Neem (Azadirachta indica) is traditionally called “the Queen of Skin.” While we have skin that wraps our bodies, we have even more skin on the inside of the body. There is the skin or epithelium that lines the digestive and respiratory tract as well as numerous other locations in the body. Neem is Ayurveda’s most powerful herb for healthy inner and outer skin. Neem also supports healthy liver, intestinal, pancreatic and immune function.*
Neem leaves are harvested each spring in India and used as a tea, food, and medicine from spring through summer. In the spring, there is a surge of new microbes in the digestive tract. Some are beneficial and some are not. Neem has been used for thousands of years to help re-populate the gut with healthy microbes throughout the spring and summer.*
Suggested Use: Take 1 capsule 3 times per day after meals or as directed by your health care professional.
Bottle Contains: 90 vegetarian capsules, 450 mg each
Ingredients: Organic Azadirachta indica (Neem Leaf)
(Go to Ayurvedic Herbal Makeup)
Does not contain: Yeast, gluten, corn, soy, milk, fish, animal products, binders, fillers, preservatives or artificial coloring.
Kosher Certified: No animal derivatives
While medical textbooks have described the intestinal surface area to be as large as a tennis court, new research is suggesting that it might only be as large as a studio apartment. Regardless of the size, there is a growing body of knowledge pointing to the intestinal skin as ground zero for optimal health.
There are 3 distinct areas of the intestinal system that have been linked the aging process:
- The health and integrity of the intestinal skin.
- The health and diversity of the intestinal microbiome.
- The health and integrity of the small intestinal lymph.
It is safe to say that a primary physical focus of Ayurveda was to maintain the health and integrity of both the intestinal skin and the lymph that lines the digestive tract. While Ayurveda did not describe microbes directly, by studying intestinal and lymphatic health, we now know that the good microbes naturally proliferate.
1. Aging and the Intestinal Skin
In one study, the cause of an aging immune system was linked to the health and integrity of the intestinal epithelium (skin) in both the small and large intestine. (1,2)
Aging has also been linked to the natural process of intestinal skin repair. Normally, the intestinal skin will replace itself every 4-5 days, but age-related factors can slow this process. (2) This was measured by the shortening of telomeres that takes place with aging. Telomeres are the chromosomal caps that shorten with both stress and aging. The study also found that the nerves in the colon can decrease with age, along with more neural abnormalities that are also found with aging. (2)
In another study, aging was linked to the breakdown of the tight intestinal skin junctions that create the protective barrier of the intestines. Aging was also associated with the atrophy of the mucous membranes that line the intestines, which are in charge of maintaining the health of the good intestinal bacteria, among many other functions. As a result, in the same study, aging was related to an increase of small intestinal bacteria and a decrease in the amount of intestinal skin structural proteins. (3)
2. Aging and the Microbiome
Aging has demonstrated a measurable shift in the gut bacteria that is linked to many degenerative risks. (4) A healthy microbiome is linked to the health and integrity of the intestinal skin, among other factors such as emotion, stress, diet, and toxicity. The microbiome is involved with the optimal function of just about every physiological function of the body. Microbes make up 90 percent of the DNA in the body and are intimately linked to our well-being, and we are intimately linked to their well-being. (4)
As we age, there tends to be a shift toward higher numbers of Bacteroidetes, and less Firmicutes. (4) Diet seems to have much to do with this shift. The high-fat, high-sugar Western diet is linked to higher numbers of Bacteroidetes, and a high-fiber diet is linked to a more youthful microbiome rich in Firmicutes, seen in younger adults.
3. Aging and the Intestinal Lymph
In addition to aging having its effects on the intestinal skin and the microbiome, it has also been shown to negatively affect the intestinal lymph, called mesenteric lymph, which lines the small intestine. The mesenteric lymph vessels are designed to deliver good fats for energy and filter out the bad fats to be processed and detoxified. If the mesenteric lymph vessels break down, the body’s ability to remove toxins and provide energy can be compromised.
Studies have shown that the lymph vessels and their pumping ability break down with age, as a result of oxidative stress and damage. (5) Perhaps this is one more reason to avoid highly oxidized, processed foods that are preserved with cooked or baked oils. Check your labels for cooked oils in anything that has been baked.
Aging has also been linked to a host of reductions in lymphatic efficiency such as:
- Accumulation of fat in lymph ducts. (6)
- Increased number of lymph duct bulges. (6)
- Lymph duct wall thickening and fibrosis. (6)
- Decline in lymph wall elasticity. (6)
- Significant decrease in lymph-collecting vessels in the small intestine in those over age 65. (6)
Skin Health, Immunity & Detox
One could say that optimal health is all about the skin, both on the outside and the inside. New research is telling us that the skin is also the home of trillions of microbes that support optimal health. Understanding how to nurture those good bugs is the key to healthy inner skin, a healthy immune system, and healthy aging.
80% of our immunity is in the digestive tract, where the intestinal lacteals meet the gut-associated lymphatic tissue (GALT). I often refer to this point of connection as the “inner skin of the gut.” That means that keeping the digestion a well-oiled machine is the golden key. But how do we begin?
Let’s begin in nature’s New Year, the spring. While the winter has seen us pig out on way too much holiday food, come spring the rules change. We can no longer get away with eating the high fat, high protein foods that were so beneficial to us in winter.
Spring brings us a detoxifying harvest, including the surface roots dandelion, goldenseal, Oregon grape, burdock, turmeric and more, which literally scrub the intestinal villi of the excess rich, heavy, mucous-producing and insulating foods of winter.
Fresh green sprouts and microgreens are loaded with chlorophyll, which helps fertilize the good bacteria of the intestinal tract and villi, functioning as nature’s pro-biotic. At the end of spring, the berries and cherries are loaded with lymphatic cleansing agents that support antioxidant activity.
While nature offers a cornucopia of foods with its spring and summer harvest to support gut health and boost immunity, according to Ayurveda there is one herb that is harvested each spring and summer that folks depended on to create the intestinal environment for great digestion and healthy immunity.
Neem: The Village Pharmacy
Neem is Ayurveda’s classic herb for the health of the body’s inner and outer skin. (7) It naturally balances the microbiome of the intestines by supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria. The health of the microbes in the intestines depends on the health of the inner skin and the intestinal lymph drainage. With over 140 chemical compounds, neem supports the health and function of the microbiology, intestinal skin and the function of the lymph flow that drains the intestinal tract. (7-9)
In India, Neem was commonly called “the village pharmacy” because it has so many health benefits. According to Ayurvedic myth, the healing properties of this plant were engendered when it was graced with a drop of nectar (amrita) from the cup of immortality. Because of its bitter property, Neem is indicated as having a calming and cooling effect on heat or redness as it shows up on the skin, as well as in the lining of the digestive tract.
Each spring, in March and April, it was traditional to harvest and eat the leaves of the neem tree to support overall health, well-being, and immunity. It was also said that eating the leaves in the months just before spring (January and February) would jump start immunity and that the benefits would last a full year.
By creating a healthy intestinal environment each spring and summer, neem allows for the healthy proliferation of the good microbes of the gut. The more we establish a healthy microbial environment in the spring and summer the better the gut can perform as your first defense against undesirable bugs and toxins that commonly move through the gut.
For its skin-balancing, purifying, and enriching benefits, Neem has been dubbed “Queen of the Skin” in Ayurveda. In addition, its high chlorophyll content makes it useful to neutralize odors in the case of foul-smelling sweat or halitosis. For this property, Neem is often used in Ayurvedic toothpastes, and the young twigs themselves have been known to be used in place of toothbrushes.
Note: Neem has been shown to be a mild spermicide and is not recommended while trying to conceive.
Ayurvedic Herbal Makeup