Maybe you need neem oil
Neem oil isn’t something you eat, and it’s not used for cooking — but it can still do a lot for you. Pressed from the seed kernels of the neem tree, this vegetable oil is a remarkable addition to holistic cosmetics and natural toothpastes.
Neem oil’s benefits
Neem oil offers an impressive — and diverse! — range of benefits. It inhibits the growth of fungus, bacteria and parasites. Neem also increases circulation to the skin; no wonder it’s a long-standing folk remedy for skin ailments and inflammation. That soothing effect on your skin is why neem crops up in modern cosmetics so frequently.
Neem also fights or repels all sorts of pests — from insects and plant diseases in the garden to ticks, mosquitoes and even head lice. That makes it a great alternative to DEET and permethrin, two of the most common and toxic ingredients in chemical insect repellents. (You can read here about how DEET is a neurotoxin, or click here to read what the EPA says about permethrin.)
If a few mosquitoes have already gotten through and caused itchy, swelling bites, a little neem oil will soothe both bite and itch.
What else can neem oil do?
Like many of the other natural medicines out there, scientists are still getting up to speed with exactly what neem oil can do for you. It shows potential for some pretty amazing benefits! Here are the high points:
- Neem binds with mutagens. Or in other words, it protects your DNA from damage.
- Neem oil can kill cancer cells. More research is needed to understand exactly how (and how well) it works, though.
- Neem oil can help heal wounds. In one small study, neem oil mixed with hypericum — St. John’s Wort — was found to speed healing of scalp wounds with exposed bone. This test was conducted on a commercial product, though; again, more research is needed.
Shopping for neem oil
When you shop for neem oil, look for a product that has been cold-pressed. Avoid “extracted” neem oils that are made using the solvent hexane, which comes with its own set of concerns about toxicity.
Cold-pressed neem oil is very safe. One notable study conducted on mice did find some organ damage from oral neem consumption, but only after massive amounts of the oil were given. With that said, scientists aren’t entirely sure whether it’s safe for use while pregant — so if you’re expecting, consult a physician before using.