17 Astonishing Health Benefits of Neem Oil on Body, Skin and Hair

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

Neem oil is obtained from the seeds of the neem tree, an evergreen tree native to India and other parts of Asia. This bitter tasting, yellow brown oil is used as a natural insecticide and repellant, and while it doesn’t smell particularly pleasant, it has many uses for your body, skin and hair, and has been used for these purposes for centuries.

In the ancient Indian system of Ayurvedic medicine, neem in some form (bark, leaves, seeds) is used is 75% of preparations. In India the neem tree is known as the “village pharmacy” and also as “the plant with a promise.” Neem is known as ‘Neem ka tel‘ in Hindi. In Sanskrit neem is called “arista,” which means “perfect, complete and imperishable.”

In ancient Vedic texts, the neem tree is referred to as “Sarva Roga Nivarini,” which means, “the curer of all ailments.”

Researchers have identified and studied over 150 active substances in neem, and these discoveries have lent scientific legitimacy to this long used and well trusted traditional healing oil.

While thousands of years of use as a traditional remedy should be enough to reassure us of neems safety and its benefits, it’s also nice to have that extra confirmation.

The botanical name for the Neem tree is Azadirachta indica and the main compound that gives neem it’s many effective antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and antiparasitic properties is called azadirachtin. Neem is effective at treating infections, superficial wounds and itchy irritated skin, and can help to strengthen the immune system. Neem oil in particular with its high concentration of fatty acids – oleic acid (omega-9) and linoleic acid –  is a very beneficial treatment for the skin and hair.

While other parts of the neem tree may be taken internally, neem oil should only ever be applied topically.

Neem oil is a common ingredient in many commercial skin and hair care preparations, but you can gain greater benefits, for less money,by buying a bottle of pure neem oil. By using pure neem you will also avoid the other problematic ingredients that are usually used in commercial skin and hair care products.

When you purchase neem oil, look for products that contains 100 percent unrefined, cold pressed neem oil. If the oil has been chemically extracted, then its essential fatty acids and antioxidants will have been damaged.

As I alluded to at the start of this article, neem oil has a pretty unpleasant smell, so you won’t want to use it like coconut oil or olive oil as your main oil. You add a small amount of neem oil to a carrier oil. Neem is a potent treatment though, so a small amount can deliver very beneficial results. The only instance where you might want to use undiluted neem oil in any large quantity is as a head lice treatment, and in that case being rid of the itchy pests is a good trade off for putting up with the smell. On that note we’ll take a look at some of the benefits of using neem oil, and using neem oil as a head lice natural remedy seems like a good place to start.

 

Neem Oil Kills And Prevents Head Lice

Head lice are a growing problem as they are becoming resistant to common over-the-counter head lice shampoos. Sometime even permethrin can’t kill them. And permethrin isn’t a very nice chemical to put anywhere near your body in any case.

Neem Oil will kill the itchy pests, but you’ll have to put up with the smell. Neem has a smell that’s a base of sulfur and sweat, with top notes of garlic and onions. It’s certainly not an oil that you would use for general pampering that’s for sure.

Egyptian researches conducted a trial on 60 children heavily infested with head lice. They used 20-30 ml of neem oil shampoo and left it in the hair for at least 10 minutes. Neem oil shampoo was found to be highly effective against all stages of head lice, loosening the nits and the nymphs so that they could be rinsed away and killing the adult lice.

And an Australian study found that neem oil was more effective at killing head lice than permethrin.

Many commercial neem shampoos do not contain neem oil, they contain leaf or bark essence. These don’t work. To kill the lice, you need neem oil.

You can add neem oil to your regular shampoo or use it undiluted, straight from the bottle. To add it to your shampoo add 5ml (about 1 teaspoon) of pure neem oil to 100ml of your shampoo.

For a severe infestation use the oil directly, just use enough oil to smother your hair and scalp. Leave on for at least one hour but overnight if possible. Cover up with a shower cap and towel to protect linens and to hold back some of the smell.

 

External Hemorrhoids

Neem oil can be applied topically to soothe and shrink hemorrhoids. The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties help to stop bleeding and itching, while the pain-relieving properties of neem (neem contains an aspirin like compound) soothe the pain.

Wash your skin with soap and water and pat dry. Use your fingertip to rub a small drop of oil onto external hemorrhoids only. Apply several times a day.

 

Psoriasis

Neem oil is very effective for treating psoriasis. Studies have found it to be as effective as using coal tar and cortisone when used in conjunction with neem leaf, but without any side effects.  Extended use of cortisone can thin the skin and lead to a whole different set of problems and coal tar preparations are messy.

Neem oil is a rich emollient that moisturizes and reduces inflammation, irritation and scalings. It protects the skin and helps lesions to heal. Thanks to its antibacterial properties it prevents and treats infections

In one study a patient with severe psoriasis was given neem leaf three times a day, along with a topical treatment of neem oil mixed with coconut oil. Neem oil stopped the itching, reduced redness and improved the overall condition of the skin. By the end of the treatment which lasted less than 3 months, there were no more signs of psoriasis.

People report that they see faster improvement when skin treated with neem is also exposed to sunlight.

Neem oil won’t cure psoriasis, but it will clear up the symptoms.

 

Eczema

Eczema

As a powerful natural emollient, neem oil can take the place of the emollients prescribed by dermatologists. It helps to fill in the cracks in split skin and reduce moisture loss while supporting repair of your skin’s protective barrier.

Neem is also an anti-inflammatory, and will reduce redness and irritation. Neem oil contains anti-inflammatory substances called nimbin and nimbidin. These have been shown to be as effective as common non-steroidal and steroidal drugs.

As neem oil also contains an aspirin like compound it is able to provide relief from the discomfort caused by eczema. Some people find great relief upon applying neem oil to their skin.

Neem oil can prevent skin infections from developing and is an effective treatment for existing infections.

 

Acne

Neem oil is a potent antibacterial agent and can combat the bacteria responsible for acne. It also contains an aspirin like compound that soothes and reduces redness and swelling.

Commercial acne treatments often contain a substance called salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is aspirin. If you use neem oil, you have an effective treatment for acne, that costs very little, kills bacteria and reduces inflammation, while it moisturizes and protects your skin.

Mix a little pure neem oil into a light carrier oil and apply to your skin morning and evening.

 

Herpes Simplex (Cold Sores and Warts)

Neem has the ability to prevent viruses from multiplying and spreading. It’s a common and successful treatment in India for chicken pox, cold sores, warts and verrucas.

Research in Germany has shown that neem extracts are deadly to the herpes virus and can easily treat cold sores.

You should apply a drop of pure, undiluted neem oil to cold sores and warts 3 times a day.

 

Protects Skin And Prevents Premature Aging

Neem oil is considered to be one of India’s best beauty secrets.

Sunlight, harsh wind and pollution all take their toll on your skin, and make skin appear dull and aged. The high level of antioxidants in neem protect the skin from that environmental damage.

The carotenoids in neem combat the ever present free radicals which contribute to premature aging, and neem oil’s essential fatty acids and vitamins improve your skin elasticity.

Neem oil is extremely moisturizing, combatting dryness and rough patches, while it stimulates blood flow to liven up a dull complexion

Add a small amount of neem oil to your preferred carrier oil and massage into the skin twice a day.

 

Athlete’s Foot

Fungal infections don’t stand a chance against neem oil. Neem oil is a powerful anti-fungal treatment and will quickly eradicate the fungus causing your foot problems. Its pain relieving properties will also soothe the discomfort of inflamed cracked skin.

Apply 1-2 drops of neat neem oil to the affected area and surrounding skin twice a day. There is no need to wash it off.

Neem oil is also effective for toenail fungal infections. Once again just rub a drop into the affected nail twice a day.

 

Skin Yeast Infections

Yeast and fungal infections on the skin can be difficult to eradicate because they usually occur in deep skin folds which provide the moist conditions that yeast and fungus thrive in. The gedunin and nimbidol compounds in neem oil make it an effective treatment, providing pain relief for the sore and inflamed (often raw) skin that these infections cause, while eradicating the source of the problem.

Before applying neem oil, gently wash and dry the affected area.

For a severe skin rash you should apply several drops of undiluted neem oil directly to your skin and gently smooth it over the area.

For less severe cases, dilute with a 3 to 1 ratio of carrier oil to neem oil. So three teaspoons of coconut oil to one of neem oil for example.

After application, you should keep the area as free from accumulated sweat as possible. You can use folded soft tissues or cotton handkerchiefs to absorb moisture. This will speed up healing a great deal. If you’re at home, exposing the affected skin to the air from a desktop fan will help to whisk moisture away.

 

Arthritis

As an anti-inflammatory, neem oil has long been used to relieve the symptoms of arthritis. In addition to the topical application of neem oil, practitioners of traditional medicine prescribe a neem leaf tea, and together these two treatments work very well.

Neems oils analgesic (pain relieving) properties ease the discomfort and bring relief to affected joints.

 

Dandruff

Neem oil can quickly treat dandruff. Its antifungal action kills the fungus that causes the excess skin shedding and its antibacterial action clears up any infections introduced via micro tears in the scalp. Neem’s anti-inflammatory action, reduces irritation, itchiness and redness, and its pain-relieving action relieves the discomfort on your scalp.

To clear dandruff quickly use one part neem oil, with three parts carrier oil and apply to your scalp and hair. Massage in well and leave on for a couple of hours or overnight. Use a shower cap to protect your linens from the oil.

While you’re waiting, mix neem oil with your regular shampoo. Use 5 ml of neem oil for every 100ml of your shampoo. Shake the bottle well to mix the oil in.

Rinse your hair in warm water, then shampoo with your neem shampoo to remove the rest of the oil.

Continue the oil treatment daily until the dandruff is cleared. It won’t happen overnight, although it will be significantly improved after the first treatment. You should be able to discontinue the oil treatment after 5-7 days.

Then continue to shampoo with neem shampoo to prevent the dandruff returning.

 

Treats Dry and Frizzy Hair

In addition to being an excellent moisturizer for your skin, neem oil also makes a rich hair conditioner.

Use it in a deep conditioning hair mask once a week, to nourish your hair with essential fatty acids and seal moisture into your hair and combat frizz.

Because neem oil is such a restorative oil, it can rejuvenate sluggish hair follicles and help them to produce stronger, thicker hair.

Add one teaspoon of neem oil to 4 tablespoons of your preferred carrier oil and massage into your hair and scalp. Leave for 30 minutes to one hour and then rinse in warm water and shampoo.

 

 

Insect Repellant

Insect Repellent

Insects hate neem oil. Applying a diluted neem oil to your skin and using neem oil in your oil burning lamps outdoors, will keep you bite and itch free. Given the worrying spread in recent years of severe diseases carried by mosquitoes, neem oil can offer an alternative to commercial products if you don’t want to use those on your skin.

A 1995 study conducted at the Malaria Research Center in Ranipur, India, tested a mix of 2% neem oil mixed in coconut oil. When this oil mixture was applied to the skin it provided significant protection from various mosquitoes.

Against the Malaria carrying Anopheles mosquitoes it provided 96-100% protection. Against the Dengue Fever carrying Aedes mosquito, it provided 85% protection, and against the West Nile Virus carrying Culex mosquito, it provided 61-94% protection. In the United States the most common species of mosquito is the Culex mosquito.

The Malaria Research Center of Delhi, India conducted a field trial with kerosene lamps. The incidence of malaria in the area was 10 cases per thousand before the trial.

Kerosene lamps with 1% neem oil were kept burning from sunset to sunrise in living rooms.

The lamps kept the mosquitoes out of the living rooms and the malaria rate dropped from 10 per 1000, to 1 per 1000. At the end of the trial the lamps were removed. The mosquitos returned as did the malaria.

Neem oil is also effective on fleas, and can replace toxic flea treatments for your pets. You should use pure neem oil and add it to your pet’s regular shampoo. It’s unwise to use commercial neem shampoos for pets as they may contain essential oils. Essential oils can be toxic to pets, especially cats, so keep your furry friends safe and only use pure neem with a shampoo that you already know is safe.

 

Wrinkle Treatment

When used in a daily moisturizing oil and as a weekly deep conditioning face mask, neem oil can help to prevent wrinkles and reduce the appearance of fine lines.

Neem oil penetrates deeply into your skin where it nourishes your skin with oleic acid, linoleic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid to encourage healthy new skin cell production.

Add a few drops of pure neem oil to a small amount of coconut, olive or jojoba oil and massage into your skin morning and night.

To make a conditioning mask you’ll need

  • Half an avocado – mashed
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon neem oil
  • Few drops of your favorite essential oil

Mix the ingredients together and use your fingers to apply to your face. Lie back and relax for half an hour, then rinse off with warm water and pat skin dry.

 

Poison Ivy And Poison Oak

Neem’s anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties reduce the swelling, itching and redness, while its antiseptic properties reduce the risk of any infection.

Add three tablespoons of Neem oil, mixed with 1 tablespoon of liquid soap (to allow the oil to disperse throughout the water) to warm bathwater and swirl to mix. Soak for at least 20 minutes. Follow up with 1 teaspoon of neem oil mixed into 1 tablespoon of carrier oil, applied to the affected area several times a day.

 

Burns

Neem oil is a traditional burn treatment in India. It prevents infection, decreases pain, and its rich emollient action moisturizes and protects the damaged skin. The rich concentration of oleic and linoleic acid promotes the development of new skin and prevents the itchy feeling that accompanies the newly formed skin.

Application of neem oil speeds up the healing process, prevents blistering and helps to prevent or minimize scarring.

Apply a few drops of neem oil directly to the burn several times a day.

 

Sprains and Bruises

Neem’s anti-inflammatory action, reduces uncomfortable swelling around the strained joined, while its analgesic action relieves pain. Neem oil also increases blood flow to the area allowing your body to speed up the repair process.

Neem oil soothes the pain of bruises and reduces the inflammation that keeps the serum from burst capillaries close to your skin, thus reducing the dark appearance of the bruise.

Dilute a few drops of neem oil into a little carrier oil and apply to your bruise or sprain as often as your need to to relieve the pain and swelling.

So there you have some great uses for neem oil. It’s a powerful healing remedy and its only drawback is its pungent aroma. But we can’t expect everything that heals us to smell like roses (although that would be nice), and a little olfactory displeasure is a small price to pay for the significant benefits that neem oil can provide.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.