Neem (Azadirachta indica) is a fast-growing evergreen tree in the mahogany family and native to tropical and semi-tropical regions of the Indian subcontinent. Among traditional healers in India, neem has been used for more than 2,000 years for its medicinal benefits as an antifungal, antidiabetic, antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory. It is also said to have sedative and contraceptive qualities. One of the most common uses for neem is as an insect repellant, especially for mosquitoes.
More than 140 compounds have been identified and isolated from various parts of neem, including the leaves, flowers, bark, seeds, fruits, and roots. (Subapriva 2005) Neem seeds yield about 10 percent oil that contains about 2 percent of various limonoid triterpenes, including azadirachtin, which is the most active insecticidal ingredient in neem. The leaves contain ascorbic acid, carotenes, catechin, gallic acid, and quercetin, and all parts of the tree have beta-sitosterol.
Neem and Prostate Cancer
In 2006, a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology reported that an ethanolic extract of neem demonstrated an ability to induce cell death of prostate cancer cells through an increase in DNA fragmentation and a decline in cell viability. This finding led the study’s authors to note that “the neem extract could be potentially effective against prostate cancer treatment.” (Kumar 2006)
In a subsequent study, Mayo Clinic/Foundation researchers investigated the anticancer properties of an ethanol extract of neem leaves and evaluated the in vivo efficacy in prostate cancer models. An analysis of the neem leaf extract indicated the presence of nimbinene and nimolinone, two known constituents of neem. Administration of two types of prostate cancer cells (C4-2B and PC-3 M-luc2) with the ethanol extract of neem leaves inhibited cell proliferation and growth of prostate cancer xenografts in nude mice. The authors concluded that ethanol extract of neem leaf-containing compounds “could have potent anticancer property” and could be helpful “in prevention and treatment of prostate cancer.” (Mahapatra 2011)
Another study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology reported on the effect of an ethanolic neem leaf extract on two prostate cancer cells lines, androgen independent PC-3, and androgen dependent LNCaP. Researchers exposed the cells to various concentrations of the neem leaf extract. They discovered that neem leaf extract induced cell death (apoptosis) and inhibited cell proliferation in both prostate cancer cell types by inhibiting a pathway known as PI3K/Akt. (Gunadharini 2011)
Other Health Benefits
Some research has suggested neem may be helpful in managing gastric ulcers and hyperacidity. A review published in Phytotherapy Research reported that neem demonstrated antiulcer activities, including inhibition of acid secretion. Comparisons of neem with prescription medications used to treat gastric ulcers, such as ranitidine and omeprazole, in animal models indicate that neem bark extract “has the potential for the development of novel medicines for the therapeutic control of gastric hyperacidity and ulcer.” (Maity 2009) Some research suggests that taking 30 mg of neem bark extract twice a day for 10 weeks may heal gastric and intestinal ulcers. (Bandyopadhyay 2004)
How to Use Neem
Neem is available in capsules, as a powder, and an oil, which is used for skin conditions. Because neem may lower blood sugar levels, it should be used with caution in people who have diabetes. Consult a knowledgeable healthcare professional concerning the appropriate dose.
Bandyopadhyay U et al. Clinical studies on the effect of Neem (Azadirachta indica) bark extract on gastric secretion and gastroduodenal ulcer. Life Sci 2004 Oct 29; 75(24): 2867-78
Gunadharini DN et al. Induction of apoptosis and inhibition of PI3K/Akt pathway in PC-3 and LNCaP prostate cancer cells by ethanolic neem leaf extract. J Ethnopharmacol 2011 Apr 12; 134(3): 644-50
Kumar S et al. Anticancer effects of ethanolic neem leaf extract on prostate cancer cell line (PC-3). J Ethnopharmacol 2006 Apr 21; 105(1-2): 245-50
Mahapatra S et al. Novel molecular targets of Azadirachta indica associated with inhibition of tumor growth in prostate cancer. AAPS J 2011 May 11
Maity P et al. The use of neem for controlling gastric hyperacidity and ulcer. Phytother Res 2009 Jun; 23(6): 747-55
Subapriva R, Nagini S. Medicinal properties of neem leaves: a review. Curr Med Chem Anticancer Agents 2005 Mar; 5(2): 149-56