Africa: No, Neem Leaves Won't Treat or Prevent Cholera. See a Doctor Instead

IN SHORT: Social media users have suggested using neem leaves to prevent or cure cholera. However, there is not enough research to support the claim that this home remedy treats or prevents the disease.

Several posts on Facebook in Nigeria claim that neem leaves can prevent or cure cholera.

One post reads, in part: "Pls if you are the very type that buy Tiger Nuts, Zobo and Kunu drinks outside, kindly go and look for where you can get Neem leaves aka (Dongoyaro) the leaves in the picture below... Cook and drink with your Family ... Cholera is Real ooo and it's spreading out fast."

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It is usually contracted by ingesting contaminated water or food. Cholera can lead to severe dehydration and even death if not treated.

Neem leaves, from the neem tree or Azadirachta indica, are known for their extensive medicinal properties and have been used in traditional Asian medicine for centuries.

Similar posts can be found here and here. (Note: See more instances listed at the end of this report.)

Public health emergency

There is an outbreak of cholera in Nigeria.

In June 2024, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) declared cholera a public health emergency after its risk assessment showed that Nigeria was at an increased risk of cholera transmission and impact.

As of 2 July, Nigeria has recorded 2,102 suspected cases of cholera with 63 deaths in 33 states.

Cholera remains a major public health challenge, particularly in regions with poor sanitation and limited access to clean water.

Cholera prevention and treatment

The World Health Organization (WHO) says a multifaceted approach is key to controlling cholera and reducing deaths.

According to the organisation, surveillance, safe drinking water and basic sanitation, social mobilisation, and oral vaccines are important in preventing cholera.

"Cholera is an easily treatable disease with prompt administration of oral rehydration solution (ORS)," says the WHO. The ORS is a solution of water, sugar and electrolytes used to treat moderate dehydration.

The WHO says rapid access to treatment is crucial during cholera outbreaks, and ORS is available in communities and larger treatment centres. According to the organisation, proper early treatment keeps the case fatality rate below 1%.

But can neem leaves prevent or cure cholera? We checked.

Insufficient evidence to support the claim

Africa Check found a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2007. It looked at the traditional use of neem leaves in India to treat gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhoea and cholera.

The study showed that neem leaf extract was an effective antibacterial and antisecretory agent against Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of cholera. However, the study was conducted in mice.

This is not enough evidence to confirm the use of the leaves to treat or prevent cholera in humans.

Another study shows that neem leaves contain numerous beneficial chemical compounds and have significant antibacterial properties, almost as effective as a standard antibiotic against Vibrio cholerae.

Similarly, one article notes that methanolic extracts of neem have antibacterial activity against the bacterium that causes cholera.

Africa Check contacted Dr Rotimi Adesanya, head of medical services at the Federal College of Education, Akoka, in Lagos, Nigeria.

He explained that cholera is treated and cured with antibiotics.

Adesanya said that although neem leaves have some useful properties, their acceptance as a cure or prevention for cholera is subject to an extensive series of approvals in the medical world.

"It needs to be published in several journals, presented at conferences and finally subjected to clinical trials in different parts of the world before such drugs could be accepted as a form of cure for cholera," he said.

Kabiru Olusegun is a professor of microbiology in the faculty of science, specialising in infectious diseases, at Lagos State University. He recommends hygiene practices around infected people and ORS as ways to fight cholera.

"Appropriate antibiotics may be used after necessary tests have been conducted in consultation with the physician," he said.

There is not enough research to support the claim that neem leaves can cure or prevent cholera. See a doctor instead.

The claim can also be found here, here and here.


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