Neem Therapy: Nutrients in Neem

Neem leaf is one such source where vitamin A is just abundant. The sweet fruits are also edible and are in fact eaten much during famine. Leaves are often cooked and eaten as adjuncts in meals. Even its flowers and tender leaves can be eaten by themselves in curry or along with other greens. In fact, neem leaf was a regular leafy vegetable during the times of Charaka.

Chakrapani, a commentator of Charaka prescribes a way to eat these leaves along with the meals by lessening their bitterness: cook them in ghee along with amalak {Emblica officinalis) and if you keep eating this habitually, boils, and other skin afflictions as well as urticaria (the rashes due to nettle plant) will get cured.

Like its leaves, flowers of neem are also being eaten and such a tradition of eating neem flowers during meals exists from India to Thailand. These flowers can be dried and stored for a whole year and used in many fond food adjuncts and the preparation of chutney.

Nonetheless, any one acquainted with the many marvelous and sure cures of Modern Medicine is likely to get doubts when he is asked to know something about the medicinal plants that surround him so commonly. He could wonder as to the very relevance of all this to himself. In spite of the ever increasing number of chemical syntheses of modern drugs it is necessary to remind ourselves that plants have not lost their medical relevance even now.

For one thing, an understanding of their food value is indispensable for all Health measures and Health Care for the normal, healthy persons as well as the convalescent patients. Plants will ever remain the ultimate source of all food and dietetics. We have in Ayurveda of India very meticulous and detailed consideration of the innumerable plants of food value, local to the diverse regions of this vast country of ours.

Modern medicine has hardly utilized this knowledge in all its potentiality. Young leaves of neem are quite edible and rich in vitamins. And, the ancient classics of Ayurveda advocate the active employment in food of many plants around us whose use has become rather obsolete or not so prevalent now as during their own times.

Some examples are: the leaves of drumstick tree (a common vegetable only in Tamil Nadu now), the leaves of Agati grandiflora Desv. (Hindi: Agastya) now eaten only during some religious days and the leaves of Marsilia (Sanskrit: Sunishannaka), a common vegetable only in Bengal now. All are useful food plants that need to be revived with much profit.

The one lesson that modern pharmacological research (viz studies of the action of medicinal substances in the body) has abundantly proved is that plants are great natural manufacturers of innumerable chemical substances. And, these are unique and are very often of irreplaceable medical value. They are the active principles (eg. alkaloids) that are responsible for the curing effect.

Any fresh knowledge in this field of food and medicinal plants is always welcome and Ayurveda abounds in giving such hints for any amount of further exploration. No doubt modern chemistry has succeeded in making some purely synthetic substitutes for example the pethidine or the common pain reliever. But what the plants develop during their normal bioynthesis in the form of these active principles still remain the models which the chemist attempts to copy in his laboratory.

More importantly, synthetic production of drugs is quite often a complex and a costly affair. It is cheaper and more sensible to take up commercial cultivation of the medicinal plants concerned rather than attempt such a synthesis. Quite interestingly these plants are of so many varieties and every variety or a related plant is a fresh source to explore as yet undiscovered medicines, most hopefully.

The numerous hints that the household remedies offer and are actually prevalent all over our vast country are a constant source for fresh research in science. Simultaneously whatever effective studies modern science carries out in this field is an unfailing aid to increase the faith of the common man in his home remedies. Both are worthy and interconnected subjects for study and active, practical use by the lay public as well as the elite.

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