Nature’s Medicine Chest: Neem Oil


The Neem tree is native to Burma and India, where it’s many
benefits have been recognized for centuries. It’s considered
sacred, and referred to in ancient texts as “the curer of all
ailments”. It’s wide-range of healing properties as well as many
other benefits have led to the United Nations calling it the Tree
of the 21st Century.

In India, every part of the Neem tree has been used in some form
on a daily basis for at least 4000 years. It’s medicinal
properties include antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic and
anti-fungal properties as well as many more. It is one of the
most important and widely used of the Ayurvedic medicinal herbs.
It’s no wonder then, that in it’s native India, more research has
been done on Neem than on any other herbal remedy.

What is Neem?

Neem (Azadirachta indica) is a fast-growing tropical evergreen
tree related to Mahogany. It can grow up to 50 feet high, live up
to 200 years and withstand drought, poor soils and most pests. At
3-5 years of age it can start bearing fruit, and it’s the seed
kernels of this fruit from which Neem oil is pressed.

While all parts of the Neem tree are used in India, it’s the Neem
oil that is most commonly used in the West. The applications of
Neem oil range from skin care and medicinal uses to an
environmentally friendly pesticide for animals and organic

Therapeutic Uses of Neem Oil

Neem oil (also known as margosa oil) has powerful antiseptic,
anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-fungal, analgesic and
moisturizing properties which make it useful in treating a range
of skin conditions as well as joint and muscle pain. The oil is
not used in cooking or taken internally, but is applied topically
and used as an ingredient in soaps, shampoos, creams and lotions.
In addition to its moisturizing properties the oil also contains
vitamin E, essential amino acids and some fatty acids.

The therapeutic uses of Neem oil include:

* treating scalp conditions, including dandruff, itchiness and
head lice – add a few drops of Neem oil to shampoos or massage it
directly into the hair and scalp; alternatively add several drops
to Olive oil, massage into scalp and leave for an hour before
shampooing out
* treating acne – add a few drops of Neem oil to facial clay and
apply directly to spots
* providing relief for skin disorders such as eczema and
psoriasis – add a few drops of the oil to bath water or apply
topically to the affected area
* healing of wounds – add a few drops to healing salves
* treating and healing fungal infections, ringworm, infected
sores and burns – add a few drops to healing salves and lotions
* treating Athlete’s foot – soak feet in warm water to which a
few drops of Neem oil have been added, or add a few drops to
anti-fungal salve
* treating nail fungus and restoring brittle nails – massage a
drop of Neem oil directly into the nail and cuticle, leave for a
few minutes before wiping off the excess oil

Neem Oil As A Natural Pesticide

A concoction of 1 teaspoon of Neem oil, plus a few drops of mild
dish detergent or liquid Castille soap per quart of water, is
commonly used as a bio-pesticide in organic gardening because of
it’s low toxicity and ability to repel a large number of garden
pests including white fly, mites and aphids. It also prevents
their larvae from developing into adults, and is used as a
fungicide to control powdery mildew and rust. It has no known
adverse effect on birds, mammals and beneficial insects such as
butterflies, honeybees, ladybugs and earthworms. Take care not to
spray the leaves in the sun, just as spraying with water the
leaves will burn.

Neem oil can also be used as a household insecticide to repel
ants, cockroaches, flies, mosquitoes, sand flies and termites and
their larvae. Soaking a cotton ball in Neem oil and placing it in
your closet or drawers will repel wool moths. It can also be used
as a personal insect repellent to keep away mosquitoes, fleas,
gnats, biting flies, sand fleas (sand flies) and ticks. Just rub
a few drops onto your exposed skin for an insect repellent that’s
also a great skin conditioner and moisturizer.

A few drops of Neem oil added to pet shampoos will also repel
fleas, lice and ticks, in addition to keeping your pet’s coat
looking shiny and healthy. It will also help manage skin
disorders and fungal infections.

Neem oil also has anti-fungal properties which helps to eliminate
many kinds of household mildew and fungus.

Choosing A Neem Oil

The best Neem oil is cold-pressed and manufactured without heat
or chemicals to preserve the natural active ingredients that give
Neem oil its powerful healing, moisturizing and insecticidal
properties. Good Neem oil should have a strong, bitter scent
reminiscent of garlic and sulfur. If you are familiar with the
Indian spice asafoetida, the smell of Neem oil is quite similar.

Finally, like Coconut oil, Neem oil solidifies in cooler room
temperatures. You can return it to it’s liquid form by placing
the bottle in warm (not hot) water for a several minutes, or
placing the bottle in the sun for a few minutes. Be careful not
to heat the oil as this destroys the active ingredients.
Alternatively, you can about 10 percent of pure cold-pressed
Olive oil with the Neem oil to help keep it in a liquid state.

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