Neem has two closely related species, Azadirachta indica A. Juss and Melia azadirachta; the former is popularly known as the Indian neem (margosa tree) or Indian lilac, and the latter as the Persian lilac. A. indica has been well known in India and its neighboring countries for more than 2000 years as a versatile medicinal plant with a broad spectrum of biological activity, including antibacterial properties. Currently, it is regarded as the most useful traditional medicinal plant in India, and known as the "village pharmacy." The Sanskrit name for the neem tree is Arishtha, meaning "reliever of sickness," and all parts of the tree have been in use in Ayurvedic, Unani, and homeopathic medicine; hence, it is considered to be Sarbar-oganibarini ("one that can cure all bodily ailments").

In recent years, interest in neem has focused on its repellent, anti-feedant, and growth-disrupting effects on insects, as well as its ability to provide a cheap natural pesticide. Neem oil, produced from the seed kernels of neem fruit, is the most commonly used neem product. It is generally regarded as possessing the highest concentration of active components with regard to the manufacture of pesticides. It is also used in soap manufacture, and as a treatment for various skin disorders. Some recent studies have also demonstrated activity of the plant against bacteria, viruses, and fungal infections. Originating in India, neem is now widespread throughout arid, tropical, and subtropical areas of the world. In Nepal, it mostly grows in the southern Terai region.

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