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If you are an Indian or from any of the neighboring country, you are probably making face at this moment – recalling the taste of neem leaves. Right? Yes, it is bitter, in fact very bitter. I am sure you must have some childhood memory where your parents or grandparents forcing you to eat neem leaves.

Grow up guys. Whatever be the taste, almost every part of neem tree is so beneficial that it is often referred as one plant pharmacy. Yes, not only neem leaves, it’s fruit, flower, bark, twig every possible part offer multiple health benefits. The long list of benefits make it really sweet even after being extremely bitter in taste.

Neem (Azadirachta indica L.) used for therapeutic purpose from centuries in Ayurveda, Unani, Homeopath and even in traditional Chinese treatment. Are you thinking what is so special about neem? Well, the long list of active compounds – azadirachtin, nimbin, nimbidin, nimbidol, nimbolinin, sodium nimbinate, salannin, quercetin , and gedunin – gives all the special properties for prevention as well as treatment of various diseases.

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Neem leaves and diabetes

Diabetes is almost like an epidemic today. As per WHO, there are more than 422 million people in the world struggling with diabetes. Data also suggests there will be more than 470 million people with pre-diabetes (blood sugar in between normal and diabetic range) by 2030. Scary right? That means even if you are not diabetic today, there is always a chance tomorrow.

What exactly go wrong in diabetes?

If you are diabetic (Type 2), you struggle to keep your blood sugar level under control. Insulin is the key hormone, secretes from the beta cells of your pancreas, carry your blood sugar to cells to nourish your body and release energy. During diabetes, your body either stops responding to insulin or starts producing lesser in amount. As a result your blood glucose level stay always high and your cells are left hungry for necessary nutrition.

How neem leaves helps in diabetes?

Neem act as anti diabetic. Neem leaves contain many active ingredients such as nimbin, nimbanene, 6-desacetylnimbinene, nimbandiol, nimbolide, ascorbic acid, nimbiol etc. Neem leaves extract helps to control and prevent diabetes in two ways –

  • Improves insulin sensitivity – that means it helps our body to balance blood sugar even with lesser insulin

  • Stimulate the beta cells to produce insulin

Neem leaves also helps to control diabetes associated health problems –

  • Anti nephrotoxicity effect of neem leaves – Long term diabetes associates with kidney disorder and kidney failure. Study shows that neem leaves extract helps to protect kidney by reducing chance of oxidative damage .

  • Neuroprotective effects – A study has shown that neem leaves extract protect brain tissue and nerves from certain types of neurotoxicity.

  • Wound healing – Diabetes is generally associated with delayed wound healing. If there is a cut, diabetic patients take more time to heal the wound. Neem leaves extract helps to faster the entire process. The extract helps to boost the inflammatory response and heal the damages tissue faster.

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Other benefits of neem leaves –

Neem leaves act as an antioxidants

Free radical or reactive oxygen species are the major key factors to produce various diseases. Therefore neutralizing free radicals is a crucial step to prevent diseases. Antioxidants generally act in two ways

  • deactivate the free radicals from attacking the cell wall and,

  • activate the antioxidative enzymes

Neem leaves extract act as natural antioxidants. Nimbolide present in neem leaves, is a potential active compound shows excellent antiradical scavenging activity.

Neem leaves act as anticancer compound

Multiple studies have pointed out the significant role of neem leaves extract on preventing cancer. The active compounds inhibit the growth of cancer cells by various mechanism suppressing tumour producing gene, apoptosis, cellular proliferation etc.

Neem leaves are antiinflammatory

Neem leaves extract act as a powerful antiinflamatory agent mainly by regulating  proinflammatory enzymes activity.

Hepatoprotective activity of neem leaves

Medicinal plants play a very important role as hepatoprotective without any adverse effects. Neem leaves are not any exception. Study shows that neem leave extract helps to protect liver from various toxicity produced as a metabolic by-product or as a side effect of prolong medication (eg tuberculosis etc.).

Neem leaves act as antimicrobial

You must have seen neem as a core ingredient in different dental, hair, skin care products. Neem leaves are antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal which makes it extremely popular in cosmetics industry. Neem leaves inhibit the of growth of various microbes such as viruses, bacteria, and pathogenic fungi. Thus for skin irritation, itching, eczema, warts, chicken pox, small pox, skin marks, dandruff or any hair or dental issues neem has always been the first choice for centuries.

Neem leaves have antimalarial activity. Study shows that neem leaves helps to check the growth of Plasmodium parasite.

Neem leaves control blood pressure

Neem leaves act as a vasodialetor and thus helps to reduce the blood pressure.

Neem leaves boost immunity

Studies have shown that intake of neem leaves (in powdered form) boost the immunity and faster the growth of specific antibody.

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Neem leaves juice

When and how to take neem leaves

March April is the time when you should take neem leaves few times a week to avail all it’s goodness. There are mainly 5 ways to include neem in your diet. Take 5-7 neem leaves in the morning. Wash them thoroughly and

  • Chew them directly or,

  • Crush them in a mortar. Make a paste. Add it in a glass of water and drink the juice or,

  • Boil it with 2 cups of water. Make the volume into half. Steep them for 5 minutes. Strain it and drink the tea or,

  • Add them to cook any vegetable following your tradition or,

  • Roast a large amount of neem leaves on a dry pan, crush them to form powder. Store it in a glass jar. Add one teaspoon of powder in a glass of water and drnk.

Can I replace diabetic medicine with neem leaves?

No, take neem leaves 3-4 days a week is fine to get the benefit. But do not stop taking medicine on your own. Always check your blood sugar level, consult your doctor and then take a decision.

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Neem leaves tea

Bottom Line

Moderation is the key to lead a healthy life style. Good foods are bad if taken in excess. Similarly your body is well equip to handle “not so good food” if taken in little amount once a month. Neem leaves are great. But overuse can create harmful effect to your body. So calm down. Take 5-7 neem leaves 3-4 times a week by directly chewing or by making juice/ tea or using it in vegetables. Diabetes is a lifestyle disorder. So untill you fix your lifestyle no matter how many neem leaves you chew, it won’t give you the desired result. Eat healthy, balanced food. Eat mindful. Stay active and exercise regularly. Sleep deep for 7-8 hr to rejuvenate your body. Note none of these are option. You need to follow all every single day and embrace them into your lifestyle for reversing your diabetes. Yes, it is possible. Just start trying.

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Dr. Soma Chakrabarty has done her Ph.D. in Food and Nutrition in 2017. She is based in Hyderabad. She has 12 yrs of working experience in nutrition. Dr. Soma guides people to modify eating behavior and achieve the goal of wellness. She believes in a sustainable diet that helps people to live rather than survive.

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