Neem (Azadirachta indica) is a tree that's native to India, but is also found in other parts of Asia, as well as in Africa and America. It is highly valued for its medicinal properties and has been extensively used in Ayurvedic and Unani systems of medicine for thousands of years.1 It was even called "Arishtha" in Sanskrit, which means "reliever of sickness."2
From the bark to its flowers, every part of the neem tree can be utilized for medicinal, industrial and agricultural purposes. One of the ways to reap the health benefits of the neem tree is by using the oil that's extracted from its seeds.3
Organic neem oil has a strong, pungent aroma and an extremely bitter taste. Its color may vary from yellow to brown, depending on the method that's used to extract it.4,5 While it doesn't smell or taste as enticing as other herbal oils, neem oil offers a wide array of benefits and uses, making it a worthy addition to your regimen.
According to modern studies and ancient medicinal beliefs, neem oil may potentially provide the following health benefits:
• Helps improve hair health — Neem oil's moisturizing property helps improve hair texture and relieve dry scalp.6 It also helps clear dandruff with its antifungal properties, and helps eradicate head lice by acting as a natural insecticide.7
• Helps improve skin health — Neem oil may help protect the skin against free radicals, thanks to its antioxidant properties.8 It may also help promote collagen production, which helps slow down the aging process and lessens the appearance of fine lines.9
• Helps relieve certain skin problems — Neem oil provides antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, which may be useful for alleviating skin problems, such as acne, psoriasis, scabies and eczema.10,11
• Helps reduce inflammation — In a study published in the Journal of Health Research and Reviews, albino rats with carrageenan-induced hind paw edema were given different doses of neem seed oil.
Results show that neem seed oil helps inhibit paw edema when given at doses of 0.25 to 2 milliliters per kilogram of body weight, proving that neem oil has a significant anti-inflammatory action.12
• Aids in the wound healing process — Neem oil can be applied topically on minor wounds to help soothe inflammation, speed up healing and keep further infections from occurring.13
• Helps lower the risk for cancer — According to a study published in the journal Biochimica Et Biophysica Acta, neem seed oil may help inhibit the growth of cervical cancer cells, and help induce autophagy and apoptosis in prostate and colon cancer cells.14
Agricultural Use of Neem Oil
In addition to its medicinal uses, neem oil is also found to be useful for protecting crops against pests, as it provides natural pesticidal properties. Among its active compounds, azadirachtin affects insects the most, causing 90 percent of the pesticidal effect on most pests, according to a study published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science.15
Neem oil has other broad effects on insects: It helps alter development, inhibits feeding, hinders reproduction and suppresses the fertility of pests. Pollinator insects, such as bees, are not likely to be harmed by neem oil, since it must be ingested in order for it to take effect. It's also nontoxic to birds, mammals and other plants, but it's moderately toxic to fish and other aquatic animals.16,17
When used properly, neem oil may also help get rid of plant insects that are difficult to eradicate, such as spider mites. However, to successfully get rid of spider mites, you have to apply neem oil on your plant frequently (ideally once a week or more), preferably when the temperature is below 90 degrees Fahrenheit and when the plant is not water-stressed.18