqueous leaf extract offers antiviral activity against Vaccinia virus, Chikungemya and measles virus.

Anticancer activity

Neem leaf aqueous extract effectively suppresses oral squamous cell carcinoma induced by 7, 12-dimethylbenz[a] anthracene (DMBA), as revealed by reduced incidence of neoplasm. Neem may exert its chemopreventive effect in the oral mucosa by modulation of glutathione and its metabolizing enzymes.

Antioxidant activity

The antioxidant activity of neem seed extract has been demonstrated in vivo during horse- grain germination.

Effect on central nervous system

Varying degrees of central nervous system (CNS) depressant activity in mice was observed with the leaf extract. Fractions of acetone extract of leaf showed significant CNS depressant activity.

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