A fast growing tree native to Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India, Neem is a hardy, drought-resistant plant with many medicinal uses. the Neem tree grows well in sub-tropical areas. The scientific name for the plant is Azadirachta indica. In Iran the name for this plant means "Cherish".
The leaves and flowers of Neem are edible. Sometimes they are prepared in a special way (either pickled or boiled with tamarind fruit) to reduce their distinctive bitter flavor. Consuming the young leaves is more common. Neem is a popular vegetable in Cambodia and surrounding areas.
Neem produces fruit which is used to extract an oil. The seeds are also used to produce this oil. This oil is considered something of a panacea in the Ayurvedic and Unani medicinal traditions. Neem is anthelmintic, antifungal, antidiabetic, antibacterial, antiviral and both a contraceptive and sedative. Neem consumption is considered to have no side effects although excessive neem oil has been linked to encephalopathy and ophthalmopathy.
In Ayurveda, Neem leaf and bark is used to pacify an excess of pitta (also known as fire).
Neem has also been used as a form of non-pesticidal management of different crops: the seeds are ground up and applied to other plants which naturally repels insects and blight. Neem oil can also be used to lubricate squeaky cart wheels.
The leftovers from when Neem is cold pressed (to make oil) can be formed into cakes which make a good fertilizer.
In the West, Neem is commonly added to the sorts of toothpaste, shampoo, and soaps which can only be found in a health food store.
In much of India, Neem trees line the streets and many backyards. Neem has been introduced to such countries as Ecuador, Haiti, and Venezuela, where they are prized for their shade. The stem of a Neem is called datun and may be used for oral hygiene.
Despite its many useful applications, Neem is considered an unwelcome weed (it being an invasive species, much like kudzu) in parts of the Middle East and West Africa.