“He who controls the spice controls the universe.” ~ Frank Herbert
It is exciting and refreshing to start to notice natural household products at the local market containing ancient Ayurvedic medicinal herbs—and not just for “kitchen” use, but for all areas of our lives.
Since truly embodying an Ayurvedic lifestyle, which took me more than 10 years to integrate, I can seriously say that combining yoga and Ayurveda in our lives can truly rejuvenate us from the inside out, and also heal any ailment and/or condition which otherwise would not have been possible. It does require that we be patient, consistent, diligent with our practises and herb(s) intake and, above all, that we trust the process integrally.
The first time I heard about Neem was during my initial year-long foundational studies on Ayurveda as a technician with Sri Sri Ayurveda, at the Art of Living Foundation Ashram in Quebec, Canada.
Although it was only spoken about briefly, I will never forget hearing about its potent and diverse benefits as if it was a miracle herb—which, in fact, it is.
During the incredibly intense yet profound internship as an Ayurveda technician in Canada, I learned a simple yet insightful truth about plants: they all have medicinal properties. That simple truth still resonates deeply within me. We were also taught to pursue Ayurvedic and plant studies following a natural order of life, as well as our Dharma order (life-purpose). Or, in other words, we learned that life and our higher-selves would guide our journey according to our existence’s master plan.
Following the ashram, I relocated to Montreal to continue my journey with Ayurveda. Once in contact with the real world, I realized I still knew very little, yet I was capable of helping people with their ailments by applying some of the fundamental principles of Ayurveda and the little knowledge I had of herbs. Experience taught me then about the incredible benefits of herbs and plant medicines, so I was hungry to learn more.
As my Dharma would have it, one year later I found myself in Kerala, South India, studying one-on-one with an Ayurveda Doctor after a 10-day Panchakarma regime which basically changed my life. During the initial days of “cleansing” to prepare both body and mind, as Ayurveda does not divide the two, came my second contact with the Neem tree. This time it was a little closer to home as I had to give up cleaning my teeth with regular toothpaste (even though it was natural) and instead had to both chew on a piece of fresh Neem twig and floss with a thinner part of the plant, as prescribed by the Ayurveda doctor, to remove any plaque and for general mouth hygiene.
I had to also give up the use of deodorant, creams, hair products and any other toiletries, in light of deep cleansing for the cause of detoxification. That whole journey to Kerala brought me closer to the concept of “home-remedies” by acknowledging the use of simple herbs and plant medicines within reach of our kitchen cabinet and plant/herb gardens.
My third contact with Neem surprised me the most. Even-though Ibiza (where I now live) is a mecca for natural and alternative medicine, Ayurvedic herbs are still hard to come by. While at one of my favorite remote villages in the North of the island (Saint Joan de Labritja), I dropped into the local pharmacy to get some exquisite local almond oil when I could not believe my eyes—I came across a tiny bottle of Neem oil and it was the only one left in stock. I took it home and proceeded to look up ways in which I could use this divine plant; the list was eternally long.
I made natural toothpaste in remembrance of my time in India, as well as a natural insect repellent with tee tree for the plants in our garden.
With the help of my friend, collaborator and facilitator of yoga teacher trainings, Dr. Venkata N. Joshia MD, PhD. Ayurveda (PhD in herbs), I was able to get a better look into the benefits of this miraculous plant. When he gives lectures during our yoga teacher trainings, his approach is, as most Ayurveda doctors and yoga teachers say: keep it simple.
He chooses but a handful of plants to speak about and Neem is usually one of them. He commonly says that Neem’s medicinal properties are almost anti-everything, from being anti-carcinogenic, anti-fertility to immunomodulatory (meaning capable of modifying or regulating one or more immune functions)—treating any condition from skin, mouth and gut to detoxify the blood!
Dr. Joshi says that Neem oil works against inflammation, infections and fever most commonly with his patients.
A few other benefits include:
Protecting: It is infused in tea to increase immunity of the body.
Cleansing: The seeds are dried, crushed and soaked to produce an oil which is used in medicines, cosmetics and as a pesticide.
Healing: The barks and twigs repels pests. Twigs are chewed to improve dental hygiene. Bark is powdered and used to treat many diseases. Its flowers and fruits are used in many dishes.
Read more about this miracle plant here.
Finally, here is my recipe for homemade toothpaste using Neem oil:
5 tbs of coconut oil
5 drops of Neem oil
Half tsp of baking soda
2 drops of peppermint
2 drops of Cinnamon oil
For your garden, you can mix 10 drops each of Neem and tree oil with one liter of water. Spray this on plants to keep insects away!
Happy plants, happy people.
Author: Liliana Galvis (Liilamaya)
Editor: Travis May