Neem leaf comes from the neem tree, a Southeast Asian evergreen tree. The branches are traditionally used as toothbrushes, and the oil is sometimes used as a natural insecticide. Neem leaf may also have some beneficial health effects, including helping to prevent or treat cancer, but research into this area is still preliminary.
Studies into the use of neem to prevent or treat cancer have mainly been conducted in laboratories using cancer cells or animals, and have not reached the stage of clinical trials using people as of June 2011. Neem leaf extract may help kill prostate cancer cells, according to a study published in the "Journal of Ethnopharmacology" in April 2006. Components in neem leaves may also help prevent the spread of cancer, according to a study using hamsters published in "Investigational New Drugs" in 2010.
A number of components found in neem leaves may be beneficial in cancer treatment, including the antioxidants beta carotene and vitamin C, azadirachtin, azadirone, deoxonimbolide, kaemferol, glucopyranoside, nimbolide and quercetin. These components may help prevent or treat cancer by improving your immune response, decreasing inflammation, removing free radicals, blocking hormonal activity and inhibiting cell division, according to Drugs.com.
Side Effects and Safety
Side effects are not common from the use of neem leaf in normal doses. However, do not give neem oil to children. It is not safe for children, as children have died after consuming doses of as little as 5 mL of neem oil. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding you should not consume neem, as the safety of this herbal medicine has not been well studied in pregnant women.
Speak to your doctor before consuming neem leaf to make sure it would be safe for you. Do not self-treat your cancer with neem leaf, or use neem leaf to the exclusion of the conventional treatment prescribed for you by your doctor. The research into the use of neem leaf for cancer is still very preliminary, and neem leaf is not recommended as a stand-alone treatment for cancer.
- University of Oklahoma, Plant of the Week; Azadirachta indica - Neem Tree; May 2005
- Drugs.com: Neem
- "Journal of Ethnopharmacology"; Anticancer Effects of Ethanolic Neem Leaf Extract on Prostate Cancer Cell Line (PC-3); Suresh Kumar, et al.; April 2006
- "Current Medical Chemistry Anti-Cancer Agents"; Medicinal Properties of Neem Leaves: a Review; R. Subapriya, et al.; March 2005
- "Investigational New Drugs"; The Neem Limonoids Azadirachtin and Nimbolide Inhibit Cell Proliferation and Induce Apoptosis in an Animal Model of Oral Oncogenesis; G. Harish Kumar, et al.; 2010