For thousands of years, neem (Azadirachta Indica) has been a go-to herb treatment for all sorts of ailments in the Indian subcontinent. Known as the “sarva roga nivarani” or “miracle remedy for every disease” in Ayurveda for its powerful antifungal, antibacterial and other therapeutic properties, neem is prescribed to cure skin ailments, liver problems, high cholestrol, blood toxicity, UTI, asthma, diabetes, chicken pox, ulcers and a host of other diseases in humans. The United Nations Environment Program even calls it the “Tree of the 21st Century” because every part of this evergreen – leaves, roots, flowers, seeds, bark and fruit – is a usable resource and has multiple applications.
Branches of the neem tree are still used in rural India like a toothbrush for healthy teeth and gums. It’s leaves are dried, powdered and used as a beauty pack for glowing, blemish-free skin and shining hair. What’s more, neem is flash-fried and consumed with rice for a healthy digestive system. (Be warned that it’s an `acquired’ taste. The leaves are extremely bitter, even though the scent of fried neem is absolutely mouthwatering.)
Dogs benefit greatly from the remedial properties of neem as well. Neem oil, extracted from neem seed kernels, is a powerful herbal antidote for several common canine skin and digestive problems, and though it is an indigenous product from India, organic neem oil can be bought quite easily in Canada and United States via online stores like Amazon.
If you want to treat your pet holistically and avoid strong prescription medications, here are three ways to use neem if the animal is suffering from recurring skin and gastro-intestinal disorders.
Neem shampoo works magic on itchy skin caused by insect bites, food allergies, mange, ringworm etc. If you’re noticing patchy hair loss, hot feet, chafed underarms or just chronically dry, chapped skin, replace your regular dog shampoo for a neem-infused one and the irritations will begin to subside right away. It will act as insect repellent and discourage fleas and most ticks (brown dog tick is resistant to neem) from infesting your pet, as well as keep the animal’s coat looking healthy and shining.
Neem dog shampoos can be store-bought or you can make your own at home by adding 1tsp of organic neem oil to 3 tbsp of your regular dog shampoo. (Do not pre-mix and keep.)
Gently rub the neem shampoo into the skin, making sure you cover all the hard-to-reach places, and wait 3-5 minutes for the neem compounds to absorb before rinsing off.
To make a neem oil leave-in spray, mix 10 parts warm water to 1 part neem oil and a few drops of mild soap. (The soap component will help mix the oil with the water.) Spray this mixture all over your pet or just apply topically to problem areas, such as behind the ears, between the paw pads, top of the head, under the arms, stomach etc.
A neem spray is very effective against insect bites because the critters hate the peanutty-garlicy smell of neem. If your dog is suffering from an infestation, make sure that you use the neem spray on the pet’s rugs, bedding etc. as well.
An important point to remember while making the spray is that neem oil breaks down quite quickly after it is mixed in water. Always make the solution fresh and do not keep for longer than 8 hours.
Neem Bark Powder
Dogs love the taste of organic, fresh-ground neem bark powder. Add a sprinkling of the antioxidant-rich powder in your dog’s regular food (¼ tsp per 10 lb body weight) to reduce bad breath, remove teeth plaque, improve your pet’s immune system and enhance liver and kidney functions.