If you were born and brought up in an Indian family, you might know the importance of neem trees. For many skin problems (acne, or itching), weak eyesight, unpurified blood, stomach ulcers and wounds, this herb has broad health benefits. Other than this, neem also known to have a potent anti-cancer effect.
This herb helps to reduce the risk of developing cancer. It acts as a potent naturally occurring antioxidant. It aids in killing the free radicals generated in our body as a result of our unhealthy lifestyle habits. These unhealthy lifestyle habits for the long term can be the prominent cancer risk factors.
Cancer risk factors can be the things which increase the risk of certain types of cancers (stomach, lung, breast or skin cancers). It can be harmful sun rays, air pollutants or unhealthy diet.
Along with antioxidant actions, the herb also acts as a chemotherapeutic agent. It improves the efficiency of many chemotherapeutic agents, and sensitizes cancer cells to radiotherapy and immunotherapy.
Let's explore these in little deep -
- Reasons behind neem health benefits
- Anticancer effects of neem components
- Neem in combination therapy
- Different ways to take neem
Reasons behind neem health benefits
This herb has been extensively used in various medicinal systems like Unani, Ayurveda and Homeopathic. All parts of this plant contribute to various health benefits.
- Seeds are the most essential part of this herb. The oils and chemicals present in these seeds make this herb a potent medicine. The seed oil contains around 100 active chemicals. Nimonilin is one of the most essential components.
- Leaves contain components like quercetin, nimbin and ascorbic acid.
- Fruits contain epoxyazadiradione (EAD), an essential limonoid which acts as potent cancer preventive agent.
- Stem bark contains various types of tannins, which also possess anticancer actions.
These active chemicals possess potential antiseptic, immunomodulatory, antiparasitic, antifeedant, antipyretic, antimicrobial, analgesic, antiulcer, contraceptive, diuretic, pediculicide and anticancer actions.
Anticancer effects of neem components
Many of the components present in this plant exhibits nemours anticancer properties. These make this plant efficient against cancer. The major role of components is to modulate the tumor environment via many actions.
What is a tumor environment?
Tumor cells can modulate their surrounding environment, that facilitates increased inflammation, prompts angiogenesis and facilitates cell invasion. Neem plants twist this environment and bring healthy surroundings.
Let's explore how these chemicals do this thing:
- Azadirachtin, a major component of neem seeds, significantly prevents cancer progression. This compound is also known as a potent pesticide.
- Nimbolide present in leaves and fruits of this plant. This compound exhibits a metastasis inhibitor effect. It also leads to tumorigenesis via suppressing proinflammatory pathways, arresting abnormal cell growth, increasing apoptosis and showing antioxidant effects.
- Gedunin originated from neem seed oil. This component is given in malaria. However, according to recent analysis, this component shows potent anticancer efficacy against various cancer cell lines like colon, prostate, breast and ovarian. It works via modulating many heat shock proteins and inhibiting tumoral cells.
- Quercetin present in neem leaves alters the signal transduction pathways, which reduces the inflammation and hinders the process of carcinogenesis.
- EAD present in this plant also acts as cancer preventive agent. It induces early apoptosis via death-receptor-mediated pathways and shows cytotoxicity against numerous leukemia cells.
There are about 35 limonoids present in its seeds, which exhibit potent cytotoxic activity. These are:
- Azadiradione type 1–15
- Gedunin type 16–20
- Azadirachtin type 21–24
- Nimbin type 25–33
- Degraded limonoids 34, 35
Together neem plant prevents the cancer progression via:
- Inhibiting cancer cells progression
- Modulating tumor immune environment
- Modulating xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes
- Promoting autophagy and apoptosis
- Hindering tumor invasion
- Suppressing angiogenesis
- Reducing pro-cancer inflammatory cytokines
- Disrupting cell signaling and cell migration
Neem not only restricts tumor growth but also improves the certain chemotherapeutic drug efficiency.
Neem in combination therapy
There are evidences that this plant helps in improving effects of anticancer therapies and reducing the adverse effects of drugs.
Cisplatin is a chemotherapeutic drug which is used to treat many types of cancer. In an analysis, gedunin (one of neem's chemical) efficacy was evaluated on epithelial ovarian cancer patients in combination with cisplatin. As compared to cisplatin alone, the gedunin and cisplatin combination exhibited 47% decrease in the cell proliferation. The neem chemical enhanced the activity of this drug.
The leaf extract of this plant also improves cisplatin efficacy in treating cervical cancer. It helps to induce the apoptosis of cancerous cells and its combination with drug works in a synergistic manner.
Neem also showed its additive effect on adriamycin therapy. The breast cancer cells show resistance against adriamycin. This is due to the high levels of P-glycoprotein. The neem chemical (quercetin) helps to reduce this expression, hence potentiating the drug's effect.
Neem also helps to decrease the cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity and hepatotoxicity.
Another complication which is associated with chemotherapy is the bone marrow suppression (presence of neutropenia and leukopenia). The neem leaves extract is known to reduce this cyclophosphamide-induced adverse effects.
Neem extract is also known to reduce the radiation-induced activation of signals that helps in cancer cell survival.
You can see how important the neem is for cancer prevention. Start including this amazing herb in your daily diet and get the benefits out of this.
Different ways to take neem
- You can take decoction of neem leaves every morning.
- Other than decoction, drink neem tea. For this, take dry neem leaves, add in boiling water. You can orange peels, cinnamon or jaggery for flavour.
- Take neem juice every morning on an empty stomach.
- Other than this, you can add this herb in vegetables and chutney.
- You can add this herb in potato, bringle or any gourd vegetable while cooking.
- You can also chew the leaves of this herb.
- If you feel any allergic reaction, consult the doctor and stop consuming this herb.
Consume this herb and make your body disease free. Also, keep your body fit and healthy. Avoid drinking alcohol and doing smoking (major risk factors for cancer). Adopt these 5 lifestyle habits to keep cancer at bay.