The neem tree is a towering giant that can easily reach heights of just under 100 feet. It thrives in areas of extreme heat and low rainfall where other plants struggle. It is native to east India and Burma and grows in much of Asia and Africa.
The neem tree has long, narrow, serrated leaves and boasts beautiful, off-white flowers. In the evening or after a storm they perfume the air with an almost-jasmine type scent. It is a very relaxing experience to sit under a neem tree in bloom and draw in a long, deep breath.
The fruit of the neem tree are actually berries that grow to about 1 inch in diameter. They are a bitter tasting fruit, but the do seem to be enjoyed by the birds.
The flowers of the neem tree are the only part that is palatable and in fact, tasty. The beautiful and fragrant blooms are eaten fresh, roasted, dried, or in powdered form. This doesn’t stop fans from crushing the neem leaves and drinking them with water or as a tea to help boost immunity. The rest of the tree and its parts have a bitter, acidic taste but are still consumed by many for various purposes.
In India, the Neem tree is considered an all-around “wonder plant”. Neem leaves are used in treating wounds due to its antibacterial properties. The oil from the berry is often used in soaps and lotions and other preparations for itchy skin and dandruff. A few drops of neem oil diluted with water help fight acne. Neem oil is often given to children in India as a general wellness tonic.
The twigs and bark from the Neem tree are commonly used by residents in India for oral health care. They chew on the twigs as an alternative to a toothbrush. As the twig breaks down it forms threads similar to dental floss. The antibacterial properties in the twig help clean the mouth and fight off gum disease.
Neem oil and leaves are often used as an insect repellant. The leaves are placed in cupboards, under bedding, or between the pages of books to ward off pests. Neem oil is slathered on the skin to keep bugs from biting the wearer.