Q: I grew up in Gujarat, India, where I played among the surrounding neem trees. They had many uses: a leaf tea comforted rashes, twigs were used for cleaning teeth, smoke from the leaves kept mosquitoes and bugs away. I do not see this useful tree here. Does it not grow in our area?
A: How I wish the multi-talented neem tree, Azadirachta indica, could be grown here! Its leaves provide the insecticide azadirachtin; the seeds give us an insecticidal oil. Neem preparations also control head lice and act as a spermaticide. Unfortunately, the neem tree is only winter hardy as far north as central Florida. Chinaberry, Melia azedarach, is close kin to neem and grows readily in Atlanta. Few studies have been done to determine its medical usefulness but I remember the seed fondly as a ready source of ammunition for throwing at my younger siblings fifty years ago.