Botanical Name: Azadirachta indica
Synonyms: Melia azadirachta, Antelaea azadirachta (L.) Adelbert, Melia azadirachta L.Melia indica Brandis
Common Name: Indian Lilac, Margosa Tree, Neem Tree
Seeds collection period: May-June
Seeds longevity: 1-3 years
Neem is a fast-growing tree that can reach a height of 15-20 mt, rarely to 35-40 mt. It is evergreen, but in severe drought it may shed most or nearly all of its leaves. The branches are wide and spreading. The fairly dense crown is roundish and may reach a diameter of 15-20 mt. in old, free-standing specimens. The neem tree is very similar in appearance to its relative, the China berry (Melia azedarach).
The opposite, pinnate leaves are 20-40 cm long, with 20 to 31 medium to dark green leaflets about 3-8 cm long. The terminal leaflet is often missing. The petioles are short.
The (white and fragrant) flowers are arranged in more-or-less drooping axillary panicles which are up to 25 cm long. The inflorescences, which branch up to the third degree, bear from 150 to 250 flowers. An individual flower is 5-6 mm. long and 8-11 mm wide. Protandrous, bisexual flowers and male flowers exist on the same individual tree.
The fruit is a smooth olive-like drupe which varies in shape from elongate oval to nearly roundish, and when ripe is 1.4-“2.8 cm. by 1.0-1.5 cm. The fruit skin is thin and the bitter-sweet pulp is yellowish-white and very fibrous. The mesocarp is 0.3-0.5 cm. thick. The white, hard inner shell of the fruit encloses one, rarely two or three, elongated seeds having a brown seed coat.
Neem leaves are dried in India and placed in cupboards to prevent insects eating the clothes and also while storing rice in tins. Neem leaves are dried and burnt in the tropical regions to keep away mosquitoes.These flowers are also used in many Indian festivals like Ugadi. As an ayurvedic herb, neem is also used in baths.
Neem products are believed by Siddha and Ayurvedic practitioners to be anthelmintic, antifungal, antidiabetic, antibacterial,antiviral, contraceptive and sedative. It is considered a major component in siddha medicine and Ayurvedic and Unani medicine and is particularly prescribed for skin diseases. Neem oil is also used for healthy hair, to improve liver function, detoxify the blood, and balance blood sugar levels. Neem leaves have also been used to treat skin diseases like eczema, psoriasis, etc.