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What is Neem?

Monday, 8 January 2018  |  Admin

Neem is a medicinal herb derived from the neem tree. Compounds in the seeds, leaves, flowers and bark have been used to (among other things) heal wounds, relieve itching, soothe eczema and psoriasis and see off parasites for thousands of years. Making it perfect for seeing off head lice, and soothing scaly, itchy skin.

Neem

Where does neem come from?

Neem comes from the neem tree, an evergreen native to the Indian subcontinent. Neem has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, and of all the plants used in Ayurveda the neem tree is the most versatile and by far the most widely researched. Despite this, the healing properties of neem are only just beginning to catch on in Europe and the rest of the world.

What is neem used for?

The seeds, seed oil (also known as margosa oil), leaves, flowers and, to a lesser extent, the bark can all be utilised for different medicinal purposes. This is because the compounds in neem act as an:

  • Anti-parasitic
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-viral
  • Antibiotic
  • Antiseptic
  • Anti-inflammatory

As a result of neem’s versatility Indians use it in shampoos, soaps, deodorants and toothpastes. To heal wounds, burns, psoriasis and fungal rashes. To kill head lice, scabies and intestinal parasites. To name a few. Because the compounds in neem are so wide ranging the benefits can appear almost limitless so I’m just going to list the most common illnesses and ailments people use it for:

Skin

  • Psoriasis - use neem cream and body wash to heal lesions and reduce scaling.
  • Eczema - use as above. Works especially well on wet eczema.
  • Generalised itchy skin - replace your normal soap or body wash with neem body wash and use neem cream daily.
  • Itchy scalp - as above.
  • Dermatitis - neem cream will really help here but if it’s pretty chronic add a couple of drops of neem oil to the cream.

Parasites

  • Head lice and nits - neem shampoo for normal washing, then neem spray daily and you won’t be troubled. Ever.
  • Mosquitoes - neem spray on any exposed skin will deter mozzies at 50 paces!
  • Scottish midges - spray all the way, avoid eyes though, just apply a little to your face by hand.
  • Any biting insect - neem spray will also help to heal any bite sites.

First aid

  • Insect bites, burns, scalds and wounds - use neem oil if it’s bad then move over to cream until healed. Otherwise the cream will suffice. Obviously I’m talking everyday burns and wounds here for anything serious see a doctor, but after that you can apply it liberally to speed up the healing process and deter infection setting in.
  • Verrucas and warts - Rub in neat neem oil then cover with a plaster. Repeat daily until gone.
  • Cold sores - apply neem cream as soon as you get that first tingling sensation. You may still get the cold sore but it will heal much faster.

Fungal

For all of the following keep the skin clean and dry, then apply neem cream twice a day until gone.

  • Athletes foot - apply neem oil too if especially bad.
  • Nappy rash - wash with neem soap as well and apply cream every time you change nappies.
  • Ringworm.
  • Yeast infection - look at how much sugar is in the diet as most yeast infections are caused by too much in the diet.
  • Thrush - again look at sugar in the diet.

Questions to ask before buying

Always buy your neem products from someone you trust. Neem ranges from the pure, browny/green oil right down to the stuff used as axle grease on farm machinery (I kid you not). Like tea tree and olive oil there are imposters and fakes out there and many products either don’t contain the right quantity of neem to be any good or the quality of what’s included is poor.

Always ask the store where they get their neem products from.

  • How much neem is in the product you're interested in?
  • How pure is the neem used in the product?

Neem isn’t cheap, you really do get what you pay for. If they can’t answer your questions or find the answers for you, shop elsewhere.

Things to look for on the label

  • Always check the added ingredients especially the surfactants, the ingredients added to make the product lather.
  • Avoid anything with sodium lauryl or laureth sulphate, particularly if you suffer from tight/itchy skin.
  • You’re looking for botanical surfactants rather than harsh oil based ones more commonly used which can make itchy skin worse.
  • Fragrance should come from an essential oil, not an artificial one.
  • Avoid added colours, sulphates or parabens.

My Itchy Kid’s neem

All our neem is organic and comes from India where the best stuff is grown. Our surfactants are botanical and our infusions are organic, biodegradable and sustainable. There are never any artificial colours or preservatives in our products and they are all free from parabens.

Is neem safe?

As with everything, used correctly neem is very safe. It’s been well researched and there are many peer reviewed studies published and available to read in the public domain⁠1, 26 alone on testing neem for safety. Neem has a 5000 year history of traditional use and is deemed GRAS (Generally Recognised As Safe)⁠2 by the FDA (Food And Drug Administration) in the US.The US, Europe and Canada are starting to seriously research neem with a view to developing new methods of pest control in agriculture.

Millions of pet owners use it to keep fleas, ticks and mites away, for healing wounds and treating itchy skin. And as we’ve already established the residents of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka use it for just about everything, just about every day!

However, a lack of understanding arises as to when it is safe to use neem internally (as a food supplement, toothpaste) as opposed to externally (creams, shampoos and oils etc). Eating neem is not advised for children below the age of 12 or in people weighing under 6 stone (38kg). Nor is it advisable for women planning pregnancy or breastfeeding (see below).

Externally applied, as a cream, shampoo, oil or spray, neem is safe for everyone. Use it for all skin problems ranging from allergic reactions to skin diseases. There are no problems reported with applying neem to the skin, either as an oil or cream. In fact neem seems to clear up or alleviate the symptoms of just about any skin problem including fungal candida, itching, soreness, eczema, psoriasis and cold sores.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Because neem has potential⁠ as a contraceptive in women and men there is often confusion around fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding, and whether it’s safe for mums to use. To be of any use as a contraceptive neem requires a very intimate and dedicated application in order to have any impact on fertility . Impossibly large amounts of neem leaf would need to be added to the diet or the oil applied into the vagina for a prolonged period, or be injected into men.

Equally any contraceptive effect is reversed after a couple of weeks cessation using neem in this way with a return to full fertility for both men and women. Common sense is the key. If you have a skin reaction to any product, neem based or otherwise, discontinue use. In the end it is a personal decision based on the available facts. But bearing in mind the ingredients in say conventional head lice products I would choose to use neem every time.