Anti-Viral Compounds in Neem
From the common cold and flu that sweep through neighborhoods every winter to West Nile, Dengue and Ebola, viral infections are among the most challenging facing researchers around the world. The anti-viral compounds in neem have been recognized for centuries. More recently, laboratory research shows promising results. While researchers still have not pinpointed how it works, neem appears to make it difficult for the virus to reproduce, thus minimizing the impact of an infection.
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From a purely pragmatic perspective – as in how soon will I feel better? — neem also boosts your body’s immune system, kicking both the lymphocytic and cell-mediated immune systems into overdrive. Killer-T cells destroy microbes, viruses and cancer cells by injecting toxic chemicals into the invaders. Neem also boosts the body’s macrophage response, which stimulates the lymphocytic system and boosts production of white blood cells.
That combination of antiviral compounds and immunostimulatory action may be why researchers in Nigeria (partially funded through an agency of the US government) reported that 10 AIDS patients given neem leaf extract for 30 days gained an average of three kilograms – more than 6.5 pounds – plus saw significant increases in key parameters including CD4+, hemoglobin and platelet counts. The researchers also found that neem leaf extract protected 75% of human cells in a test tube from the HIV virus.
That research, however, has not been duplicated to the best of our knowledge.
First Reports on Anti-Viral Compounds Date to 1969
Going further back, one of the first modern reports of neem being used as a medicinal herb focuses on the use of a neem leaf extract as an effective antiviral. It was published in 1969 by the Indian Journal of Medical Research. That was pre-internet so we don’t have a link but let us know if you’d like a hard copy of the report.
Nearly 20 years later, researchers at Johns Hopkins University published a report in the journal Contraception showing that neem “provided significant protection” against the herpes simplex virus-2 in mice infected with the highly infectious virus.
That was followed by a 2002 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology reporting that neem leaf extract inhibits the growth of Dengue virus, type 2, a viral hemorrhagic fever related to Ebola. The study used water extracts of neem at maximum non-toxic concentrations. In vitro (test tube) tests showed it completely inhibited the virus. In vivo tests conducted on mice showed the neem extract resulted in inhibition of the virus as confirmed by the absence of symptoms.
Another report published in the Journal of Communicable Diseases indicates that neem leaf extract inactivated and interfered with the reproduction of the coxsackie B virus in test tubes. One of a group of enteroviruses that are second only to the “common cold” as the most infectious viral agents in humans, the enteroviruses cause an estimated 10 to 15 million or more infections a year, including respiratory, neurological, and muscular diseases.
In the study, neem leaf extract inhibited plaque formation in six types of the Coxsackie virus at concentrations of 1000 micrograms per milliliter. The reports note that the neem leaf extract was most effective as a viricidal agent, and also interfered with the virus’s reproductive cycle at an early stage. Additionally, researchers say the evidence suggests that the entire “battery” of compounds in neem have antiviral action for the coxsackie B group of viruses.
Anti-Viral Compounds Focus of Ongoing Research
Much of the research over the years has been done in India and Pakistan where neem is traditionally used as an antiviral and researchers are working to document its efficacy. The Indian Journal of Experimental Biology has reported that neem “significantly enhanced” antibodies against the Newcastle Disease virus – a highly contagious and generally fatal disease affecting all species of birds.
The chickens in the study had been naturally infected with infectious bursal disease (IBD), a devastating virus that causes an immuno-suppressive disease in chickens. IBD is a major economic problem in most of the world, so increased antibodies against highly infectious viruses like Newcastle Disease are critically important.
More recently, researchers at the Center of Excellence in Molecular Biology in Pakistan have been focused on neem for its “universal” protection against influenza. While multiple synthetic compounds are effective against the various strains of the flu, no single agent addresses the multiple variations in the virus that make it so difficult to control.
The researchers used a technique called molecular docking to identify effective anti-viral agents, including three compounds in neem as well as proven synthetic compounds. Hyperoside from neem leaf extract compared favorably with the synthetic compounds but worked against all strains of influenza rather than specific variations.
We’ll continue to monitor research specifically related to viruses, but you may want to check out how it boosts immune systems. Here’s a link to the National Institutes of Health; we’ll “translate” those reports over the next few weeks and post them in a new blog.
And while this post focuses on neem’s antiviral compounds, its antibacterial activity comes in really handy this time of year. It’s typically challenging to tell the difference between an infection and the flu. Most of the current research focuses on its use in preventing gum disease. Here’s a link to the National Institutes of Health on its antibiotic properties.
In the meantime, take advantage of BOGOs on our supercritical neem drops, the most concentrated form of neem available.