From lavender to peppermint, you’ve probably heard of the more common plants used in oils. But what about neem? Also known as margosa or Indian lilac, neem has been valued as a medicinal plant in India since Vedic times. It also holds the limelight in Ayurvedic, homeopathic, and Unani medicine. The Sanskrit name of neem, Arishtha, means “reliever of sickness.” In fact, neem is still called “the village dispensary” in many Indian villages!
For centuries, nearly every part of the tree – the bark, roots, leaves, seeds, fruits, and flowers – has been used for its antimicrobial and antiseptic properties.1 But when it comes to oil, the seeds are the best source. Neem oil has a garlicky smell, tastes bitter, and is yellow to brown in color. But don’t let that put you off! One of its active components, azadirachtin, has awesome pesticidal properties. Beyond that, neem oil boasts other benefits that make it a must-have in your collection of oils.
6 Remarkable Benefits Of Neem Oil
1. Neem Oil For The Skin And Hair
This powerful oil can be a game changer for your hair and skin.
Relieves Dryness And Makes Skin Supple
Rich in vitamin E and essential fatty acids (EFAs), neem oil can go deep into the skin. It can heal even the tiniest of cracks from extreme dryness. Neem oil is also used to enhance aging skin, as it boosts collagen production.2
Treats Skin Conditions
This magical oil also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, it can even ward off fungal skin infections such as ringworm and athlete’s foot.3 Neem oil can also work against scabies and eczema. Ayurveda recommends adding one gram of camphor to 30 mL neem oil. This mixture should then be applied twice a day.4
If you suffer from acne, this one’s for you. According to folk remedies, neem leaves can be used to treat breakouts. Research has found that applying both neem oil and crushed neem leaves can reduce the size of a painful pimple.5 But since neem oil is quite strong, it’s wise to dilute it with coconut or olive oil before applying it. Time to get mixing!
Combats Hair Problems
Neem oil can naturally improve common hair problems like graying and hair loss.6 Lice and dandruff can also be treated with it, thanks to the pesticidal properties of azadirachtin. It sure beats those harsh store-bought chemical solutions.
How To Use
Using neem oil is easy. Add a few drops to your regular hair wash to turn it into an effective neem shampoo. Depending on the severity of the problem, you can add 1 to 5 ml of neem oil to every 100 ml of shampoo. Before you know it, you’ll have an effective remedy for dandruff or lice. You can dilute a similar amount into your cream or lotion for dry skin, too.7 Remember to do an allergy test and start with smaller quantities to ensure it agrees with your skin. What if you’re dealing with an acne attack? Dilute a couple of drops of neem oil in a carrier oil like coconut. Dab it right on and wash it off after a bit.
2. Neem Oil For Inflammation
The phenolic compounds like catechins (antioxidants) in neem oil can also reduce the pain and inflammation from arthritis.8 Try rubbing some neem oil on swollen joints for soothing relief.
Ayurveda also recommends neem oil for treating onychia, an inflammation of the nail bed.9
3. Neem Oil For Bacterial And Viral Infections
Generally, neem oil is excellent for treating bacterial and viral infections. In fact, researchers are currently studying its potential as a treatment for herpes and gonorrhea. It’s also believed to treat vaginal infections and sexually transmitted diseases.10 Moreover, extracts of neem oil have shown to prevent E. coli (responsible for diarrhea and urinary tract infections), K. pneumoniae (a bacterium that causes pneumonia), and even the polio virus.11 Clearly, neem oil is a talented one.
4. Neem Oil As A Contraceptive
Interestingly enough, neem oil is being studied as a contraceptive. Nimbin and nimbidin, two bioactive components of neem oil, have strong spermicidal properties. In lab, animal, and human trials, inserting just 1 mL of concentrated neem oil vaginally produced 100 percent efficacy. 12 In a later study, an extract of neem oil (NIM-76) was able to selectively kill sperm without bothering normal cells. This property makes NIM-76 a very promising vaginal contraceptive agent.13 But more trials are needed to determine the safety of introducing neem oil into the body.
5. Neem Oil For The Home And Surroundings
The pesticidal potential of azadirachtin makes neem oil useful in and around the house. Azadirachtin can actually inhibit insect feeding and act as a repellent. The inability to feed ultimately kills the insect. It also interferes with the hormone systems of insects and disrupts their growth cycle. As a result, it can be tricky for the insect to grow and lay eggs. And while there are other components in neem that have the same impact, more studies are needed in order to learn about them.14
You’ll be happy to know that neem oil is a natural mosquito repellent. In a study in India, a 1 percent mix of neem oil and kerosene was burned for 12 hours. The outcome? Fewer mosquitoes and bites in the study area. Specifically, the mix was most effective against the Anopheles mosquito.15 In another Indian study, a 2 percent mix of neem oil and coconut oil was applied on the skin of volunteers. It was able to ward off several breeds of mosquitoes, offering the most protection from the Anopheles.16 Neem oil might be just what you need in the summer months.
This extraordinary oil can also destroy larvae when sprayed over mosquito-breeding areas. These powerful properties make it an excellent natural option in areas prone to mosquito-borne diseases.17
Controls Bed Bugs
Ever have bed bugs? You know how menacing they can be. Fortunately, the US Environmental Protection Agency has registered cold-pressed neem oil as the only biochemical pesticide that can be used against bed bugs.18.
6. Neem Oil For Your Pets
Our furry friends can reap the benefits of neem oil, too. In pets, it strengthens the overall immune response and is an excellent antidote for skin ailments. Aside from dressing foul ulcers, the oil can treat eczema and skin problems like ticks, mange, ringworm, and scabies in dogs. To top it off, neem oil can build up collagen and help wounds heal.19 An Ethiopian study observed the effect of Ethiopian neem oil on a persistent cattle tick. All larvae treated with a 50 percent solution of neem oil died.20
If you want to use neem oil on your pet, dilute it with water. Do check with your vet for safe quantities, though.
Neem Oil: Safety And Toxicity
As with all plant products, use neem oil from a trusted source. And since it’s quite strong, your best bet is to dilute it with water or a carrier oil if you’re using it on the skin.
Most importantly, never (ever) consume it. Keep it out of reach from children. Ingesting neem oil in its pure or diluted form can be risky, especially for children, pregnant women, women trying to conceive, or those with a weak system. In children and some adults, it can cause toxic encephalopathy, a neurologic disorder accompanied by vomiting and seizures. Unfortunately, there isn’t a known cure for neem oil poisoning. Prescribed treatments only focus on the symptoms.21 It all comes down to the azadirachtin, which doesn’t play well with the skin and stomach. Beyond humans, neem oil hasn’t been found to be toxic to plants, birds, bees, and most animals.22
What about Ayurvedic medicines with neem extracts or oil? While Ayurveda and some folk treatments do prescribe neem oil for oral intake, it’s usually mixed with additional ingredients to avoid toxicity. The bottom line? Do not ingest neem oil unless advised by an experienced Ayurvedic doctor or practitioner you trust.
|↑1||Biswas, Kausik, Ishita Chattopadhyay, Ranajit K. Banerjee, and Uday Bandyopadhyay. “Biological activities and medicinal properties of neem (Azadirachta indica).” Current Science-Bangalore – 82, no. 11 (2002): 1336-1345.|
|↑2, ↑3, ↑6, ↑8, ↑10||Mak-Mensah, E. E., and C. K. Firempong. “Chemical characteristics of toilet soap prepared from neem (Azadirachta indica A. Juss) seed oil.” Asian J Plant Sci Res 1, no. 4 (2011): 1-7.|
|↑4, ↑9||Arunachalan, Srikantha. Treatise On Ayurveda. Diamond Pocket Books (P) Ltd., 2004.|
|↑5||Kapoor, Shweta, and Swarnlata Saraf. “Topical herbal therapies an alternative and complementary choice to combat acne.” Research journal of Medicinal plant 5, no. 6 (2011): 650-669.|
|↑7||Using Neem Oil: Making Neem Shampoo, Lotion And Cream. Discover Neem.|
|↑11||SaiRam, M., G. Ilavazhagan, S. K. Sharma, S. A. Dhanraj, B. Suresh, M. M. Parida, A. M. Jana, Kumar Devendra, and W. Selvamurthy. “Anti-microbial activity of a new vaginal contraceptive NIM-76 from neem oil (Azadirachta indica).” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 71, no. 3 (2000): 377-382.|
|↑12||Sinha, K. C., S. S. Riar, R. S. Tiwary, A. K. Dhawan, J. Bardham, Pauline Thomas, A. K. Kain, and R. K. Jain. “Neem oil as a vaginal contraceptive.” Indian Journal of Medical Research 79 (1984): 131-6.|
|↑13||Sharma, S. K., M. SaiRam, G. Ilavazhagan, Kumar Devendra, S. S. Shivaji, and W. Selvamurthy. “Mechanism of action of NIM-76: a novel vaginal contraceptive from neem oil.” Contraception 54, no. 6 (1996): 373-378.|
|↑14||Bond, C.; Buhl, K.; Stone, D. Neem Oil General Fact Sheet. National Pesticide Information Center, Oregon State University Extension Services. 2012.|
|↑15||Sharma, V. P., and M. A. Ansari. “Personal protection from mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae) by burning neem oil in kerosene.” Journal of medical entomology 31, no. 3 (1994): 505-507.|
|↑16||Sharma, S. K., V. K. Dua, and V. P. Sharma. “Field studies on the mosquito repellent action of neem oil.” The Southeast Asian journal of tropical medicine and public health 26, no. 1 (1995): 180-182.|
|↑17||Dua, Virendra K., Akhilesh C. Pandey, Kamaraju Raghavendra, Ashish Gupta, Trilochan Sharma, and Aditya P. Dash. “Larvicidal activity of neem oil (Azadirachta indica) formulation against mosquitoes.” Malaria journal 8, no. 1 (2009): 1.|
|↑18||Pesticides to Control Bed Bugs. United States Environmental Protection Agency.|
|↑19||Raina, Rajinder, Shahid Parwez, P. K. Verma, and N. K. Pankaj. “Medicinal plants and their role in wound healing.” Online Veterinary J 3 (2008): 21.|
|↑20||Handule, Ismail Mohamed, Chitapa Ketavan, and Solomon Gebre. “Toxic effect of Ethiopian neem oil on larvae of cattle tick, Rhipicephalus pulchellus Gerstaeker.” Kasetsart J 36 (2002): 18-22.|
|↑21||Mishra, Ajay, and Nikhil Dave. “Neem oil poisoning: Case report of an adult with toxic encephalopathy.” Indian journal of critical care medicine: peer-reviewed, official publication of Indian Society of Critical Care Medicine 17, no. 5 (2013): 321.|
|↑22||Neem Oil General Fact Sheet. National Pesticide Information Center, Oregon State University Extension Services.|