Home Herbal Monograph Indian Lilac, Margosa Tree, Neem Tree

It is commonly found throughout the greater part of India and often cultivated. Though not a forest-tree, it is generally found to grow wild.

Morphology Description (Habit)
A large, evergreen tree, with long, spreading branches forming a broad crown. The bark is grey and rough; the leaves are alternate, the leaflets 8-19, glossy and bluntly serrate; the flowers are white or pale-yellow, small, scented, numerous and found in long, axillary panicles; the drupes are yellow on ripening, aromatic, oblong and smooth, with a single exalbuminous seed.
Principal Constituents

The alcoholic extract of the fresh stem and bark yielded the bitter principles nimbin, nimbinin, and nimbidin. The alcoholic extract of the air-dried rootbark yielded nimbin and nimbidin. Another terpenic constituent, identical with sugiol, is reported to be present in the stem and bark. Petrol-ether soluble fraction of the alcoholic extract of the stem-bark yielded an essential oil (0.02%), having characteristics similar to the oil isolated from the blossoms. All parts of the plant yield ß-sitosterol1. The leaves contain nimbin, nimbinene, 6-desacetylnimbinene, nimbandiol, nimbolide and quercetin. The presence of ß-sitosterol, n-hexacosanol and nonacosane is also reported2. The diterpenoids margolone, nimbogone, nimbonolone and mimbolinin have been isolated from the plant3.


A crude extract of the leaves was studied for its effects on the cardiovascualar system of anesthetized guinea pigs and rabbits. The extract (200mg/kg) decreased the heart-rate of the rabbit from 280 to 150 beats/min. It also exhibited a weak anti-arrhythmic activity in rabbit against ouabain-induced dysrhythmia4.

The leaves are reported to possess antifertility properties. The powder of the leaves at the dose level of 20mg, 40mg and 60mg/rat/day for 24 days exhibited spermicidal activity. The leaves are said to be used as an anthelmintic. The aqueous extract of leaves exhibited anti-ulcer and anti-inflammatory activity. The water soluble portion of the alcoholic extract of the leaves was found to possess a significant blood sugar lowering effect in glucose-fed and adrenaline-induced hyperglycemic rats but failed to show such effect in normal and streptozotocin induced diabetic rats. The freshly prepared leaf extract at low doses (10, 20, 50, 100 and 200mg/kg) produced a significant anti-anxiety effect whereas at higher doses (400mg and 800mg/kg) it did not show the activity. The acetone extract of leaves exhibited CNS depression, a reduction of blood pressure as well as heart rate without showing diuretic activity5.

Laboratory trials on rats have shown that the oil from the seed kernal and nimbidol in a dose of 8mg/kg body wt possess anti-arthritic action6.

Clinical studies

Clinical trials were conducted on 9 patients of congestive heart failure with anasarca to study the diuretic effect of sodium nimbidinate. 250mg were administered daily by deep intra-muscular injection in the gluteal region. The injections were repeated for 2-13 days with an average of about 5 injections per patient. Four other patients were also studied as controls on the same lines with bed rest, low sodium diet and adequate digitalization without any diuretic. Eight of the patients showed a definite diuretic response. The control group did not show any diuresis. No toxic reaction was noted except local discomfort or slight pain7.

Clinical trials were conducted on 12 cases of congestive cardiac failure with sodium nimbidinate for diuretic activity. Encouraging diuretic activity was observed with good response in 4 cases. There was no significant toxicity8.


A study of the toxicity of nimbidin on frogs showed that the average lethal dose was estimated at 0.25mg/g body wt.


Neem extracts have been reported to possess anti-diabetic, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. The stem, root, bark and young fruits are reported to possess astringent, tonic and anti-periodic properties. The bark is reported to be beneficial in malarial fever and useful in cutaneous diseases.

  1. Indian Pat. NO.13343, 1927; Bhattacharji et. al., J sci industr Res, 1953, 12B, 154; Mitra et. al., ibid, 12B, 152; Sengupta et. al., Chem & Ind, 1958, 861; Narasimhan, Chem & Ind, 1957, 661.
  2. Ketkar, 1976, 208; Troup, I, 180; Dastur, Useful Plants, 39; Mitra, C R , 6, 9, 64; Christopher, loc. cit.; Murthy, Indian Fmg, N S, 1957-58, 7(9), 9; Macmillan, 29; Basu & 6 Chakraborty, J Indian chem Soc, 1968, 45, 466; Chem Abstr,1981, 95, 111715; Awasthi & Mitra, Phytochemistry, 1971, 10, 2842; Nutritive Value of Indian Foods, 69; Dakshinamurti, Curr Sci, 1954, 23, 125.
  3. Hanson, Nat Prod Rep, 1991, 54, 6.
  4. Mitra, C R, 64, 96; Tyagi et. al., Nagarjun 1977-78, 21(4), 5; Basu, J Bombay nat Hist Soc, 1955-56, 53, 743; Rao et. al., Indian J med Res, 1969, 57, 495; Joshi & Magar, J sci industr Res, 1952, 11B, 261; Banerjee & Sanyal, Proc Indian Sci Congr, 1956, pt. III, 348; Shrivastava & Singh, Indian Drugs, 1981-82, 19, 245; Dictionary org Compds, V, 688; Thompson & Anderson, J pharm Sci, 1978, 67, 1467.
  5. Qamar et.al., Pakist J Industr Res, 1989, 32, 600; Vedavathy et. al., Int J Pharmacogn 1991, 29, 113; Bhattarai, ibid, 1992, 30, 145; Shaikh, Curr Sci, 1993, 64, 688; Garg, et. al., Planta Med, 1993, 59, 215 Alam et. al., Fitoterapia, 1990, 61, 240; Chattopadhyay & Maitra, ibid, 1993, 64, 332; El-Hawary & Kholief, Arch Pharm Res, 1990, 13, 108; Handa, 1992, 63, 3; Jaiswal et. al., Indian J. Exp Biol, 1994, 32, 484; Chattopadhyay et. al., ibid, 1992, 738; Singh et. al., ibid, 1990, 61, 164.
  6. Dastur, Useful Plants, 40; Mitra, Indian Oilseeds J, 1956-57, 1, 256;Information from Dr C R Mitra, NBRI, Lucknow; Shankaranarayanan & Sirsi, Indian J Pharm, 1961, 23, 53.
  7. Shah et. al., Ind. J. Med. Sci., 1958, 12, 150.
  8. Shah et. al., J. Assoc. Physician India, 1959, 7, 235.