Neem trees are native to drier regions of Burma, India, West Africa and Southwest Asia. They can grow to 50 feet tall and live for 200 years. In Ayurveda, a traditional Indian form of medicine, neem figures into treatments for many ailments, including intestinal and other types of parasites. Archeologists have uncovered evidence of medicinal neem stretching back 5,000 years.
Neem is a natural pesticide. It kills internal parasites and works as an insecticide on crops. Modern science is still analyzing neem to uncover its properties and how it works. Neem's compounds include the antifungals gedunin, nimbin and nimbidin. Nimbidin also kills bacteria; gedunin is anti-malarial. Salannin and azadirachtin repel insects. These compounds are most highly concentrated in the oil and seeds, but active ingredients are also present in bark and leaves.
Common Intestinal Parasites
Intestinal parasites make people sick and can sometimes kill them, especially in less developed countries. But even developed countries have plenty of parasites. Some of the most common in the United States include enterobius vermicularis, giardia lamblia and necator americanus. Enterobius vermicularis is also known as pinworm. Symptoms of a parasite infection include irritation and sleep disturbances, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss.
Neem and Intestinal Parasites
Neem is a common Ayurvedic aid in preventing and ridding the human body of parasites. People regularly drink neem tea as a prophylactic measure against intestinal parasites. A more serious case calls for a stronger decoction of neem leaves and bark, or a paste made just from leaves. Compounds in neem inhibit the parasites' ability to feed, thus interrupting their life cycle and preventing new parasites from hatching.
Neem has been used to treat many conditions for thousands of years. People chew the leaves, use it externally as a poultice, drink it as a tea or swallow neem supplements. Ayurvedic doctors consider neem generally safe for most people. However, if you are pregnant, nursing or have other health conditions, discuss the use of neem with your doctor. Neem and other herbal remedies may also interact with prescription drugs.