Healing wounds, antibacterial properties and free-radical scavenging… It’s strange how reports from around the world seem to converge some months. August was one of them with three separate reports from peer-reviewed publications looking at neem’s effect on wounds in rats, MRSA and E. coli in tests tubes and free-radical scavenging in chilled beef patties. And while this research looked at very specific questions, all three have wide-ranging implications for people and other animals.
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They’ll no doubt have to figure out a way to make neem extract taste better if they’re seriously thinking about using it for food, but this report from the journal Antioxidants looks at how neem leaf extract works to minimize free radicals and reduce spoilage in ground beef. They concluded that fresh neem leaves in an alcohol extract functioned as well as the most commonly used chemical to maintain freshness over an 11-day period.
It’s particularly important because free radicals are implicated in a wide range of disorders, from Alzheimer’s, dementia, and clogged arteries to cataracts, autoimmune and inflammatory disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and cancer, and aging skin.
To explain it simply, free radicals are created as part of a normal metabolic process that kicks into overdrive when exposed to x-rays, cigarettes, environmental pollution and industrial chemicals. That causes an atom to lose an electron, which makes it unstable – or a free radical. An unstable atom will try to bond with another atom to regain its electron – resulting in a different free radical. If free radicals overwhelm the body’s ability to regulate them, a condition known as oxidative stress ensues and scientists believe that is what triggers the aging process and diseases.
Antioxidants come into play because they can “share” an electron with a free radical, thus making the cell stable without creating a spiral effect of free radicals.
Scientists theorize that the strong antioxidant properties exhibited by the neem leaf extract could be associated with its wealth of phenolic compounds which present strong antioxidant activity.
“A “Novel Antibacterial Compound”
While the report on ground beef briefly mentioned neem’s antibiotic properties, a second report focused strictly on them. Published in the Journal of Advanced Veterinary and Animal Research, the study combined green tea and neem extracts to address treating the “alarming rate of antimicrobial resistance” in both humans and animals.
Neem on its own was not as effective as has been shown in other reports, but the combination “showed good antimicrobial effects and can be used to explore novel antimicrobial compounds.”
Healing Wounds — And Building Skin
Neem’s wound healing properties, reported in Dermatological Therapy, looked at how much faster a neem extract helped to heal wounds in rats. They used an alcohol-based extract (which we would avoid on an open cut) and found that the wound closure was significantly faster. And even if you don’t have a wound, one of the effects that they measured was collagen levels. Collagen, of course, is a major building block in the human body that provides structural support in connective tissue, muscle, and skin.
Many people take collagen supplements to improve skin elasticity and improve joint and bone health. One of the key results from the ground-breaking study on neem cream published in 2017 (whose authors generously provided us with the recipe for their Rejuvenating Neem Leaf Cream) was that neem moderates the production of collagen to minimize the impacts of aging such as wrinkles, thickening and water loss.
So even if you haven’t cut your finger grinding beef and come down with a MRSA, these are all important steps forward in highlighting neem’s potential as a “tree for solving global problems.”