There are two species of gum-secreting trees in this genus, which occurs in the tropics of Eurasia and Africa. Neem (A. indica) is a fast-growing, long-lived tree that is popular in the tropics, where it is grown as an ornamental, for fuel, and for its workable but unpleasant-smelling wood. It is closely related to, and often confused with, the closely related Melia azederach (See Chinaberry), which has similar properties and a more northerly distribution. The name is from the Persian azaddhirakt, "noble tree". Neem is one of the most important detoxicants in Ayurvedic medicine. It is a potent febrifuge, long used to treat intermittent fevers and shown to contain effective anti-malarial compounds. The seeds yield margosa oil, a non-drying oil with insecticidal and antiseptic properties. The wood is highly prized for its insecticidal properties; in parts of Africa, it is grown in hedges to provide material for protection against insect-borne diseases.

Evergreen tree with pinnate leaves up to 30cm (12in) long. Small, yellow-white, fragrant flowers appear in panicles to 30cm (12in) long from spring to early winter, followed by yellow-green berries.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Nimba, Margosa
Botanical Name:
Azadirachta indica syn. Melia azadirachta, M. indica
Native Location:
S Asia
Well-drained soil in sun. Tolerates poor soils and prolonged drought.
By seed sown as soon as ripe.
Leaves, flowers, bark and resin are collected as required and used fresh or dried in decoctions, infusions, medicated oils, powders, and pastes. Seeds are harvested when ripe for oil extraction.
12-15m (40-50ft)
12m (40ft)
Min. 15-18°C (59-64°F)
Parts Used:
Leaves, flowers, bark, seeds, oil
A bitter, tonic herb that acts as an alterative, clearing toxins, reducing inflammation, lowering fever, promoting healing, and improving all functions. It destroys a wide range of parasitic organisms and is also insecticidal and spermicidal.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for malaria, tuberculosis, rheumatism, arthritis, jaundice, intestinal worms, and skin diseases. Not given to the weak, old, or very young. Externally for ringworm, eczema, lice, fungal infections, and painful joints and muscles.
Culinary Uses:
Bitter leaves and flowers are added to appetizers, salads, and the Bengali dish shukto. Sap is fermented as alcoholic drink. Neem honey is produced in parts of Asia.
Economic Uses:
Leaves are used in libraries and herbaria to protect against insect damage. Oil is used in hair dressings and insecticides (especially to protect crops against locust attack). Resin is added to soap, toothpaste, and skin lotions.
Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited. pg 139