Common name: Neem
Botanical name: (Azadirachta indica) Neem, is native to India. There are so many uses for the seed oil from this evergreen tree and an interesting range of uses too. You may have heard of Neem oil , and it’s use as a natural non toxic pesticide and insect repellent. It is also used for treatment of lice, nits, dandruff, skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, and even as a natural effective spermicide – yes, you heard that right, I did just say spermicide!
A little History
Neem has been used in India for thousands of years and the oil has been used medicinally and cosmetically for hundreds of years. Neem is considered a major component of Ayurvedic and Unani medicine . All parts of the Neem tree, including the leaves, flowers, oil, seed and bark have been used for a variety health conditions, but in this post I am talking specifically about Neem oil.
All about Neem oil
So, first let’s start with the fact that Neem is antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, antiseptic and anti-parasitic! If that is not enough, it contains limonoids which block the growth and development of insects and parasites like lice and prevents them from multiplying. In January 2007 Egyptian researchers published the promising results of a small clinical trial of a neem head lice shampoo http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16900389
I can personally vouch for the effectiveness of neem oil for lice. Without mentioning names, some family members once came back from a family trip, with some extra baggage…..yes, those pesky lice. Neem to the rescue. Even after we got rid of our uninvited guests, I still dutifully added Neem oil to every bottle of shampoo and conditioner that entered our home. Just in case.
Those many uses
I make my own organic neem spray to deter insects from my herb and vegetable garden. Safe for all plants and humans too. Mix together in a quart or liter of water; 1 tsp Neem oil – 1/2 tsp dish soap ( I use Seventh Generation) or Castille soap. Pour into spray bottle and voila – ready to use.
Research shows that Neem oil can help relieve symptoms of eczema and psoriasis. It is recommended to dilute the oil before applying or buy a Neem oil product specifically for that skin condition. A little goes a long way and is very effective, so adding a few drops to your favorite lotion can turn it into a bug repellent and healing salve. You could also add a few drops to your liquid soap and body wash.
Last but not least..
According to studies in India neem oil is an effective spermicide Based on these studies, a pharmaceutical company in India has developed a Neem based polyherbal contraceptive cream. Tests have shown that it is just as effective as the chemical based ones and is safer to use, causing no irritation or discomfort. Here is a quick link to one study http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8131399 . It seems, that while this is becoming the birth control method of choice in India, it is a little slow at gaining acceptance in other places.
So, you are possibly thinking at this point, it sounds too good to be true, there must be a catch, right? Neem, really is all this and more, but there is one minor characteristic of this rich oil that I have not yet mentioned. It does have a heavy odor, so you will probably not be opening your bottle of Neem oil and slathering up your whole body! Adding a few drops to a bottle of shampoo or body lotion is not really going to change the smell of that product, but using the oil neat or diluting just a little with a carrier oil like olive oil might not mask the smell much. There is always the option of adding essential oils or buying a good quality Neem product.
Just a friendly reminder that Neem oil should be used topically and not ingested and as with anything you put on your skin, always try a small amount first.
Have you used Neem oil ? What have you used it for and how did you use it? I would love to hear about your experiences with Neem oil.