The neem tree (Azadirachta indica A. Juss) is a plant native to India, which has been used medicinally for more than 2000 years. A member of the evergreen tree family, each part of the neem tree has been used in Ayurveda and homeopathic remedies over the years.1
So, what is neem oil and how is it used? Neem oil is extracted from the neem plant, usually the seed. It has been used in a variety of cosmetics, medical treatments, and gardening products.1
Throughout this article you will learn more about neem oil concentrate, how to use neem oil, the many benefits of neem seed oil, as well as neem oil’s toxicity level, and where you can buy organic neem oil for use at home.
Neem Oil Uses
Since its introduction as a medicinal remedy more than 2000 years ago, there have been several uses for neem oil. Neem oil uses include:
- Manage Skin Conditions like Scabies, Acne, and Eczema
- Support Hair Health
- Prevent Pregnancy
- Maintain Lawn and Gardens
- Keep Pets Free from Fleas
Neem Oil for Skin Conditions
Thanks to its natural hydrating ingredients, neem oil is used in several skin cosmetics, such as neem oil moisturizer. But is there any science behind the benefits of neem oil on skin?
As outlined in a 2002 scientific review, using neem oil for eczema may provide significant relief. In an acute stage, positive results were noted after 3-4 days of application.1 This suggests that neem oil for dermatitis may also be beneficial.
Neem Oil for Scabies Relief
With neem oil, scabies relief may be possible, according to a 2008 animal study. Scabies, or mange, is an infection caused by mites on the skin of animals or humans. In one study, researchers found that a topical ointment consisting of neem leaf extract and Vaseline successfully combated scabies infection in 42 test subjects. Within 10-days, the mites were completely terminated.3
Neem Oil for Acne Treatment
Another of the many advantages of neem oil can be seen in the use of a topical neem oil acne treatment. Neem oil has proven antibacterial properties, and in 2013 they were put to the test in a prolonged acne treatment, which provided positive results, both in the disappearance of acne and the promotion of skin elasticity.4
Users can also create their own acne neem oil soap at home. But before you start, it’s important to know how to apply neem oil on skin to avoid irritation. Dilute 4-6 drops of neem oil with 1 Tsp. of a carrier oil, such as coconut oil. Mix well, and apply with a cotton ball or clean fingertips. Use small amounts of the oil, so as not to over moisturize problem areas, allow to absorb into the skin and repeat daily.
Neem Oil for Hair Health
In a 2007 animal study, researchers investigated the use of herbal extracts, including neem oil, for hair growth. Results show that neem oil extract promoted growth of the hair follicle in as little as six days.10
As the neem oil smell is described as quite pungent, new users may wish to choose a neem oil shampoo that also includes sweet or floral notes.
Neem Oil Contraceptive
One of the most controversial uses of neem oil is neem oil birth control. The use of neem oil as a contraceptive has been proven through several studies over the years. In a 1984 human and animal study, the in vitro and in vivo testing of neem extract on animal and human sperm samples showed strong spermicidal action within 30-seconds of application. Used intravaginally in a dose of 1.0 ml, it was found to be 100% effective.5
Neem Oil for Plants and Garden Care
Aphids are a small insect known to often kill crops. The use of neem oil spray and cold pressed neem oil insecticide products have become popular as a natural alternative to harsh, chemical-based products. Garden-safe neem oil has been used in several studies to prevent aphid infestations. One such study, focused on the use of neem oil for aphids on green peaches. Researchers found that the neem oil extract was effective against adult aphids, but not their young.9
In a 1990 study, the effects of neem as a natural pesticide were also tested on the lesser grain border (a beetle). Researchers found that long term use of the neem oil pesticide was preferable to other oil-based pesticides, as it had great longevity.7
For those wondering how to dilute neem oil for plants, combine 5ml of neem oil, 1/3 Tsp. insecticidal soap, and 1L warm water. Shake well and spritz on plants.
Neem Oil Insecticide
A 1993 study found that 2% neem oil mixed with a coconut carrier oil may be an effective natural mosquito repellent for up to 12 hours following application.6
Preliminary studies also suggest that neem oil for spider mites and neem oil bed bugs remedies may be useful when seeking a natural alternative to chemical insecticides. There have also been many studies which prove the usefulness of neem oil for lice.1
Neem Oil for Dogs , Cats, and Fleas
For pets, using neem oil or fleas has grown in popularity. One animal study focused on the use of neem oil for cats and dogs suffering from flea bites. Researchers found that the azadirachtin component of neem oil is particularly potent. After spraying the animals with a neem oil, fleas and eggs were significantly reduced.8
Neem Oil Benefits & Safety
The top benefits of neem oil include:
- Anti-inflammatory Effect
- Antibacterial Properties
- Antifungal Qualities
- Natural Spermicide
- Natural Insecticide
- Anti-Cancer Activity
There are many neem oil uses and benefits which have been discovered in the past several decades. For readers wondering how does neem oil work for the uses listed above, below, we uncover the top benefits of neem oil.
According to a 2002 scientific review, the oil extracted from the seed of the neem plant has natural anti-inflammatory properties. In animal studies, the oil has been shown to significantly reduce acute paw oedema (a sign of inflammation) and stomach ulcers with notable success.1
In various studies, neem oil has been noted to have potent antibacterial properties against a wide spectrum of gram-positive and gram-negative microorganisms. Notable pathogens include S. aureus (a bacterium found in the respiratory system) and S. coagulase (a protein enzyme produced by the staphylococcus bacteria).1 These properties are important for the various skin and hair uses of neem oil.
The same 2002 scientific review outlined above, touched on the benefits of neem leaf extracts as an antifungal treatment. When tested against trichophyton mentagraphytes (a dermophyte which causes skin disease in humans and animals) neem oil demonstrated great success.1 This may be useful for skin, acne, and hair treatments.
Neem oil has also been found to have a potential use as birth control, due to its antifertility action. A 2002 scientific study reviewed the use of neem oil on both animal and human sperm, and determined that the use of intravaginal neem oil is effective as a spermicide.1
Azadirachtin is one of the most active components of neem oil. It contains natural insecticidal properties that either repel or interfere with insect’s feeding habits, hormones or reproduction.2 Additionally, extracts have demonstrated natural antimalarial activity against the human malaria parasite. These effects have even been noted to work against drug-resistant strains.1 Both of these qualities make neem oil an effective alternative for pesticides, insect repellents and flea treatments.
In one study, the oral application of neem leaf extract was noted to effectively reduce squamous cell carcinoma following neem treatment.1 This activity may be useful in topical applications as it may help protect against potentially damaging free radicals that may affect skin quality.
Is Neem Oil Safe?
As with any natural remedy, potential neem oil side effects may occur. In high concentrations, neem oil may cause skin, eye, and stomach irritation.2
When it comes to neem oil toxicity, animal studies have noted no lethal effect for most large doses.1 In animal flea treatments neem oil has been noted to cause drooling, fatigue or convulsions.2 It’s recommended to talk with a veterinarian prior to using any neem oil on pets.
Where Can I Buy Neem Oil?
Neem oil products are available through several retailers online. There are also a variety of health and wellness, gardening, and specialty stores which sell neem oil, Walmart and Lowes included.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Biswas, K., Chattopadhyay, I., Banerjee, R. K. & Banyopadhyay, U. (2002) Biological activities and medicinal properties of neem (Azadirachta indica). Current Science. 82(11), 1336-1345. Retrieved on December 14, 2017 from http://repository.ias.ac.in/5193/1/305.pdf
- Bond, C., Buhl, K., & Stone, D. (2012). Neem oil general fact sheet. National Pesticide Information Center, Oregon State University Extension Services. Retrieved on December 14, 2-17 from – View Reference
- Tabassam, S. M., Iqbal, Z., Jabbar, A., Sindhu, Z. & Cattha, A. I. (2008) Efficacy of crude neem seed kernel extracts against natural infestation of Sarcoptes scabiei var. ovis. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 115(2), 284-287. DOI: 1016/j.jep.2007.10.003
- Vijayan, V., Aafreen, S., Sakthival, S. & Reddy, R. (2013) Formulation and characterization of solid lipid nanoparticles loaded neem oil for topical treatment of acne. Journal of Acute Disease. 2(4), 282-286. Retrieved on December 14, 2017 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2221618913601444
- Sinha, K. C., Riar, S. S., Tiwary, R. S., Dhawan, A. K., Bardham, J., Thomas, P., Kaim, A. K. & Jain, R. K. (1984) Neem oil as a vaginal contraceptive. Indian Journal of Medical Research. Retrieved on December 14, 2017 from https://www.popline.org/node/403772
- Sharma, V. P., Ansari, M. A. & Razdan, R. K. (1993) Mosquito repellant action of neem (Azadirachta indica) oil. Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association. Retrieved on December 14, 2017 from http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/8245950
- Jilani, G. & Saxena, R. C. (1990) Repellant and feeding deterrent effects of turmeric oil, sweetflag oil, neem oil, and a neem-based insecticide against lesser gain borer (Cleoptera: Bostrychidae). Journal of Economy Entomology. 83(2), 629-634. Retrieved on December 14, 2017 from https://academic.oup.com/jee/article-abstract/83/2/629/2215379
- Guerrini, V. H. & Kriticos, C. M. (1998) Effects of azadirachtin on Ctenocephalides felisin the dog and the cat. Veterinary Parasitology. 74(2-4), 289-297. Retrieved on December 14, 2017 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304401797000423
- Lowery, D. T. & Isman, M. B. (1995). Toxicity of neem to natural enemy of aphids. 23(4), 297-306. Retrieved on December 14, 2017 from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02981422
- Purwal, L., Gupta, S. & Pande M.S. (2007). Development and Evaluation of Herbal Formulations for Hair Growth. E-Journal of Chemistry, 5(1),34-38. http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2008/674598
- Chiasson, H., Bostanian, N. J., & Vincent, C. (2004). Acaricidal Properties of a Chenopodium-Based Botanical. Journal of Economic Entomology, 97(4), 1373-1377. doi:1093/jee/97.4.1373