Anxiety modulation often requires pharmaceutical intervention, and though effective in the short term, benzodiazepines may cause impaired motor function. As a potential alternative, anxiety-modulating effects of a neem leaf (Azadirachta indica, A Juss) extract were investigated using ethological analysis of rat behaviour on an elevated X maze and compared with diazepam treatment. Sexually immature female Sprague-Dawley rats received 0.07 or 7 mg/kg neem leaf steroidal extract, a sham injection, a 1% DMSO/saline vehicle, 2 mg/kg diazepam or no treatment one hour prior to a recorded five-minute exploration of the elevated X maze. Neem matched diazepam in anxiety reduction as both treatments caused a decrease in per cent protected stretched-attend postures (PPSAP). Neem treatment had no effect on closed arm entries or total rears, distinguishing it pharmacologically from diazepam which resulted in a predictable decrease in those locomotor measures. Whereas both neem and diazepam reduced anxiety in complex ethological behavioural indices, only neem produced anxiolysis without motor deficiency.