Mwiti mwarobaini: Swahili;
Called the “tree of forty uses” in Swahili, neem trees are legendary healers. Fast-growing trees brought over from India to plant along city streets, neem has become a valued addition to the cornucopia of African botanicals.
Neem can be very strong, so it should be used with care! Definitely don’t use neem if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or on other treatments.
One part of the neem tree that is fun to use are the small branches, which make great toothbrushes. Neem tree toothbrushes are easy to make and easy to use. First, find yourself a nice neem tree out of the way of air pollution and gently break off a branch about half a centimeter in diameter. Break away any twigs attached to it, and start to chew on the larger end, until the wood pulp gets a little bristly. Voila!
Now you have a proper African toothbrush — much better than those plastic things made in far-away factories and shipped halfway around the world only to end up in a rubbish dump. Neem toothbrushes are reusable and, when you’re done, they end up in the compost!
Neem branches can be added to a bonfire to help keep away the mosquitoes. They give off a bit of smoke, so be prepared! Still, it is very useful to know this if you need a natural insect repellent. Neem trees, in most places in Africa, are not hard to find!
Neem is one of the most accessible African botanicals that you can start to use. Learning how to recognize a neem tree is easy. Once you do, the city becomes your healing garden. Isn’t that lovely?