Neem comes from the neem tree (Azadirachta indica). Also called Indian lilac, the seeds of the tree contain a natural oil with numerous uses.
One of the most common applications of neem oil is as a pest repellent. When applied to the skin, it drives away biting insects like mosquitoes and sand fleas.
Its insecticidal properties indirectly contribute to fighting insect-borne diseases like malaria that spreads via mosquitoes.
Some formulations also work on different insect pests. These versions of neem oil help control termites and keep moths out of the closet.
Pet care companies offer animal shampoos with neem oil. The neem-incorporated products keep fleas and ticks off pet cats, dogs, and the like.
Other manufacturers use neem to protect cattle feed and grain from pests and parasites that may ruin the crop.
Neem possesses considerable antioxidant activity. It scavenges toxic free radicals that may otherwise increase the risks of some health conditions.
Its antioxidant properties also allow neem to help control inflammation. The extract also displays antimicrobial activity against some bacteria, fungi, and viruses. (Related: Find relief from scalp psoriasis with these natural remedies.)
In addition to killing common insect pests, neem oil is also an ingredient for dental, hair, and skin care products, with the latter two types of personal care items being the most common.
Neem extract capsules are available on the market. The oil is brown or yellow, smells like garlic or even sulfur, and tastes bitter.
There are few studies on any health and medical benefits from taking the supplements. Likewise, not many researchers have investigated the effects of using neem-infused hair products.
Going by anecdotal evidence from the traditional usage of neem oil, neem oil may improve hair conditions related to dandruff and lice. It may also support dental and oral health.
Neem has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. Since many of the symptoms of dandruff may stem from harmful microbes and inflammation, the extract may help reduce their severity.
In 2012, researchers from Egypt, Saudia Arabia, and Germany found that neem oil helped get rid of lice and nits. When children with lice used neem-based shampoo, they became free from both the insects and their eggs.
The participants remained lice-free and nit-free for seven to 10 days after treatment. They did not display any adverse effects from using the neem-infused shampoo.
Finally, neem gets added to many dental products like mouthwashes, toothpastes, and tooth powders. The extract may help alleviate the pain caused by toothaches. It also helps clean the teeth and gums, thereby fighting off gingivitis.
Using neem to care for hair is straightforward. Hair care companies sometimes add the extract to their shampoos and styling gels, so applying those products to one's hair will do the trick.
For those who don't trust manufacturers, they may get neem oil and pour the extract into their trusted shampoos, or they may apply it directly to their hair, which may help keep frizz under control.
Those with access to neem trees may chew on its twigs. The natural approach helps clean teeth and relieve the painful sensations of a toothache.
Neem is considered safe for most people. However, a potential user may have an allergy to it. First-time users must perform a patch test. Take a few drops of neem oil and rub them onto a patch of skin on the inner forearm. If there is no adverse reaction, you may continue to use neem oil for your personal care needs.
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