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Chapter: Modern Medical Toxicology: Organic Poisons (Toxins): Plants of Special Importance

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Neem - Hepatotoxic Plants

Neem - Hepatotoxic Plants
Other Common Names: Margosa tree. Botanical Name: Azadirachta indica.

Hepatotoxic Plants

Neem

Other Common Names

Margosa tree.

Botanical Name

Azadirachta indica.

Physical Appearance

This tree belonging to family Meliaceae grows well in most parts of the country (Fig 11.1) and is revered highly for its medicinal properties. The seeds yield a yellowish oil (neem oil or margosa oil) which has a disagreeable odour and bitter taste.


Uses

Various parts of the tree as well as the oil have been used in the treatment of a wide variety of ailments.

Rural folk often chew on the twig of this tree to “clean” their teeth as an alternative to brushing with conventional dentifrices.

Toxic Part

Leaves (Fig 11.2) and seeds.


Toxic Principles

·      Margosa oil and leaf extract contain stearic, oleic, palmitic, and linoleic acids.

·      Aflatoxins may be present in unrefined oil.

Clinical Features

Ingestion of leaf extract or excess of margosa oil results in hepatotoxicity with vomiting, drowsiness, and encephalopathy. Metabolic acidosis is often present. Convulsions, myocarditis (with ventricular fibrillation), and pancreatitis have been reported.

Treatment

■■Control of convulsions.

■■Correction of acidosis.

■■Management of cerebral oedema.

■■  Supportive measures.

 

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