Neem: The Bitter Tonic of Ayurveda

neem leaf benefitsNeem leaf is quite possibly one of the most bitter herbs I have come across in my experience with Ayurvedic herbology.  In fact, just the smell of this herb will leave you with a bitter taste in the mouth.  Neem is a powerful medicine in Ayurveda and has a wide range of health benefits including reducing any inflammation in the body (skin, joint, gut), cleansing and strengthening the liver, healing wounds, balancing blood sugar, reducing adipose tissue, increasing the metabolism, killing parasites (including Candida) and beautifying the complexion.    

According to Ayurveda, it is essential for our health to get all 6 tastes into the diet each day.  The bitter taste (and therefore Neem) is very reducing to both Kapha and Pitta dosha and is said to be cooling, cleansing, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory in action.  Sadly, in America, our standard diet is highly lacking in the bitter taste.  Therefore Neem and other bitter herbs can be a great way to get this healing taste on a daily basis.  If you would like to get more bitter substances in your diet, some other great foods that contain the bitter taste include bitter greens (kale, collards), cacao nibs, extremely dark chocolate, bitter melon (an Indian vegetable), bitter herbal teas (nettles, alfalfa, raspberry leaf), Tikta Ghrita (bitter ghee) and bitter spices (turmeric, mustard seed, fenugreek, cumin).

Although Neem is an incredibly healing herb, it can also be dangerous if it is used in the improper context or in improper dosages.  In general, Neem is quite Vata provoking and should not be used by those with a Vata imbalance (anxiety, insomnia, dry skin, constipation).  Neem is also so potent, it should only be used in small amounts, preferably in a balancing herbal formula, as opposed to taking it solely by itself.

neem health chart

Health Benefits of Neem:  

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Blood cleanser
  • Cleanses and strengthens the liver
  • Balances hormones
  • Clears the complexion, beneficial in acne
  • Reduces excessive heat in the body
  • Relieves arthritis (inflammatory type)
  • Kills parasites
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-viral
  • Anti-fungal
  • Reduces Candida overgrowth
  • Clears congestion in the lungs
  • Reduces sinus infection
  • Heals urinary tract infections
  • Reduces fever
  • Antacid
  • Reduces high blood sugar, heals the pancreas
  • Heals infection
  • Heals wounds
  • Benefits skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, itching and rash
  • Reduces sperm count
  • Reduces menorrhagia (excessive menstrual bleeding)
  • Reduces inflammation in the uterus
  • Relieves diarrhea
  • Useful as a mouthwash
  • Benefits eye disorders, especially when related with inflammation or heat
Neem Home Remedies:
  1. For liver health:  Mix 1/8 tsp of neem and 1/8 tsp of turmeric with 1 Tbsp of Aloe vera juice and 1/2 cup of water.  Take this 3 times daily.
  2. For clear skin:   Make a paste out of neem powder and organic aloe vera.  Apply to the face and leave on for 15 minutes.  Perform this at least 3 times a week.  Simultaneously, follow remedy #1 for best results.
  3. For eczema and psoriasis:  Use a neem-infused coconut oil to apply to the effected areas.  Apply nightly and leave on until morning.  Try my neem infused Pitta Oil.  Simultaneously, follow remedy #1 for best results.
  4. For oral health:  For a natural, homemade mouthwash; take 4 tbsp of Neem herbal extract, add 5 drops of tea tee oil and 2 cups of purified water.  Each morning and night, take a small amount into the mouth and swish for 3 minutes.  Do not swallow this mixture!
Also try these products with Neem:

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  1. Vibrant Ayurveda November 29, 2015 at 9:45 pm #

    Thank you for the good writeup. It is pretty worth enough for me.

    • Danielle November 30, 2015 at 9:51 am #

      Thank you for reading! Namaste!!

  2. Deborah February 11, 2016 at 5:43 pm #

    I have been taking neem leaf for the past 4 months and it stopped herpes outbreaks like nothing else I’ve ever taken. I stopped it for a break two weeks ago and now the lesions have resumed. I’m pitta vata, tall, blond,dry skin, insomnia, 63 years old. The neem also helped my skin dryness a great deal. Is there something I can take with it that would allow me to use it on an ongoing basis?

    Thank you in advance for your response.

    • Danielle February 16, 2016 at 11:58 am #

      Hi Deborah,

      Thank you for your inquiry! Unfortunately I would need a bit more assessment in order to discover the proper herbs for you and your specific needs. In Ayurveda, we do not treat the disorder, rather the individual and therefore it is essential to have a consultation before prescribing any herbal recommendations. I will say that with the dryness and insomnia issues that you are experiencing, it definitely will not be good to take the Neem solely, especially long term. I would be more than happy to set up an Ayurvedic Consultation or Herbal Consult with you anytime, but until then this is all the information I am able to share with you.


  3. Jacqueline December 28, 2016 at 8:16 am #

    Hi Danielle,
    I would like to know since I’m having a kapha imbalance, slow metabolism and have cold Hands and feet too. Dry skin and dandruff on scalp too. How can I take neem leaves with honey or water. Junk cravings and over weight.

    • Danielle January 2, 2017 at 12:04 pm #

      Hi Jacqueline! I would need more information in order to give you better advice on how to take Neem. It is a powerful herb and can increase dryness, coldness and other Vata symptoms if not taken properly. It is extremely beneficial for both Pitta and Kapha however, so Neem may be beneficial for you in the right context. It mostly likely would need to be paired with other herbs though, since you are showing symptoms of both Kapha and Vata imbalance. Sorry I could not be of more help!


  4. Vaishali saraf March 29, 2017 at 6:19 am #

    Sir I am taking neem juice everyday in chaitra month. Can I drink tea or milk after 1 hour of consuming it .

    • Danielle March 31, 2017 at 1:01 pm #

      Hi Vaishali,

      Thank you for your question. There is no contraindication for taking tea or milk one hour after taking in neem juice. Juice tends to move through the stomach fairly quickly and should be in the colon within an hour after consumption. Therefore there should be no negative symptoms from the milk or tea. Of course our digestive systems are all unique, so if any unwanted symptoms (i.e. gas, bloating, etc) do arise after the milk or tea, then a longer time may be needed between the two drinks. Please let me know if you have any further questions!


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