Miracle – Thy Name is Neem

06Apr07

Photo courtesy Flickr user sk_vel

India is hoping that Azadirachta indica will prove to be a miracle for the tea industry. Before we get into the specifics of why, the scientific name of the Neem tree is interesting – it’s actually derived from Persian.

Azad: Free
Dirakht: Tree
i – Hind: Of India

Literally, the Free Tree of India! But I digress.

Aside from it’s numerous medicinal properties, the humble Neem is also an able pesticide becuse of a key ingredient called Azadirachtin (can we get a little more creative with the names?).

Now researchers at Tocklai are trying to figure out how to use Neem leaves to produce natural pesticides to protect India’s precious tea crop.

To avoid the adverse impact of chemical pesticides, researchers have been trying to look for safer alternatives. Neem-based pesticides are found to be effective and are a safe alternative to chemical pesticides,” director of the station Mridul Hazarika said. [link to full article from today’s Telegraph]

It turns out that Neem leaves don’t actually kill insects. They prefer to mutilate and torture them horribly.

Using neem derivatives for managing pests is a non-violent approach to controlling pests. Neem products work by intervening at several stages of the insect’s life. They may not kill the pest instantaneously but incapacitate it in several ways. Neem very subtly employs effects such as repellence, feeding and ovipositional deterrence, growth inhibition, mating disruption, chemo-sterilization, etc. These are now considered far more desirable than a quick knock-down in integrated pest management programs as they reduce the risk of exposing pests’ natural enemies to poisoned food or starvation.[learn how Neem is used in organic farming]

Non-violent? Well, I guess mating disruption and chemo-sterlization aren’t violent per se. But then again, nature isn’t exactly kind all the time. At any rate, it’s good to see solutions like this being discussed instead of dousing our tea leaves with chemical pesticides. It doesn’t really matter that we are a bit late to the party – at least we’re on our way.

On a personal note, growing up in a hot and humid place like Calcutta came with it’s fair share of heat-related skin conditions. One such affliction – prickly heat – was quite common among us kids. My mom would always rub neem leaves over my body every time I itched too much. Worked like a charm too. Thanks mom 🙂 She did not, however, make us brush our teeth with Neem twigs, which is still a commonly used “all natural” toothbrush for many Indians.

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3 Responses to “Miracle – Thy Name is Neem”

  1. 1 Phyll

    I feel exactly the same: non-violent? Anyways, I’m not about to invoke an insect rights debate.

    I remember all those prickly heat breakouts that I had when I was a snotty little boy. We grow aloe vera in our yard for our consumption. We used the aloe vera sap/gel(?), which is a very soothing and effective remedy for prickly heat…it’s very cooling on the body, forehead, or wherever the inflammation occurs.

  2. Speaking of insect rights…

    The Insect Rights Association (IRA) urges you to “Hug a Bug Today and Make the Planet a Better Place”

  3. 3 Phyll

    “Leave spiders alone. They won’t hurt you. They build beautiful webs and make lovely friends.”

    What are they…nuts?!


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