Due to its powerful antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antiparasitic properties, practicioners of Ayurvedic medicine have long-employed the neem tree (Azadirachta indica) to treat infections, cleanse the blood, reduce inflammation, provide liver support, heal afflictions of the skin, teeth, and gums, and provide relief of gastrointestinal issues such as ulcers(1,2).
Revered in India for its vast medicinal properties for centuries, the neem tree is now gaining international notoriety due to its cancer-killing abilities, especially in regard to prostate cancer–considered to be the most deadly form of cancer in the world.
Neem, and specific extracts of the plant’s seeds, flowers, and leaves, has been shown to incite apoptosis (automatic cancer cell death) in patients with leukemia and cancers of the prostate, pancreas, stomach, colon, breast, liver, uterus, skin, lymph nodes, brain, and cervix(3-7).
Neem Prevents And Kills Cancer
Research also confirms that nimbolide, a potent antioxidant and key extract found in the neem plant, prevents metastasis of existing cancer cells and acts to prevent cancer entirely by disrupting the cycle that normally leads to cancer cell growth via DNA damage and cell mutation. Nimbolide, on its own, has been proven to trigger a chain reaction creating holes in the outer membrane of cancer cells and damaging the cell nucleus, thereby inducing apoptosis. One study confirmed that nimbolide reduced the size and number of cancer cell colonies by 80%, and it inhibited the abnormal cell’s ability to migrate and invade healthy tissue by 70%(3-7).
Additional rat studies established that compounds found in the neem leaf prevent tumors from growing and spreading by inhibiting angiogenesis-the process through which tumors form new blood vessels in order to feed themselves(3-7).
Not only does neem and its various extracts target cancer cells, causing them to commit cell suicide and consume themselves (a process known as autophagy), but it also plays a significant role in regulating and increasing our natural immune response. Through a series of events, neem activates our natural killer cells, enabling our body to seek out and destroy cancer cells on its own. In addition, studies show enhanced spleen function in neem-exposed mice. Since the spleen is vital to a healthy immune system, this is extremely beneficial and provides a one-two punch against cancer and other invaders(3-7).
Targeted Cancer Therapy Minimizes Side Effects
One of the most exciting things about neem is that, even concentrated levels do not damage or kill healthy cells, thus providing targeted treatment of cancer cells while keeping healthy cells intact(3-7). This is something that traditional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, cannot offer; Chemo and radiation do not have the ability to distinguish the difference between healthy and abnormal cells and tissue, therefore a great deal of collateral damage can be done and the immune system is weakened in the process of standard therapy. In particular, neem extract was proven to be far better at selecting and targeting cancer cells when compared to two widely used and popular cancer drugs, tamoxifen and cisplatin(7).
To date, pharmaceutical companies have tried and failed to complete clinical trials for drugs containing nimbolide. This is due to toxicity shown in mice, hamster, and rat studies, especially when the drugs are administered through the peritoneum (the body cavity). However, scientists noted that toxicity was reduced when the drugs were given orally, under the skin, or via muscle fibers, which is the more common method of administration in humans. However, no human studies have been conducted on these drugs yet(3).
Neem And Aryuvedic Medicine
It’s important to note that, regarding Aryuvedic medicine, patients are typically advised to chew on the leaves of the neem plant or consume tea, made from the leaves and/or bark of the tree. Oil from neem seeds, however, may be toxic when ingested, especially in excess amounts. Although, the oil is known to be very beneficial and non-toxic when used topically, and can be found in a great deal of skin care products used to treat fungal infections, inflammation, redness, acne, eczema and other skin conditions.
If you’re interested in exploring the medicinal benefits of neem further, it’s best to contact someone who specializes in Aryuvedic medicine and allow them to guide you to the best products for your health concerns.
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- Chhibber, S., and N. Sharma. “Medicinal and Therapeutical Potential of Neem ( Azadirachta Indica ): A Review.” International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications. May 2014. http://www.ijsrp.org/research-paper-0514/ijsrp-p2920.pdf.
- Lakshmi, T., Vidya Krishnan, R. Rajendran, and N. Madhusudhanan. “AzadirachtaIndica : A Herbal Panacea in Dentistry – An Update.” Pharmacognosy Reviews 9, no. 17 (June 2015): 41. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4441161/.
- Wang, Lingzhi, Et Al. “Anticancer Properties of Nimbolide and Pharmacokinetic Considerations to Accelerate Its Development.” Oncotarget, March 24, 2016. http://www.impactjournals.com/oncotarget/index.php?journal=oncotarget&page=article&op=view&path=8316&path=24654.
- Subramani, Ramadevi, Elizabeth Gonzalez, ArunkumarArumugam, SushmitaNandy, Viviana Gonzalez, Joshua Medel, Fernando Camacho, Andrew Ortega, Sandrine Bonkoungou, Mahesh Narayan, Alok Kumar Dwivedi, and RajkumarLakshmanaswamy. “Nimbolide Inhibits Pancreatic Cancer Growth and Metastasis through ROS-mediated Apoptosis and Inhibition of Epithelial-to-mesenchymal Transition.” Scientific Reports 6 (January 25, 2016): 19819. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4726267/.
- Bodduluru, LakshmiNarendra, Eshvendar Reddy Kasala, NagarajuThota, Chandana C. Barua, and Ramakrishna Sistla. “Chemopreventive and Therapeutic Effects of Nimbolide in Cancer: The Underlying Mechanisms.” Toxicology in Vitro 28, no. 5 (April 2014): 1026-035. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/261838455_Chemopreventive_and_Therapeutic_Effects_of_Nimbolide_in_Cancer_the_Underlying_Mechanisms.
- Elumalai, Perumal, and JagadeesanArunakaran. “Review on Molecular and Chemopreventive Potential of Nimbolide in Cancer.” Genomics Inform Genomics & Informatics 12, no. 4 (December 31, 2014): 156. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4330249/.
- Hao, Fang, Sandeep Kumar, NeeluYadav, and Dhyan Chandra. “Neem Components as Potential Agents for Cancer Prevention and Treatment.” Biochimica Et Biophysica Acta (BBA) – Reviews on Cancer 1846, no. 1 (July 10, 2014): 247-57. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4734358/.