Neem is often referred to as Indian lilac as it is endemic to the Indian subcontinent, but its medicinal virtues are recognized the world over. The therapeutic properties of neem leaves and oil have been utilized by ancient schools of medicine, particularly Ayurveda, to address a wide range of ailments.
In fact, the pharmacological use of neem dates back to the period before recorded history, and the fact that it continues to be relevant still further underlines its time-tested effectiveness.
Hailing from the mahogany family of plants, neem is a drought-resistant and fast-growing tree that is cultivated all over the arid zones of Asia, Africa, and Central America.
The oil extracted from the seed kernels of neem has emerged as a natural elixir for the treatment of various skin, hair, and overall health issues. The chief biologically active compound in neem oil is azadirachtin, which is one of the most potent naturally occurring pesticides.
The bitter-tasting oil also contains triterpenoid compounds including nimbidin, nimbin, nimbinin, nimbidol, and tannin along with triglycerides, vitamin E, sterols, linoleic acid, healthy fatty acids, palmitic acid, stearic acid, and oleic acid.(3)
All these compounds contribute to the medicinal potential of neem oil in terms of its antibacterial, antiarthritic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimalarial, antitumor, antioxidant, and hepatoprotective properties.
Premium-quality, organic neem oil works as a safe and natural adjunct to your skin protection arsenal. This herbal potion is a commonly used ingredient in a wide range of cosmetic and skin care products such as soaps, lotions, and creams.(1)
It has all the makings of a dermatological panacea that helps to beautify and rejuvenate your skin and hair while saving you from the toxic side effects of conventional beauty products.
Neem oil has been found effective against a wide spectrum of skin issues, from everyday cosmetic concerns to relatively serious skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, ringworm, and warts. Neem oil is also touted as a natural hair tonic that helps condition, repair and strengthen your hair while keeping your scalp free of dandruff and lice.
What makes this herbal hair oil a beauty steal is that it promises the same results as commercial hair-care products, but at a throwaway price.(2) Though there are many benefits of using this oil, one must be wary of its potential side-effects as well.
- Neem oil is not safe for oral consumption or internal use. Topical application is the recommended way to reap the medicinal benefits of this oil.
- To preserve the authentic potency of neem oil, it is important to store it in a cool dark place. The oil tends to condense into a solid state even at low room temperatures, but you can easily liquefy it by putting the bottle in warm water (below 95 °F).
- Do not expose the oil to sunlight or high temperatures, such as by placing it in near boiling water while liquefying it, as doing so may hamper the inherent effectiveness of the oil.
What Makes Neem Oil So Good for Your Hair and Skin?
Here are some ways that neem oil can benefit your hair and skin.
1. Inhibits Growth of Scabies Causing Parasites
The topical application of neem oil can be an adjunctive therapy to overcome a scabies infestation. Neem oil targets the hormonal cycle of the parasites and prevents them from reproducing.
Instead of killing the mites directly, neem oil limits their growth by rendering their eggs sterile and inhibiting their ability to feed. Repeated use leads to complete annihilation of the parasitic population over time. Thus, for neem oil to work against scabies, you will have to use it regularly.(4)
Neem oil also provides symptomatic relief from the swelling, itching, and inflammation associated with this kind of parasitic infestation.
- You can fix yourself a therapeutic bath by adding several tablespoons of neem oil to a bathtub filled with warm water.
- Let your body soak in it for 20 minutes.
- Put some unadulterated neem oil onto a clean cloth or gauze pad.
- Apply the oil directly to any minor or localized area of skin that shows signs of scabies.
- Let the oil sit on the skin for fifteen to twenty minutes for it to have the desired effect.
- Repeat the oil application two times a day until the infestation resolves.
2. Kills Head Lice
Head lice infestation may not be a serious medical concern, but it reflects poorly on your hygiene and can be a source of embarrassment and discomfort.
The lice sustain themselves by feeding on human blood several times a day, which causes your scalp to get excessively itchy. The constant urge to scratch that uncontrollable itch can be a nightmare to live with.
Neem oil is one of the strongest natural insecticides there is due to the presence of azadirachtin in it. This chemical compound keeps the lice from reproducing. By arresting the growth of lice, regular application of neem oil can help wipe out the infestation over time.
This is compounded by the activity of other ingredients in the oil that disrupt the swallowing system of lice and inhibit their appetite to the extent that they starve into extinction. The pungency of its smell deters the lice from crawling into your head and, thus, prevents an infestation from occurring in the first place.
For centuries, neem oil has been used as a traditional medicine to treat head lice and nits, particularly in Asia. It promises successful results minus the common side effects associated with medicated lice repellants that are commercially available.
Neem oil does not require prolonged contact time to yield positive results. In other words, it does not have to stay wet on the scalp for very long to breach the protective shell of the lice, exercise its disinfectant properties, and kill the parasite.(5)
- Mix 1 teaspoon of neem oil with 1 tablespoon coconut or olive oil.
- Massage this oil concoction onto the scalp and hair, and leave it on for a minimum period of 1 hour. Letting it stay overnight yields better results.
- Thereafter, rinse the oil from your hair and scalp by shampooing as usual.
- Even though the lice infestation will most likely be resolved within a week or so, you must continue treating your head with neem oil this way to ensure that all the nits that are hatching are decimated as well.
It is recommended to repeat this remedy on alternate days for a month or two.
3. Reduces Hair Fall
Neem oil is a wholesome hair tonic that can improve the quality of your tresses to a great degree if used regularly.
It has been credited with significant hair-strengthening properties that can avert hair loss, which was demonstrated by a 2013 study published in the African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines.(6)
A considerable decrease in the extent of hair loss was observed among those who used neem oil regularly as opposed to those who did not.
At the outset of the study, subjects reported losing almost the same number of hair, which figured in the range of 390-434 during each combing. The subject group that started using neem oil reported a steady decrease in hair fall, from 291-361 after 10 days of oil usage to 15-82 hairs per each combing on the 60th day of the experiment.
Thus, hairfall reduced by 96.38% after 2 months of neem oil usage, which justifies its use as a credible hair loss treatment. The findings of this study suggested that the oil derived from Indian lilac is nutritionally appropriate to be used as an ingredient in hair oil formulations.
Moreover, the study subjects that were treated with neem oil also reported an improvement in their hair texture, which was far smoother than that of the control group.
- Dilute 3 drops of neem oil by mixing it with 2 teaspoons of a bland carrier oil such as jojoba oil or grapeseed oil. You can also add 3 drops of tea tree oil, lavender oil, or any other essential oil of your liking.
- Give yourself a nice head massage with this oil mix on a daily basis to rejuvenate your brittle, lifeless hair, and to make your scalp healthy.
4. Treats Acne
Neem oil packs quite a lot of potential as a natural skin care agent, due to its inherent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. This is particularly true in the case of acne breakouts, which usually have a bacterial foundation.
The essential fatty acids, including oleic acid, stearic acid, palmitic acid, and linoleic acid, that constitute neem oil work together to eradicate the acne-causing bacteria.
At the same time, the salicylic acid present in the oil helps to alleviate the skin redness and inflammation associated with this condition. By improving the skin elasticity, neem oil enables the skin to bounce back to a healthy appearance after a breakout.
As far as acne treatment is concerned, neem works along the same lines as conventional medicinal products due to the activity of several ingredients that are common among them.(7)
- Mix 6 drops of neem oil with 1 teaspoon of a carrier oil of your choosing, such as hemp seed oil, sunflower oil, prickly pear seed oil, safflower oil, or black cumin seed oil.
- Use this oil mix to moisturize your acne-ridden skin by applying it to your face.
- Let the oil sit on your skin for some time so that it gets adequately absorbed.
- Then, rinse your face gently and pat it dry.
- Include this remedy in your daily skin care routine.
5. Fights Premature Skin Aging
Enriched with essential fatty acids (EFAs), triglycerides, vitamin E, and calcium, neem oil is regarded as one of the best skin-protective, skin-healing, and anti-aging oils there is.
As we get older, our skin tends to lose out on its elasticity due to diminished collagen synthesis. This is compounded by the continuous onslaught of free radicals that accelerates the premature appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and other signs of skin aging.
While there is nothing you can do to turn back time, there are ways to make your aging skin far better. Neem oil can delay the onset of premature skin aging by stimulating collagen production. Collagen is the most important skin-building protein that helps your skin retain its youthful texture, glow, and tightness.
Vitamin E is one of the most potent natural antioxidants, and neem oil contains plenty of it. Vitamin E works as a free radical scavenger to neutralize the activity of these unstable elements.
Free radicals cause tissue damage through oxidative stress, which is reflected in the form of dry skin, cracks, wrinkles, fine lines, and other premature signs of skin aging. Applying neem oil to the skin can hinder the oxidization of the skin cells at the hands of the free radicals.
In the case of severely dry skin, the fatty acids and vitamin E present in neem oil penetrate deep into the pores to repair the cracks from within.(8)
- Pour 15 g of pure neem oil, 225 g of organic jojoba oil, and 4-5 drops of pure lavender essential oil in a small cosmetic container or bottle.
- Shake the container well so that all the ingredients are blended together.
- Apply this oil mix to your skin to moisturize it from within.
6. Heals Cuts and Bruises
Neem oil is known to accelerate skin healing of a wide range of wounds, including cuts, bruises, lacerations, and burns. When the surface layer of the skin gets compromised, applying this antimicrobial oil provides a protective cover against bacteria and other microorganisms that can infect the wound or lesion.
This natural skin balm is enriched with benzoic acid, salicylic acid, and sulfur, all of which exhibit significant disinfectant properties. Neem oil also helps to relieve pain and fever, mainly due to its salicylic acid content.
Clinical studies have also revealed the anti-inflammatory properties of neem oil, which add to its skin-healing benefits. Keeping inflammation under control is key if you wish to ensure fast and complete skin regeneration. This safe and effective herbal oil boasts of a skin-friendly composition, which includes glycerides or fatty acids, margosic acid, butyric acid, and traces of valeric acid.(9)
- Mix neem oil with Vaseline or a carrier oil in a ratio of 1:5.
- Apply the remedial preparation to the affected skin.
7. Treats Warts
Warts are noncancerous outgrowths on the skin that result from a superficial infection caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus usually gains entry into your body through a breach in the epidermis or the top protective layer of the skin. Thus, any kind of cut or rupture in your skin can pave the way for warts.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research highlighted the efficacy of neem oil as an antiviral treatment for warts. When this therapeutic potion is applied directly on the affected skin, it interacts with the infecting virus to contain its proliferation.(3)
Besides keeping the infection from spreading, neem oil also contains analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and fever-reducing compounds that can promote holistic skin healing at the site of warts.
It takes no more than a drop of undiluted neem oil a day to make your warts disappear.
- Apply 1 drop of undiluted neem oil directly to the affected skin once a day.
- Look out for any signs of possible skin irritation, and should irritation occur, discontinue use immediately.
- If your skin responds well to the remedy, continue using it for 2-3 weeks.
8. Fights Fungal Infections
There is a long history of using neem oil and leaf extracts in the treatment of fungal infections such as ringworm and candidiasis. Such use was made popular by the Indian school of Ayurvedic medicine.
Neem oil contains several bioactive compounds that account for its medicinal virtues. Nimbidin, in particular, is known to exhibit considerable antifungal activity that helps deter the growth of Trichophyton rubrum, the fungus responsible for ringworm.
Moreover, it has been found effective against several common forms of candidiasis, including yeast infections and oral thrush.(10)
- Add 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of neem oil to 4 ounces (120 ml) of carrier oil such as jojoba or grapeseed oil, and mix them well.
- Apply this solution to the affected skin twice a day.
9. Prevents Bacterial Infections
The antibacterial prowess of neem oil has been extensively utilized in folk medicine to keep the skin infection-free. It forms an unbreachable antibacterial film over the surface of the skin that denies entry to a wide range of invading bacteria.
The compounds tricyclic triterpenoids, margolone, margolonone, and isomargolonone found in neem oil can inhibit bacterial growth and prevent wounds from getting secondarily infected. Even low concentrations of this oil can turn acidic when mixed with water. As a result of this reaction, the oil acquires greater potency as a bacteria-killing agent.
Thus, neem oil demonstrates bacteriostatic and bactericidal properties, which essentially means that it stunts bacterial growth and helps to kill the microbes.
Neem oil can be used as a chemical-free hand sanitizer as part of your day-to-day hygiene. To make a neem oil sanitizer in the form of a rinse solution or spray:
- Dilute neem oil by mixing it with a small amount of mild detergent along with water. A dilution ratio of 1:20 is recommended to make a sanitizer spray.(11)
Neem is one of the most celebrated medicinal plants that exhibit a versatile range of therapeutic properties. This crowning jewel of folk medicine is often referred to as the village pharmacy for its ability to address a number of common health issues. The oil extracted from neem kernels and leaves has also gained a lot of traction as a topical agent to promote healthy skin and hair.
It works like a broad-spectrum natural tonic that can improve the quality, texture, and appearance of your skin and hair, minus the side effects associated with commercial cosmetics.
As stated by the Research Journal of Medicinal Plants almost every person on this planet can benefit from the health-promoting potential of this plant in one way or the other.(12)
- Kumar VS, Navratnam V. Neem (Azadirachta indica): Prehistory to contemporary medicinal uses to humankind. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2221169113601057. Published June 27, 2013.
- Gupta A, Malviya R, Singh TP, Sharma PK. Indian Medicinal Plants Used in Hair Care Cosmetics: A Short Review. Pharmacognosy Journal. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0975357510801105. Published June 15, 2013.
- Bhowmik D, Yadav J, Tripathi KK, Kumar KPS. Herbal Remedies of Azadirachta indica and its Medicinal Application. Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research. http://www.jocpr.com/abstract-17.html. Published January 30, 2010.
- Deng Y, Shi D, Yin Z, Juo G. Acaricidal activity of petroleum ether extract of neem (Azadirachta indica) oil and its four fractions separated by column chromatography against Sarcoptes scabiei var. cuniculi larvae in vitro. Experimental Parasitology. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014489412000458. Published February 18, 2012.
- Amornsak W, Mahannop P, Buddhirakkul P, et al. Combined Neem Oil 6% w/w and Eucalyptus Oil 16% w/w Lotion for Treating Head Lice: In Vitro and In Vivo Efficacy Studies. Journal of Pharmacy Practice and Research. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/j.2055-2335.2012.tb00167.x. Published April 13, 2015.
- Anjum F, Bukhari SA, Shahid M, Bokhari TH, Talpur MMA. Exploration of nutraceutical potential of herbal oil formulated from parasitic plant. African journal of traditional, complementary, and alternative medicines: AJTCAM. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3957245/. Published November 2, 2013.
- Vijayan V, Aafreen S, Reddy KR. Formulation and characterization of solid lipid nanoparticles loaded Neem oil for topical treatment of acne. Journal of Acute Disease. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2221618913601444. Published October 18, 2013.
- Mak-MensahÙ EE, Firempong CK. Chemical characteristics of toilet soap prepared from neem(Azadirachta indica A. Juss) seed oil. Semantic Scholar. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/7d12b2e18e0d1dd020c16658b38b093c6cc3a7c5. Published 2011.
- Sabale P, Bhimani B, Prajapati C, Sabalea V. An overview of medicinal plants as wound healers. Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286031306. Published November 2012.
- Kumar R, Mehta S, Pathak SR. Bioactive constituents of neem. ScienceDirect. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780081020715000040. Published April 20, 2018.
- Rahal A, Kumar D, Malik JK. Neem Extract. SpringerLink. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-04624-8_3. Published May 22, 2019.
- Obgeuwu IP, Odeomenam VU. The Growing Importance of Neem (Azadirachta indica A. Juss) in Agriculture, Industry, Medicine and Environment: A Review. Science Alert: Journals, Authors, Subscribers, Publishers, Alert. https://scialert.net/abstract/?doi=rjmp.2011.230.245. Published 2011.