Neem in the News, March 2017
From a research perspective, this has been one of those months that shows why neem continues to be called “the village pharmacy.” New reports look at everything from psoriasis to managing skin damage during chemo-radiation and neem-infused clothing.*
Helping in Psoriasis
The psoriasis report, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, was most interesting to us because psoriasis is such a common and highly challenging inflammatory autoimmune skin disease that can seriously disrupt patients’ quality of life.
And it is difficult to treat. One of the top psoriasis specialists published a survey just last year in which he had discovered that almost 90% of psoriasis patients “feel a need for better psoriasis treatments.” The great majority of dermatologists feel the same way.
The new biologic treatments for severe psoriasis in the news these days come at a significant cost—they are immensely expensive, and they suppress the patient’s protective immune responses—and anyway, less than 10% of psoriasis patients are being treated by these or other systemic drugs.
There is also a lot of dissatisfaction with the existing topical drugs. And too many patients aren’t on any treatment at all. Although dermatologists know it’s quite common for their psoriasis patients to look for herbs and supplements to use along with, or instead of, conventional treatments, their patients typically do this secretively, and dermatologists aren’t familiar with the various products or whether they may have benefit.
So several dermatologists in the U.S. got together and reviewed the research studies that have appeared over time using CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) to treat psoriasis, and their review has just been published. A very similar review had been published in 2009 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, done by one of the leading groups of psoriasis researchers. Each of these review groups included the one trial that had been done with neem, and they had favorable things to say.
Back in 1994, 50 patients with plaque psoriasis (the most common kind) were started on a common topical treatment of that time. Half of them had also been given neem leaf capsules to take 3 times a day, and half received placebo capsules, then the state of their psoriasis was evaluated after 8 weeks and again after 12 weeks of treatment. Each group showed improvement—less skin was affected, and the areas still affected were a lot less inflamed—but the group taking neem leaf improved significantly more. And there were no side effects.
Both groups of reviewers had looked at the research for a considerable number of herbal agents, but their positive conclusions were limited to just 2 or 3. And for both groups of experts, that included neem. “The oral agents that demonstrated the most efficacious potential include curcumin, and neem extract” say the current reviewers, “and no adverse events were reported.”
The earlier group said “among the herbs, evidence of effect was found with neem and M. aquifolium. No side effects were noted.” *
We’ve not suggested the use of neem internally for psoriasis because it is an autoimmune disease. Since neem boosts the immune system, we thought it might make the disease worse, not improve it. But it appears that neem’s powerful anti-inflammatory effect takes the lead here.*
If you have any experience using neem internally to help control psoriasis lesions, please give Vicki a call. We’re intrigued by the possibilities—and we have friends who have this disease.
Managing Side Effects of Cancer Treatments
Maintaining a consistent schedule of treatment — even when patients are in pain — is critical to the long-term success for people with cancer. Patients with head and neck cancer who undergo concurrent chemo and radiation treatment often experience acute skin toxicity. A report published in Medical Oncology looks at the use of topical neem and Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s wort) in controlling the toxicity. The combination proved to be a safe and effective option, although controlled tests are needed to confirm the results. *
Neem-infused fabric shows antibacterial properties
A report published in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules looks at infusing neem seed oil and chitosan (made from crustacean shells). The antibacterial activity of the treated cotton fabric was tested against both gram-positive and negative bacteria. The treated fabric had higher antibacterial activity than untreated fabric. (Other researchers had previously reported similar antibacterial activity in food packaging materials in the same peer-reviewed journal.) *
* The information in this report is presented for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Neem Tree Farms does not sell products which are intended to diagnose, treat or control any disease or to control pests on anything except plants.