Neem: Ayurveda’s First Immune Responder

According to Ayurveda, viruses fall into the category of krimi. Krimi are further categorized as raktaja krimi, which are carried in the circulatory system (lymph, veins, arteries), and purisaja krimi, which reside in the lower gut.

In This Article

How does Ayurveda think about viruses?

According to Ayurveda, viruses fall into the category of krimi. Krimi are further categorized as raktaja krimi, which are carried in the circulatory system (lymph, veins, arteries), and purisaja krimi, which reside in the lower gut.1

So how did Ayurveda deal with krimi? Strategies aimed at addressing infestations of krimi were three-fold:3

1. Physical removal of krimi.
2. Elimination of the cause of infestation.
3. Modification of the prakriti (constitution or environment) of the krimi (microbes) and the human host.

In Ayurveda, we not only deal with the infestation, but with the terrain accommodating that infestation. According to Ayurveda, the prakriti (environment) of the microbe and the human host can be modified! How do we do this? With the help of dietary habits, herbs, and lifestyle management.3

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How Does Viral Krimi Work?

When we are exposed to a viral krimi, the virus must penetrate a cell wall and occupy a cell in order to survive. In fact, a virus is arguably not alive until it finds its way into a cell, where it can reproduce. Outside of a cell, a virus is just a fatty sac around some genetic material and proteins, which cannot survive until it penetrates a cell.

Epithelial cells (or protective border cells) lining the lungs and intestines are most vulnerable, as these are the first cells the virus will come in contact with, primarily through the air we breathe and things we swallow, like food and saliva. A strong digestive agni (or stomach acid) normally destroys viruses on contact, but weak digestion breeds vulnerability.

We recommend "Self-Care for your Body's Immunity Protectors": https://lifespa.com/gut-lung-skin-blood/

Once the virus attaches to a receptor on the surface of an epithelial cell, it injects genetic material so the cell unknowingly follows the viral genetic instructions to replicate the virus. In short order, the cell is overwrought with new viral cells, until the cell wall fails and the viral cells are freed into the extracellular lymphatic fluid, always looking for another cell to attach to and inject its genetic material in.

Once the virus enters the extracellular lymphatic fluid, an immune response is triggered. Pro-inflammatory cytokines are the first responders. They dictate immune response, sending killer T cells and neutrophils to the site.  If the lymphatic and immune response is healthy, the virus can be arrested in short order and few symptoms are experienced.

If the protective epithelial border cells in the lungs and gut are unhealthy and the lymphatic system has been chronically congested, the viral load can quickly surge, causing the immune system to send more cytokines, who call for more neutrophils and killer T cells to mount a larger immune response.

In the viral battle, neutrophils and killer T cells can be infected by viral cells, causing cytokines to surge, leading to an overzealous immune reaction. This is called a cytokine storm: rapidly increasing numbers of cytokines cause hyper-inflammation and massive numbers of killer T cells and neutrophils, which not only attack and destroy viral cells, but healthy cells, too—thus the name killer T cells.4

Ayurveda Addresses the Environment, Not the Virus

Ayurveda supports a healthy immune response by changing the environment of both the epithelial border cells (lining the gut and respiratory tract), as well as supporting healthy flow of extracellular lymphatic fluid, which transports the immune system.

Healthy Epithelial Border Cells

Cells that line the respiratory and digestive tracts are the real first responders responsible for healthy immune response. These epithelial cells, which are basically skin cells, are lined with beneficial bacteria. While the lungs were once thought to be sterile, they are now known to harbor beneficial bacteria critical to a healthy respiratory immune response.5

Maintaining balance in the environments of both the digestive and respiratory tracts is required in order to maintain a healthy immune response, according to Ayurveda. I have written many articles on how to support the health and integrity of the intestinal skin lining.

Neem to the Rescue

The leaf of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica) has been used for thousands of years to support a healthy epithelial (skin) barrier in both the gut and respiratory tracts. Its nicknames, village pharmacy’ and queen of the skin, describe its role in supporting the immune system by maintaining healthy skin quite perfectly.

neem

Neem plays an important role in keeping the body’s microbiomes in balance. Neem has been found to create an environment detrimental to bad bacteria, while supporting good bacteria.

The newest science is beginning to understand one of the mechanisms of how this works. It turns out neem is antagonistic to biofilms. Biofilms create safe havens for bacteria to flourish, take root on the intestinal wall, and negatively impact gut microbiology.4-6

Inhibiting unwanted biofilm accumulation allows natural gut immunity, driven by beneficial bacteria, to maintain a healthy balance of good and bad intestinal bacteria.9-11

Neem is well-documented to be unsupportive to the proliferation of undesirable bacteria.6-8 In one study, neem supported the body’s natural antiviral response by supporting the intestinal lining to block entry of certain viruses into the cell.12

Neem leaf has also been shown to support the body’s (aka the host’s) natural and healthy regulation of cytokines during an immune event.13 In another study, neem leaf extract was shown to support cytokine-driven pro-inflammatory immune cell signaling response and the immune system’s natural programmed cell death of undesirable cells.14

For immune support and to maintain healthy epithelial borders and associated microbiomes, it was traditional to harvest and regularly eat leaves of the neem tree, brush teeth with neem sticks, and drink neem tea. It is said that eating leaves just before spring (January and February) jumpstarts immunity and offers benefits for a full year.

To learn more about the lymphatic system’s role in a healthy immune response, please read my many lymphatic articles here.
Also download my free comprehensive eBook on the lymphatic system here.

References

  1. https://ijapr.in/index.php/ijapr/article/view/1051/844
  2. https://ijapr.in/index.php/ijapr/article/view/105
  3. https://www.exoticindiaart.com/book/details/parasitology-in-ayurveda-NAE342/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3294426/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6110890/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3695574/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4791507/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15777222
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23737302
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16412377
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2890205/
  12. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ptr.3085
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31572681
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3092905/

12 thoughts on “Neem: Ayurveda’s First Immune Responder”

  1. Beeting about the bush,all this could be said in 2min,the most important thing now is what Ayurvedic remedies were used to fight krimi.

    Reply
    • For some of us who have followed Dr. Douillard for many years and have been helped from him, we appreciate more than 2 minutes. This is a strange time and I’m lucky to be healthy. I’ve heard most of this before but I still find comfort in listening to Dr. Douillard.

      Reply
  2. I looked up the information on Telluride. It says that only 4800 people were tested out of 8000 and they won’t have the results back in regard to the antibody test until next week. I would love to know where you received your information regarding the claim that half of the people did have the antibody. It’s important to name sources for such an important claim/statement during this time as there is much misinformation and this could be very misleading.

    Reply
    • Hi Alison,

      It was reported on the Rachel Maddow show when she interviewed the Telluride medical director. I did mention that those were the results of folks tested so far. Yes you’re correct I should have mentioned that source. I make extra efforts in all my articles to cite the science that support the topic I am writing about. Thanks for catching me!

      Be Well,
      Dr. John

      Reply
  3. Dear Doctor Douillard,
    I took neem for Lymes disease, which I had from 1977 to 2017. I was diagnosed in 2015 and had to test negative to have double knee replacement surgery. The Neem definitely helped to rid me of the bacteria. Last October I had acid reflux so bad that I ended up in the emergency department. I had shortness of breath which is a symptom of acid reflux. I also studied Ayurvedic medicine at the California College of Ayurveda and resorted to my school books for what to take for the acid reflux. As it turned out, neem, Amalaki, and Indian Tinospora stem. So I ordered your Neem Plus and have been taking it since November. Acid reflux is gone. And now all my family and friends are takin Neem as well.

    You are an amazing physician and thank you for all your information you provide to the world. May you and your family be safe in this time of fear.

    Your fan,
    Sharon Sanschagrin

    Reply
  4. Thank you for this most informative article integrating Ayurvedic concepts with pathophysiology. Here is an op-ed from NYT from an obesity specialist and Infectious disease specialist supporting everything you’ve written but from the allopathic standpoint at the ground level dealing with patients with this: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/30/opinion/obesity-us-health-coronavirus.html?campaign_id=39&emc=edit_ty_20200330&instance_id=17183&nl=david-leonhardt&r
    Essentially we have a perfect storm for this epidemic in our country: poor respiratory health, poor digestion (depleted Agni and Ojas) and obesity (lymph congestion, Ama) leading to an environment that supports the breakdown of cellular immunity. I applaud you for putting this into cogent terms. In essence, we need to take this golden opportunity to realize these are all interrelated and that we can build immunity, digestive and respiratory health concurrently.

    Reply
  5. Dr. Douillard,
    I assume from reading this article then that a lymphatic cleanse like the Colorado Cleanse is really beneficial. I was concerned about doing one right now because of the stress of all that is going on. I do know you have said that stress during the cleanse isn’t good.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  6. Dr.Douillard, I have been looking forward to reading your thoughts on viruses. I am grateful for your education. I have been taking the herbs from the lymphatic cleanse for a couple of weeks. Along with the 5 Herb Energy. Which is AMAZING on how it works on the nervous system. It gives me energy and calms my anxiety and stress quickly. My only complaint is I wish there was more pills in the Vitamin B-12 bottle. Any ways I feel better. I am sharing the Neem plus with my son. I will report back and hopefully purchase again. Good work!!

    Reply
  7. Thank you Dr Douillard for your extraordinary contribution to my family’s wellbeing. I took neem for a while after a trip around India, Malaysia and Sri Lanka left me suffering from parasites. It didn’t really help and caused a lot of dryness. Would you recommend Neem to anyone or should we consider our predominant type and current condition? Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Padma,

      Neem is classically a spring-summer herb and yes can be drying in the winter. That said for anti-viral support it should be considered.

      Best,
      LifeSpa Staff

      Reply
  8. I understand that Vitamin C is also very important for creating a strong immune response to viruses. I mentioned to an ayurvedic consultant that taking 2,000 to 5,000mg of a balanced (buffered) vitamin C crystal is good to take but she said the best and only source should be Amalaki fruit. The question is how much Amalaki must be taken to equal even 1,000mg of Vitamin C and is it the best way when the immune system is under viral stress? Also, how much Vitamin C and Vitamin D3 should be taken to keep the immune system strong?

    Reply

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