Neem is a tree in the mahogany family Meliaceae. It is native to India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Pakistan. It grows in tropical and semi-tropical regions.
Neem is a fast-growing tree that can reach a height of 15–20 metres (49–66 ft). It is evergreen, but in severe drought it may shed most of its leaves or nearly all leaves. The branches are wide and spreading. The neem tree is very similar in appearance to its relative, the Chinaberry (Melia azedarach).
The opposite, pinnate leaves are 20–40 centimetres (7.9–15.7 in) long, with 20 to 31 medium to dark green leaflets about 3–8 centimetres (1.2–3.1 in) long. The petioles are short.
The (white and fragrant) flowers are arranged in more-or-less drooping axillary panicles which are up to 25 centimetres (9.8 in) long. The inflorescences, which branch up to the third degree, bear from 250 to 300 flowers. An individual flower is 5–6 millimetres (0.20–0.24 in) long and 8–11 millimetres (0.31–0.43 in) wide.
The fruit varies in shape from elongate oval to nearly roundish, and when ripe is 1.4–2.8 centimetres (0.55–1.10 in). The fruit skin (exocarp) is thin and the bitter-sweet pulp (mesocarp) is yellowish-white and very fibrous. The mesocarp is 0.3–0.5 centimetres (0.12–0.20 in) thick. The white, hard inner shell (endocarp) of the fruit encloses one, rarely two, or three, elongated seeds (kernels) having a brown seed coat.
The neem tree is often confused with a similar looking tree called bakain. Bakain also has toothed leaflets and similar looking fruit. One difference is that neem leaves are pinnate but bakain leaves are twice- and thrice-pinnate.
Wonderful advantages of neem leaves
- Products made from neem have been used in India for over two millennia for their medicinal properties. They are said to be antifungal, antidiabetic, antibacterial, antiviral, contraceptive and sedative. Neem products are also used in selectively controlling pests in plants.
- All parts of neem are used for preparing many different medicines, especially for skin disease.
- A compound from the Neem tree can be used as a spermicide .
- Neem oil is used for preparing cosmetics (soap and shampoo, ozone as well as lotions and others), and is useful for skin care such as acne treatment. Neem oil has been used effectively as a mosquito repellent.
- Neem is useful for damaging over 500 types of insects, mites, ticks, and nematodes, by changing the way they grow and act. Neem does not normally kill pests right away, rather it slows their growth and drives them away.