NEEM: THE ETHNOVETERINARY MIRACLE
Dr. Dibakar Mishra, Reader in Zoology
Since our childhood we have come across different types of plants and animals which have fascinated us in one way or other. Domestic animals, garden plants were the childhood friends which has created immense impact in our lives.
Aboriginal men living in caves and forests succeeded in taming and domesticating different animals to meet their needs and later must have learnt the use of plants and plant parts to treat their ailing family and animals by way of seer observation and experimentation through hit and trial methods. Later they have learnt the technique of treatment of different physical troubles and ailments.
Ancient literatures mostly the Vedas describe use of plants for treatment of diseases and later it was systematically organized as ‘Ayurveda’ and the part of it that is related with treatment of animals was named as ‘Pasu-Ayurveda’. The system of medicines and their uses were memorized and only passed on to the next generation for betterment of animal life.
We will discuss here only about one such plant: the Neem plant which is described as the Sarva Roga Nivarini (the universal healer of all ailments). It is also termed as Arista (perfect, complete and imperishable). Perhaps the name Neem (Nimba) has been derived from the description in Sanskrit ‘Nimbati Syasthyamdadati’ which means ‘to give good health’. It is recognised as the ‘Amrita’ (the sacred nectar, the elixir of immortality). Ayurvedic texts have described the Neem tree by associating its remarkable healing properties from as far back as 5000 BC. Its leaves were first founded at the excavation of Mohanjo-Daro in the era of Australoid and Dravidian (2000 BC).
Taxonomic position of Azadirachta indica (neem):
Antelaea azadirachta, Arishta, Arishtha, Azadirachta indica, Bead Tree, Holy Tree, Indian Lilac, Indian Neem, Lilas des Indes, Lilas de Perse, Margosa, Margosa Tree, Margousier, Melia azadirachta, Neem, Nim, Nimb, Nimba, Persian Lilac, Pride of China.
Beginning with the whole plant to the bark, leaves, and seeds are used to make medicine. Less frequently, the root, flower, and fruit are also used.
Neem leaf and its constituents have been demonstrated to exhibit immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, antihyperglycaemic, antiulcer, antimalarial, antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic properties. (J.F. Islas et al., 2020 )
Laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of active constituents like azadirachtin, nimbolinin, nimbin, nimbidin, nimbidol, sodium nimbinate, gedunin, salannin, and quercetin. Leaves ingredients include nimbin, nimbanene, 6-desacetylnimbinene, nimbandiol, nimbolide, ascorbic acid, n-hexacosanol and amino acid, 7-desacetyl-7-benzoylazadiradione, 7-desacetyl-7-benzoylgedunin, 17-hydroxyazadiradione, and nimbiol (Kokate C., et al, 2010, Govindachari T. R. et al, 1998). Quercetin and ß-sitosterol, polyphenolic flavonoids, were purified from neem fresh leaves and were known to have antibacterial and antifungal properties (A H Rahmani et al.2018) and seeds hold valuable constituents including gedunin and azadirachtin.
Ethnoveterinary uses of Neem:
Texts reveal that leaves, bark and seed oil are usually used for preparation of ethnoveterinary drugs. Preparations of the Neem tree (decoction) are a good bitter tonic, antiperiodic and astringent and are used in combination with other drugs having similar properties. (Nandini Bhattacharya, 2016)
Various uses of neem by the traditional healers (local people treating animal diseases) may be shortlisted as:
- Wounds: bruised leaves, mixed with charcoal or lime, form a good application to wounds, ulcers, pustular psoriasis etc. the preparations commonly are in the forms of crushed mass, poultice and wash extracted from leaves and or bark.
- Septic sores and ulcers: decoction of leaves applied topically works as antiseptic lotions. Oil expressed from seeds are also applied on wounds and ulcers for external dressings.
- Inflammatory swellings: Neem leaves boiled with tamarind leaves and the pulp is applied topically.
- Worms: Neem leaves with turmeric, pepper, cumin seeds and jiggery are ground to make small balls and fed for relief from intestinal worms.
- Ectoparasite treatment: Garlic pearls, Neem leaves, Neem fruit, Acorus rhizome, turmeric powder, Lantana leaves, Tulsi leaves are ground with water and strained and used as a whole body spray.
- Mastitis: neem oil with turmeric powder are applied topically as paste.
- Protein substitute: Neem cake is used as a protein substitute.
Parts of Neem plant used for ethno-veterinary drug preparation and their common uses:
Sap: Refrigerant, nutrient and tonic, and useful in skin diseases, a tonic in dyspepsia and general debility.
Gum: stimulant, demulcent and tonic and is useful in catarrhal and other infections.
Leaves: Carminative and intestinal anti-helmintic. The paste of leaves is useful in ulceration of cow-pox. An aqueous extract (10%) of tender leaves is reported to possess anti-viral properties against vaccinia, variola, fowl pox and New Castle disease virus. Also the leaf extract helps in delaying blood. Decoction of fresh leaves is antiseptic. The hot infusion of leaves is effectively used for fomenting swollen glands, bruises and sprains. Aqueous extracts of neem leaves is moderately effective against gastrointestinal nematode infections in cattle. (Amin et. Al. 2008)
Neem and Ocimum sanctum leaf paste are applied topically to treat cattle wounds as poultice.
Shade-dried and powdered leaves of neem, Ocimum and Annona squamosa Linn. mixed with butter or ghee and applied topically in case of wounds in cattle.
Powdered gum of Acacia catechu Willd., leaf extract of Barleria prionitis L. and neem, mixed with milk butter applied externally over the infected part to treat hump sores in cattle. (Mishra D., 2013)
Cream prepared from neem (A. indica A. Juss.) or Pongamia pinnata (L) Pierre. (O=Karanja) oil with Naphthalene powder is applied over the affected parts in treatment of hump sores.
Extracts of Neem leaves, bark extract of Shorea robusta Gaertn. f. (O=Shal), leaves of Strychnos nux-vomica L. (O=Kuchila), bark extracts of Syzygium jambolanum (Lam.) DC. (O=Jamun), dry powder of Acacia catechu Willd. (O=Khair) gum and alum are mixed in equal proportions to make a paste. This paste is applied to the hump sore regularly twice daily. (Mishra D., 2011)
Flowers: used for reducing bile, controlling phlegm, and treating intestinal worms.
Fruits: used as a tonic, antiperiodic, purgative, emollient and as an anthelmintic. The dry fruits are bruised in water and employed to treat cutaneous diseases.
Kernel Oil: reported to have anti-fertility properties. It possesses anti-fungal and antiseptic activity and is found to be active against both Gram negative and Gram positive micro-organisms.
Bark: The bark is used for treatment of malaria, stomach and intestinal ulcers, skin diseases, pain, and fever.
Various Neem preparations were standardized in the form of oils, liniments, powders and liquids. Ayurvedic scholars recommend the use of Neem oil as antipyretic, sedative, anti-inflammatory, analgestic, antihistaminic, anthelmintic and as an acaricide.
Neem has been traditionally used against various livestock insects such as maggots, horn flies, blow-flies and biting flies. Neem is also useful for controlling some bacteria of veterinary importance and against intestinal worms in animals.
The trend of curing diseases using traditionally available medicine is decreasing day by day, but still lot of people especially in the rural areas realize the importance of these traditionally available medicine from different remote areas for curing different diseases. Local communities, especially, older age class, including women generally use these traditionally available medicinal plants for curing their cattle because these are easily available, less expensive, and have no side effects. Despite a rather poor knowledge to diagnose some major diseases, still elder people accurately diagnose the disease compared favourably with that of modern veterinary practice. The trends of using traditionally available medicinal plants were found more in upper age class in both genders as compared to younger generation. Indigenous remedies are typically made from plant preparations, some plants are used to treat one disease, while others are used in as mixtures.
Under these circumstances, a way must be found to salvage and record this priceless indigenous knowledge with the view to ascertaining it’s usefulness in the designing and development of a viable and sustainable animal health program with a more developed system of ethnoveterinary medicines.
- F. Islas, et al.; An overview of Neem (Azadirachta indica) and its potential impact on health, Journal of Functional Foods 74 (2020) 104171
- Amin et al., Effects of neem (Azadirachta indica) leaves against gastrointestinal nematodes in cattle; J. Bangladesh Agril. Univ. 6(1): 87,92,2008
- Kokate C., Purohit A. P., Gokhale S. B. Pharmacognosy.Maharashtra, India: Nirali Prakashan; 2010.
- Govindachari T. R., Suresh G., Gopalakrishnan G., Banumathy B., Masilamani S. Identification of antifungal compounds from the seed oil of Azadirachta indica. Phytoparasitica. 1998;26(2):109–116.
- Arshad Husain Rahmani et al.: Pharmacological Activities of Azadirachta indica (Neem), Pharmacognosy Reviews, Volume 12, Issue 24, July-December 2018
- Nandini Bhattacharya, 2016, Making of the Drugs Trade in Colonial India, Bull Hist Med.2016 Spring; 90(1): 61-91.
- Amin et al.,2008, Effects of neem (Azadirachta indica) leaves against gastrointestinal nematodes in cattle; J. Bangladesh Agril. Univ. 6(1): 87,92
- Dibakar Mishra, 2013; Cattle wounds and ethnoveterinary medicine: A study in Polasara block, Ganjam district, Orissa, India; Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, Vol. 12(1), 62-65
- Dibakar Mishra, 2011; Identification of some ethnoveterinary practices for treatment of foot and mouth disease in polasara block, Ganjam District, Odisha, India. Journal of research in Biology, Vol. 7: 543-549
- Chandrawathani P. et al., 2013, Evaluation of Neem leaf (Azadirchta indica) Product for Worm control on Goats, Malaysian Journal of Veterinary Research, Vol. 4(1), 5-12
Neem tree and Neem leaves: India mart; Neem seeds: Medical News Today; Neem Flowers: Pinterest