NEEM — Nature’s Healing Gift to Humanity
By Lorna J. Hancock, Executive Director, Health Action Network Society, (HANS) Vancouver, B.C., Canada
By Klaus Ferlow, HMH, HA, CN-$24.95, US-$19.95
I love living in Vancouver, reputed to be one of the most beautiful places one could live in the World; but once in awhile I marvel at what other countries have to boast about. Seems that India has a tree that is so special, in so many ways, that they have named it the national tree. We are talking about the Neem Tree, every part of which has immense value, justifying this high praise.
The leaves of the Neem Tree are used as a pesticide, fertilizer, and put in animal feed, making it effective against internal nematodes; the flowers are used in aromatherapy for a calming and restorative effect; the twigs can be used as toothbrushes (although that might be a hard sell to my granddaughters); the bark has properties that make it a sexual contraceptive for men and women; the roots are antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and germicidal and can be used to control fleas and ticks on pets; the oil is a bio-pesticide; and the remaining cake (after pressing out the oil) is also used as a pesticide, in fertilizer, and as an anti-fungal. Given this, it is an organic alternative to antibiotics in livestock. That in itself is huge, considering the widespread problem the World now faces with antibiotic over-use.
I did not know about the Neem tree until I met Master Herbalist Klaus Ferlow. On the jacket of his book, NEEM — Nature’s Healing Gift to Humanity, it says “The endearing story of Neem is told through the eyes of one of its most enthusiastic advocates.” Having known Klaus now for several decades, I can now say with 100% certainty that he is indeed a global ambassador for this remarkable tree, which, in addition to all of the above benefits, also provides shade and lower temperatures while providing people and animals a nice and enjoyable place to rest underneath it.
Who would have thought that a painful skin condition on Klaus’s scalp and elbows (psoriasis), coupled with a love of herbs, and listening to the David Suzuki show “What’s in a Neem” would not only heal Klaus but lead to a life-long passion to share the knowledge of this amazingly curative plant with others? Who would have thought that this passion would result in a delightful book to read?
This book, however, deals with more than just the healing properties of Neem and I found myself riveted to the chapter that dealt with the politics of Neem; and it makes sense, upon reflection. Having such great financial potential as a global natural product, a frenzy of pre-patent activity sprang upon the scene with patent applications from many large corporations. Everyone knows that once patented, it is lost to the people who have been safely and happily using it for many thousands of years.
As with many activist movements, the people enthusiastically won the day. The resistance to this particular corporate takeover was led by world-famous Dr. Vandana Shiva, well known for her work against genetic engineering. This stalwart humanitarian played a pivotal role in successfully preventing the biopiracy of Neem (as well as Basmati rice and wheat), but it took her decades and a lot of frustration to get there. The fight to keep Neem unpatented resulted in over 100,000 Indian protesters in 2005, the year that the people won. It was heartfelt to read how individuals can touch the World as, indeed, Dr. Shiva has.
When I originally obtained a copy of this book and started to read it, I thought it would be a somewhat dry read — which I tend to notice with books referencing science. But, no, it isn’t like that. Instead, it is a totally unexpected delight to consider the beauty of this special tree and a fascinating read.
The book NEEM — Nature’s Gift to Humanity may be fiercely passionate about a tree. But, oh, what a tree it is! And it is surprising in how many ways it touches humans. I felt like cheering when I read of the inspirations and passion of German-born Elke and Stephan Krueger, who wondered one day if the Neem tree could possibly be used to boost the economy of impoverished Piura, Peru? Well, yes, indeed, it could; and what an incredible journey the Kruegers embarked upon in order to make that so. I was spellbound by their dedication and impressive story, which reminds one of the struggles and adversities that have often led to real and important solutions for other suffering human beings just as this has.
NEEM has warmly referenced many friends, colleagues, and organizations who support and understand the use of Neem — with pictures throughout — making it helpful if you are looking for both resources and inspiration. It is also well referenced at the bottom of each page, just in case an idea should inspire you to look further. I hope you will read this book and enjoy it as much as I did.