Connect with us

Thai Life

Gardening: Marvelous benefits of the neem tree



PHUKET: I have written in these columns before about the sadao tree, or azadiracha indica, which we gardeners in Thailand know as neem. But my interest was re-kindled by a reader from Hua Hin who wrote to say he was “looking for a supplier of neem from the sadao tree”. I presume he wants to use it as an organic pesticide or maybe a specific against mosquitoes.

Neem has long been used by Thais, even though in 2009 there was a totally misguided attempt by authorities to ban its use as one of thirteen so-called hazardous plants. Since it was a traditional and cheap alternative to synthetic and often toxic chemicals, there was an outcry by small farmers and environmentalists. Nowadays, you can find it as an ingredient in natural insecticides, or since the tree is common in Thailand, you can prepare your own concoction.

The neem grows readily in tropical areas with a minimum temperature of 20 degrees. Hardy and shallow rooted, it needs little attention. The one in my garden is so vigorous that it needs pruning to keep it manageable. Its leaves are attractively pinnate and rarely drop unless there is a sudden cessation of the water supply. A member of the mahogany genus, it is a valuable timber, fodder and shade tree. Sprays of flowers on the tips of branches and fruits which ripen to yellow make it ornamental as well as utilitarian.

More importantly, and since they are bitter and astringent to the taste, the flowers, foliage and seeds have powerful antiseptic and healing properties. In parts of Southeast Asia, they are used in cooking, both to impart a distinctive flavor and to cleanse the digestive system. Traditionally, the plant has been used as a remedy for diabetes, as a natural worming agent, and even to treat diseases with viral, bacterial or fungal origins. I recently had an Ayurvedic massage in which the leaves were used as a skin emollient.

Known in India as the ‘village pharmacy’ because of its range of properties, the sadao tree is also employed as a powerful and entirely safe source of insecticides. Thais grind up the flowers or seeds, or even boil the leaves, though boiling is likely to reduce the plants powerful prophylactic action. Mixed with water and sprayed on crops, the liquid makes the leaves inedible to predatory insects and prevents their eggs from hatching. Since the tree is common in gardens and grows wild throughout Thailand, our readers should have no problem in finding a specimen. Neem trees can also be tracked down on Monkey Mountain in Hua Hin.

If not, all parts are available in fresh markets. And if you want to grow one, saplings are often sold in plant nurseries. It takes readily from cuttings. The oil, extracted from the seeds, and sometimes used in cosmetics, may be a more expensive proposition. But even the residue from this process, known as neem cake, is a valuable fertilizer.

What other trees, apart perhaps from the coconut, can match the neem’s value and functionality?

If you have gardening or environmental concerns, contact Patrick at Many of his creative and academic publications can be found at his website: Green galoshes Wordpress.

— Patrick Campbell


Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Crime2 hours ago

Court issues arrest warrant for Sia B’s father, the ‘real owner’ of Mountain B

Thailand2 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Tourism minister joins Full Moon Party on Koh PhaNgan

World3 hours ago

Monkeypox variants renamed to avoid offending people

Sponsored11 hours ago

British International School Phuket: Reflecting on 25 years of world-class education

Tourism3 hours ago

Thailand ranks as fourth most popular destination among Chinese travellers

Crime3 hours ago

Thailand sentences musician to 6 years for royal defamation

Central Thailand4 hours ago

Thai doctor slaps a 3 year old for swearing & refuses to treat him

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Thailand4 hours ago

Thailand records fifth case of monkeypox in Thai woman

Guides4 hours ago

Why you should visit a wellness retreat in Thailand

Thailand5 hours ago

Govt take a trip to the shroom to help Thailand’s depressed

Chiang Mai5 hours ago

E. coli contamination found at popular waterfall in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand

Travel6 hours ago

Impressive beachfront hotels to book in Phuket

Crime6 hours ago

Thai temple man charged with murder of alleged would-be robber

Travel6 hours ago

5 incredible beaches in Phuket to visit in 2022

Travel6 hours ago

Board game cafes in Bangkok to unleash your competitive streak

Cannabis6 hours ago

Cannabis is illegal on Khao San Road, officials call for crackdown

Thailand11 months ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism1 year ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11