Neem is a fast-growing tree that can reach a height of 15–20 metres (49–66 ft), rarely to 35–40 metres (115–130 ft). It is evergreen, but in severe drought it may shed most or nearly all of its leaves. The branches are wide spread. The fairly dense crown is roundish or ovular and may reach the diameter of 15–20 metres (49–66 ft) in old, free-standing specimens. Neem is considered a weed in many areas, including some parts of the Middle East, and most of Sub-Saharan Africa including West Africa where in Senegal it has been used as a malarial drug and Tanzania and other Indian Ocean states where in Kiswahili it is known as 'the panacea', literally 'the tree that cures forty [diseases]', where Ayurvedic uses are practiced. Ecologically, it survives well in similar environments to its own, for example replacing the babul acacia tree from India with Africanacacia species.
Traditional medicinal use
In India, the plant is variously known as "Sacred Tree," "Heal All," "Nature's Drugstore," "Village Pharmacy" and "Panacea for all diseases". Products made from neem trees have been used in India for over two millennia for their medicinal properties: neem products are believed to be anthelmintic, antifungal, antidiabetic, antibacterial, antiviral, contraceptiveand sedative. It is considered a major component in Ayurvedic and Unani medicine and is particularly prescribed for skin disease.
Pest and disease control
Neem is a key ingredient in non-pesticidal management (NPM), providing a natural alternative to synthetic pesticides. Neem seeds are ground into a powder that is soaked overnight in water and sprayed onto the crop. To be effective, it is necessary to apply repeatedly, at least every ten days. Neem does not directly kill insects on the crop. It acts as an anti-feedant, repellent, and egg-laying deterrent, protecting the crop from damage. The insects starve and die within a few days. Neem also suppresses the hatching of pest insects from their eggs. Neem cake is often sold as a fertilizer.
* Neem oil is used for preparing cosmetics such as soap, neem shampoo, balms and creams as well as toothpaste. * Besides its use in traditional Indian medicine, the neem tree is of great importance for its anti-desertification properties and possibly as a good carbon dioxide sinks. * Practitioners of traditional Indian medicine recommend that patients with chicken pox sleep on neem leaves. * Neem gum is used as a bulking agent and for the preparation of special purpose food. * Traditionally, slender neem branches have been chewed to clean one's teeth. Neem twigs are still collected and sold in markets for this use, and in rural India one often sees youngsters in the streets chewing on neem twigs. * Neem blossoms are used in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to prepare Ugadi pachhadi. "Bevina hoovina gojju" (a type of curry prepared with neem blossoms) is common in Karnataka throughout the year. Dried blossoms are used when fresh blossoms are not available. In Tamil Nadu, a rasam (veppam poo rasam) made with neem blossoms is a culinary specialty. * A mixture of neem flowers and bella (jaggery or unrefined brown sugar) is prepared and offered to friends and relatives, symbolic of sweet and bitter events in the upcoming new year. * Cosmetics. Neem is perceived in India as a beauty aid. Powdered leaves are a major component of at least one widely used facial cream. Purified neem oil is also used in nail polish & other cosmetics. * Bird repellent. Neem leaf boiled water can be used as a very cost effective bird repellent measure, especially for sparrow. * Lubricants. Neem oil is non-drying and it resists degradation better than most vegetable oils. In rural India, it is commonly used to grease cart wheels. * Fertilizers. Neem has demonstrated considerable potential as a fertilizer. Neem cake is widely used to fertilize cash crops particularly sugarcane &...