I Love my Greens!

My first introduction to neem (pronounced nee-eem) was at age 8 when I lay in bed fiddling with my chicken pox sores, scratching them every time my mother turned her back to me.  She boiled those tiny pale green leaves, and washed me with the soup. She then pounded the boiled leaves into a paste and applied it to my sores. Then she would go back outside into our garden to collect the leaves she was drying in the sun and would place them under my bed sheet. They smelt bitter. Tasted bitter too. I was 8 so I tasted everything I was curious about. They also didn’t do anything to improve my pox-marked self-esteem.

After recovering from the pox, I noticed the ‘nee-eem’ leaves everywhere. They were in our closets in between layers of sheets and winter clothing. They were in my grandfather’s diabetic juice. They were drawn on stickers on my mother’s face mask tin. The milk man would climb up the nee-eem tree in the yard every morning and yank off twigs for us. After my mother was satisfied stripping them bare of leaves, he would scavenge through the twigs looking for the perfect one- “not too firm and not too slight. Not too dark and not too light” that’s how he described the perfect twig. When he found it, he would pop it into his mouth and chew erroneously on it. I remember wondering whether he learnt how to chew from the cow or was it the other way around.

Neem or Azadirachta indica, is a tropical mahogany tree whose properties are quintessential to ancient Ayurvedic medicine. Its value is accentuated by its easy accessibility as it grows everywhere in the Tropics and does not require much care to flourish. Its principle extract, Nimbidine, is potent for its anti-inflammatory, antiarthritic, antipyretic, hypoglycaemic, antigastric ulcer, spermicidal, antifungal, antibacterial, diuretic, antimalarial, antitumour and immunomodulatory properties (I dare you to read that out aloud without stopping to breathe). Neem extracts are used in skin, hair and dental care products as well as antiseptic concoctions to fight infection. They are used as pesticides and manure and are best fungal-zappers in the plant world. The wonder plant gets better with the next revelation. There is no part of the plant which cannot be utilized for atleast one medicinal purpose. I would start to list them out individually but you could just read them on the websites mentioned below.

That’s the end of my blog assignment. I deserve dinner.







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