Essential oils are all the rage, and neem oil is no exception. Not only can it work as a safe and effective pest control, but you can also use it as a natural herbal remedy for several common problems like dry hair and itchy skin. Neem oil has a rich history that dates back hundreds of years. It’s a popular ingredient in cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, pet products, and toothpastes. But, what other uses and benefits do you get from neem oil and what is its history?
The History of Neem Oil
Neem comes from Sanskrit. The word in Sanskrit is nimba, and it roughly means a “bestower of good health.” If you look in Hindu texts, you’ll see neem mentioned as “Sarva Roga Nivarini,” or the “one that cures all ailments and ills.”
Widely believed to have divine origins, the neem tree has the nicknames of the Margosa Tree and the Indian Lilac. Legend says that the Neem tree acted as a safe haven for the Sun when it was fleeing the demon’s powers in Indian mythology. A second legend claims that a few drops of ambrosia accidentally fell onto the Neem tree when it was being taken to heaven. It was widely believed that any person who makes a point to plant three or more Neem trees during their lifetime secured a spot in heaven.
The people of India consider the Neem tree to be a sacred object, and they place high value on neem oil. It symbolizes protection and good health. They used it to protect their grains and food, and neem oil acted like a natural fertilizer and pesticide. The powerful remedial properties of neem oil have been reported to boost immunity and strengthen your overall health.
The Neem tree has the scientific name of Azadirachta indica, and it is believed that the tree comes from Burma or India. It can grow and thrive in dry, warm regions. You’ll find it growing wild in Fiji, Africa, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Mauritius. The tree can live up to 200 years, and it has a high heat and drought tolerance.
The Neem tree is common throughout India, and it’s sacred for its medicinal properties.
Neem oil has a long history of use in herbal beauty treatments, first aid, insecticides, and to soothe skin issues. Unless you expose this tree to frost or a severe drought, you’ll get leaves and seeds all year round that you can extract the neem oil from. The seeds produce the carrier oil, but the tree’s fruits, flowers, roots, and bark can be used in herbal teas. Twigs from the Neem tree were used to help improve teeth and mouth hygiene, and the leaves got cooked into dishes or added on salads.
Today, neem oil has several key components that can help with a variety of ailments. It’s very potent and concentrated, and this means that a little bit goes a long way.
Six Neem Oil Chemical Components and Their Uses
Neem oil comes packed with beneficial components that all have several uses associated with them. When they combine, you get a potent mixture that can take on a variety of problems. The main components of neem oil are carotenoids, linoleic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid, and vitamin C.
First up are carotenoids and they have powerful antioxidant properties that work to repair and prevent further cellular damage. This can make your skin look younger and fuller by giving you a healthy glow. It shields your hair and skin from environmental toxins, and it can repair damage done from acne, hormones, and UV radiation. If you have hyperpigmentation, carotenoids can help even out your skin tone.
As you age, your skin loses elasticity. This is why you get wrinkles. This ingredient encourages your skin to produce more elastin and collagen to increase your skin’s firmness, elasticity, thickness, smoothness, and softness. Finally, it helps hydrate your skin by locking in water.
2. Linoleic and Alpha-Linoleic Acids
Commonly known as Omega-6 and Omega-3, these acids are beneficial in several ways. Linoleic acids are the ones that make your hair soft and shiny while promoting growth. It can make oils feel like they have a thinner consistency, and this makes them good for treating acne. It has anti-inflammatory properties, and it can promote wound healing. This acid also promotes hair and skin moisture retention.
Alpha-linoleic acids work better internally. They can lessen inflammation, especially around and in your joints. This is great news for people with arthritis, and it can improve joint mobility and flexibility. This acid can control blood clotting and speed the process up.
The biggest benefits of Omega fatty acids are to improve your hair’s appearance and feel by making it soft and shiny.
3. Oleic Acid
Oleic acids are Omega-9 acids. They can boost your immunity and support your immune system by displaying antioxidant properties. These antioxidant properties help to maintain your skin’s firmness, elasticity, and softness. They also improve your hair health by promoting moisture retention and eliminating dandruff and dry scalp.
The antioxidants in this acid help to reduce, heal, and prevent joint stiffness and inflammation, and this can reduce your pain levels. If you have problems with dry skin, this acid helps to form a barrier that locks moisture in and protects against further damage.
4. Palmitic Acid
Palmitic acid has a few useful properties, and it’s the most common saturated fatty acid in your body. The biggest thing this acid does is for your hair. It can improve your hair health and soften it without leaving a sticky or greasy residue. This is important for people who have dry scalp, dandruff, or damaged hair due to coloring or styling.
5. Stearic Acid
This acid works very well to help your skin’s overall condition. It has powerful cleansing properties that help to purge excess sebum, sweat, and dirt from your skin and hair. In turn, this can help control the severity of your acne and prevent future breakouts. It binds oil and water as a strong emulsifying agent, and it helps prolong the shelf life of products.
It will soften your skin while forming a barrier to protect it against UV damage, and it has strong cleansing properties that can strip excess oil from your hair. It’ll condition, strengthen, and protect your hair from any damage without making it feel heavy or dull.
6. Vitamin E
The final powerful component of neem oil is vitamin E. This vitamin has strong antioxidant activities that can help firm up your skin and delay the appearance of aging by reducing lines or wrinkles and fixing uneven complexions. If you have damaged tissue from wrinkles, acne, or scars, vitamin E helps to repair these areas by boosting your collagen production. It also protects your skin from environmental damage.
Vitamin E works to help improve your skin’s look and feel by giving you a youthful glow and reversing damage.
Five Different Uses of Neem Oil
Now that you know what makes up neem oil, we’ll break down several different uses. The most popular way to use neem oil is topically because it’s so potent. This is why it’s in several different cosmetics like lotions and shampoos.
Treats Skin Conditions
Neem oil is effective for treating common skin conditions like inflammation. You can mix your neem oil with coconut oil and apply it to your skin as a toner that will eliminate pathogens lurking below your skin’s surface while restoring moisture. In turn, your skin can look younger and healthier. This is particularly important for anyone who spends a decent amount of time outdoors in the sun because the sun can damage your skin and cause it to prematurely age.
If you have dry skin, neem oil can help condition it. Blend neem oil with coconut oil and add a few drops of lavender or lemon essential oil before you apply it directly to your skin. The oil will nourish the skin on the outer layer, but it’ll also sink below the skin to help bring moisture to your subdermal layers. It’ll prevent excessive moisture loss as well.
For acne sufferers, this oil works very well to help reduce the severity of the breakouts and the number of times you break out. You can mix olive oil with neem carrier oil and apply it to your face. Let it soak on your face for 60 minutes. You can leave it on overnight, or you can wash it off after an hour. This will help control the oil production while purging your skin of bacteria.
Hyperpigmentation is a common problem many people have where their skin produces too much melanin. Too much melanin results in uneven areas of skin where it can look darker in one area and lighter in another. Add a few drops of neem oil to a cotton ball and gently dab it onto these areas to help regulate your melanin production. Wash it off after 15 minutes.
Dandruff can be an embarrassing problem that is very difficult to get rid of, and neem oil can help. It will naturally remove dandruff by balancing your hair’s pH levels. If you have dry scalp with your dandruff, you can heat a teaspoon of neem oil and gently massage it into your scalp. Let it in your hair for 30 minutes and wash it out. Repeat this process a few times a week.
People who routinely color or style their hair can accidentally damage it. Environmental toxins can also wreak havoc on your hair, and this can lead to dry and frizzy hair that is dull and prone to breaking. Neem oil promotes healthy hair growth by moisturizing your hair from the root to the tip. It can help repair split ends while conditioning your hair to restore strength and heat damage. Add a few drops of neem oil to your shampoo and use it a few times a week.
Head lice can be a nightmare, especially if you have children. Neem oil helps to eliminate them overnight. Get two tablespoons of the oil and gently heat it. Apply this oil directly to your hair. Wrap your hair with a towel or scarf and sleep on it. This will allow the oil to soak in overnight. In the morning, wash the oil out of your hair with herbal shampoo. Repeat this process if you still itch.
You can mix coconut oil and neem oil to condition your hair on a deeper level. Regularly conditioning your hair with this mixture will strengthen your hair and encourage healthy growth. It can detangle your hair and get rid of frizz. If you don’t want to condition it, you can add a few drops of neem oil to a shampoo before you wash it every time.
Hair masks using this oil can seal in the protective properties and moisture while repairing damage.
Eliminates Bacterial and Fungal Infections
This oil has antibacterial and antifungal properties associated with it. It can work for skin infections like ringworm when you mix it with a carrier oil and apply it topically. It also works well on cold sores, nail fungus, and Athlete’s foot. When you apply the oils to your skin, it works to suffocate the parasites. This makes it effective for scabies. You can add a few drops of oil to your bathwater and soak for 20 to 30 minutes to help get rid of bacterial or fungal infections.
If you have warts, you can apply a dab of oil directly to them using a cotton swab to kill it. Repeat this process until the warts shrink and disappear. Additionally, applying this oil is thought to treat psoriasis and eczema by applying it several days in a row.
Works as an Insecticide
When you apply a mix of oil as a soil drench around your plants, it works well as an insecticide. The plant will absorb the oil and distribute it throughout the stem and leaves without injuring it. Insects will eat the oil when they attack the plant. This oil is potent enough to ward off attacks, interrupts or reduce mating behaviors, prevents larvae from maturing, and it can kill them by making it difficult to breath.
This oil is useful against a host of common pests like whiteflies, mealybugs, spider mites, leaf miners, and aphids. If you have ants or other pests in the house, you can mix four cups of water with five to six drops of the oil in a spray bottle. Spray it around your problem areas. It keeps mosquitos away as well.
Protects Fruit Trees, Flowers, and Vegetable Plants
The antibacterial and antifungal properties of this oil make it an effective and natural way to help protect your fruit trees, flowers, and vegetable plants from bacterial and fungal infections. It can eliminate rusts, mildews, and fungus when you apply it in a 1% solution. This oil can help get rid of black spot, root rot, sooty mold, anthracnose, tip blight, scab, and leaf spot.
If you want to prevent fungi, you’ll have to create a spray of this oil and apply it once every two weeks throughout the growing season. If you have fungi, spray your plants once a week until it clears up, and then switch to once every two weeks. If you have fruit trees, start spraying them when they’re still dormant. Finally, spray your oil mix on your vegetables once in the morning and once in the evening, once or twice a week.
Starting early is the key to protecting your flowers, fruits, and vegetables from pests because it doesn’t let the infestations take hold.
How to Apply Neem Oil Spray
Since this oil is so potent, it can damage more fragile plants. This is why you don’t want to spray the whole plant the first time you use it. Once you make your mix of water and a few drops of neem oil, test spray a small area of your plant’s leaf. Leave it for 24 hours before you check for damage. If you don’t see any, it’s safe to spray the entire plant.
First, don’t apply the oil until you’re either in indirect sunlight or it’s the evening hours. This will prevent accidental burning while giving the treatment time to soak into the plant. Your temperature shouldn’t fluctuate widely at this time either. Treat your plants with this spray one time a week. Make sure you coat the undersides and tops of the leaves thoroughly with each application.
Benefits of Neem Oil
Neem oil has dozens of excellent benefits, and this is what makes it so popular with people who use it as opposed to using chemicals or toxins. We’ve picked out the biggest benefits and outlined them for you to browse below.
Safe to Use Around Kids and Pets
Your pets and kids have to stay safe, no matter what you use to help treat infections or tackle pest invasions. Since most of the insecticides or medical treatments you use can be harmful if your kids or pets accidentally get into them, this is a natural alternative. Unlike these things, the oil doesn’t leave a toxic residue behind when you bring it out.
It’s also biodegradable, and it’ll fade away when you expose it to rainfall or sunlight. It’s safe to spray and use around fish, birds, pets, local wildlife, and livestock. This will give you peace of mind each time you apply it inside or outside.
Keeping your kids and pets can be challenging when you use traditional pesticides or medical gels, but this oil is a safe and natural alternative.
Since this is an essential oil, it has an organic makeup that is free of any chemicals, artificial ingredients or dyes. The oil comes as a natural derivative from the Neem tree using hot or cold pressing techniques to preserve the oil’s potency.
When they extract the oil, they crush the tree seeds. They add a solvent or a water to help finish the process and create the oil. It may have a few organic additives, depending on how the company processes it. The oil will either come from cold-pressed Neem tree seeds or through a more complex process. This is part of the reason why it’s biodegradable and breaks down quickly.
Works on All Skin Types
Even though this oil is very potent by itself, you can dilute it to use it topically. You most likely should anyway because it can cause irritation if you use it by itself. Once you dilute it, you can use it to help with oily skin, dry skin, or combination skin. You do want to keep it away from any open sores.
You’ll need carrier oil and your neem oil to dilute it with a jar to store it in. Get two ounces of your chosen carrier oil like coconut oil. Mix in two or three drops of neem and stir it until you combine it. Add the mixture to a jar and apply it to your skin as needed.
Does Not Create Death Zones When You Spray It
If you’ve ever sprayed regular pesticides around your plants or shrubs, you’ve most likely noticed a death zone. This is a dead zone around wherever you spray it. It can kill the grass, burn any other plants that happen to get in the way, and it can accidentally kill beneficial insects in the area. Neem oil doesn’t harm the area around where you spray it.
Kills Insects at All Life Stages
The bad thing about some insecticides is that it can only target one stage of development when you use it to get rid of pests and insects. Since this oil is very strong, it goes on to target insects at all stages of development. This includes the egg, larvae, and adult. There is an active chemical in this oil called azadirachtin that is responsible for this.
You can use this oil to smother the insects, disrupt their hormones, or use it as an antifeedant. It can force the insects to stop eating your plant’s leaves. It also stops the bug from moving onto the next stage of their lifecycle, so it’s useful for larvae.
Doubles as a Fertilizer
You can use this oil as a pesticide and a fertilizer all in one go by making neem cakes. When you bury these cakes around your plants, it releases both the fertilizer and the oil into the plant to help it thrive and repel insects. It also extends the amount of nitrogen in the soil, and this controls grubs, white ants, and nematodes.
To make a neem cake, you’ll need the oil and organic manure. You want to add enough oil to the manure that it clumps up. Form small cakes with it and bury it around your plants. You can also lay it on top of the soil around the plants, but it works better buried.
This oil doubles as a fertilizer, and you can apply it every week or few weeks to nourish your plants and get rid of any pests.
Neem oil is a powerful natural essential oil that you can use for a variety of issues ranging from medicinal to organic pesticides. Make sure you buy a high-quality oil and follow any instructions it has. If you do, you should see positive results for your skin, hair, and plants.