Neem oil is known for its strong odor, deep color, and richness, as well as its myriad uses—some that date back to ancient times. If you aren’t yet familiar with neem, get to know this amazing oil a little better, and add it to the natural oils in your repertoire, with our latest Carrier Oil Closeup:

History and origins of neem

Neem oil is pressed from the fruit and seeds of the neem tree, an evergreen tree with origins in India. The heavy, rich oil has long been a popular Ayurvedic remedy for various skin, scalp and dental issues. Although the use of neem oil dates back to 2000 to 4000 BC in India, you’ll still find it included in a wide range of personal care products today, from scalp oil and toothpaste to insect repellent and cuticle oil.

Why choose neem?

Neem oil is rich in omega fatty acids, and specifically contains a high content of omega 9. It’s a strong anti-inflammatory oil, making it a good choice for inflammatory conditions like joint pain or arthritis. Neem oil also contains natural anti-microbial compounds, making it fantastic for people with skin infections. Neem oil is commonly recommended to improve skin conditions including eczema, psoriasis, and acne, and it’s an Ayurvedic remedy for balancing and/or pacifying pitta and kapha skin disorders like rosacea, inflamed acne, or excessive oil production. In addition to its anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial properties, neem soothes skin with rich moisture and nourishment—one of its biggest benefits. Neem is frequently used for maintaining oral health, from preventing cavities and gum disease and eliminating germs in a mouthwash.

neem-leaf-and-barkOf course, neem oil isn’t just beneficial for skin issues. Neem is prized for its use as a natural insect repellent and pesticide, which if used correctly, is safe for our bees, butterflies, and ladybugs. It’s a safe choice for eliminating garden pests that may be incorporated in organic farming. Neem oil can be mixed with castile soap and water to create an effective pesticide spray for plants. For a natural repellent for ticks, mosquitos and other bugs, mix neem oil into a lotion or dilute with another carrier oil.

What to consider when using neem oil:

For the most nourishing benefits, purchase neem oil which has been organically grown, wild-crafted and cold pressed. Quality neem oil should come in a dark glass bottle, and should be stored in the refrigerator for its longest shelf life, generally 2 to 3 years. If you don’t refrigerate your neem oil, it’s shelf life will be 18 months to 2 years. Regardless, label your bottle with the date, be aware of its expiration date, and check for signs of rancidity (cloudiness, odor, etc.) before use.

Neem might be considered to have an unpleasant odor for some people. Some describe its scent as related to that of garlic and peanuts. But its scent varies. Neem oil can smell nutty, earthy, bitter or any combination of the above depending on the source, batch, and other natural variations. This is best addressed in topical preparations by adding 3% or less concentration of essential oils. Keep in mind, neem will solidify at cooler temperatures. This is a physical change, not a chemical change, which does not affect the efficacy of the neem but might make it more challenging to work with. Neem oil should not be used by pregnant women, those trying to conceive, due to its suspected (though temporary) negative impact on fertility and conception. Neem also should not be used on children.

Neem: Did you know?

Neem oil is also safe for pets, where it can help relieve your pet’s skin condition just as it would in humans.

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Neem leaf and bark image via