Neem oil boasts an impressive list of health benefits, including its ability to protect the immune system, improve skin health, detoxify the body, slow tumor growth, eliminate lice, boost oral health, treat dandruff, repel insects, increase appetite, soothe inflammation, benefit heart health and stop hair loss, among others. There are a number of side effects linked to the use of neem oil, such as nausea, vomiting, skin inflammation, seizures, fatigue, miscarriages, hypoglycemia and fertility problems. However, these effects primarily occur when too much of this oil is consumed, or if you use this oil before first consulting with your doctor about your particular health conditions.
Neem oil is derived from the seeds and fruit of the neem tree, which is native to India and highly prized in that country. This evergreen tree, bearing the scientific name Azadirachta indica, is widely used for medicinal and agricultural purposes, primarily due to its rich supply of triglycerides, triterpenoids, volatile acids and antioxidants, including nimbin and azadirachtin, two of the key active ingredients in neem oil. Depending on the method of extraction, e.g., cold-pressing, steam distillation or solvent extraction, the strength and potency of this oil may vary. The color of the oil may similarly vary, from pale yellow to hues of brown, green and red. The oil is widely available on the Indian subcontinent, but it has become increasingly accessible in the rest of the world, due to its versatile applications in natural health treatments.
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Benefits of Neem Oil
Many people who use neem oil suffer from poor appetite, eczema, psoriasis, a weak immune system, lice, high toxicity, dandruff, gingivitis, arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and hair loss, among others, as well as those who are at high risk of cancer.
Neem oil can be used for the skin in a variety of ways. It can protect against and treat various fungal infections on the skin and nails, while also eliminating inflammation and improving the appearance of blemishes and age spots. It can lessen the severity of sunburns, provide moisture to the skin, lower the occurrence of acne (thanks to its antibacterial action), and promote the growth of healthy new cells to give your skin a healthy glow.
From arthritis and headaches to acid reflux disease and psoriasis, the powerful anti-inflammatory compounds found in neem oil make this a legendary remedy for a number of common conditions, including those that affect the scalp.
In terms of hair health, neem oil is a common ingredient in hair masks, natural shampoos, conditioners and treatments for everything from frizzy hair to dandruff. The moisturizing, antibacterial and nutrient-dense nature of the oil makes it ideal for optimizing hair health by preventing excess water from being absorbed by your hair.
Relief from Eczema
The benefits of neem oil for the skin have already been mentioned, but specifically for eczema, this oil is constantly turned to by natural healers. The anti-inflammatory and antiseptic qualities can quickly provide relief from this chronic and irritating condition.
Detoxifies the Body
Some people use neem oil for its diuretic properties, which help to stimulate urination, and thus the elimination of excess toxins, salts, fats and water from the body. This relieves strain on the kidneys and the immune system.
The notable antibacterial and antiseptic properties of neem oil have made it a popular remedy for gingivitis and other infections that can affect the gums and teeth. You can apply small amounts directly to the gums for rapid relief, as well as fresh breath.
Traditionally, neem oil has been prescribed for people following an extended illness, injury or surgery, as it helps to stimulate the appetite and aid weight gain. This is also an excellent remedy for people who are struggling with an eating disorder or metabolic problems that cause weight loss or poor nutrient uptake.
Boosts Immune System
The antibacterial and antifungal activities of this oil make it a popular choice for those looking to boost their immune system and protect against various infections. The active ingredient in neem oil, azadirachtin, is known to break down the cell walls of bacteria and neutralize them before they can spread, providing rapid relief from a variety of bacterial infections.
Improves Heart Health
This oil is packed with fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid, linoleic acid, and oleic acid, as well as palmitic and stearic acid. In the proper amounts, these fats are essential for the body, and can even help to balance proper cholesterol levels in the body. Research has shown that neem oil can lower blood pressure, normalize heart palpitations, drop cholesterol levels and eliminate inflammation in blood vessels and arteries, leading to a lower risk of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.
Prevents Chronic Disease
There is an extreme concentration of antioxidants in this beneficial oil, which can help neutralize free radical activity throughout the body. This can lower your risk of chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and even cancer. In fact, studies on neem oil have shown that it can prevent, slow down, and even reverse malignant tumor formation.
This oil is well known to lower blood sugar levels, which is a crucial benefit for anyone suffering from diabetes. By regulating insulin and glucose levels, it can prevent spikes and drops in blood sugar, which also helps protect healthy people from developing diabetes.
Side Effects of Neem Oil
Use of neem oil does come with the risk of certain side effects, including hypoglycemia, pregnancy complications, fertility issues, skin inflammation, nausea, vomiting, stomach upset and potential complications with specific medical conditions.
- Autoimmune Disease – As a result of the immune-stimulating nature of neem oil, it is not recommended for use by people with autoimmune diseases, as this can exacerbate these conditions.
- Allergic Reactions – Some people, particularly those with sensitive skin, may experience serious side effects, even if they are not specifically allergic to neem. These can include redness, itching, swelling and irritation, which can also affect the respiratory tracts if ingested.
- Gastrointestinal Distress – When neem oil is consumed in large quantities for more than 2.5 months, it is known to begin causing gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping and bloating. For some people, these side effects can happen much more rapidly, and use of this oil should be discontinued if these occur.
- Hypoglycemia – While this oil can be beneficial for people with diabetes, or those who are at high risk, it can also cause blood sugar to drop to dangerous levels, particularly if it is used in conjunction with medication intended to lower blood sugar.
- Pregnancy – This oil can act as an emmenagogue and abortifacient, which is why traditionally, it has been used as a form of contraception. For pregnant women, particularly those in the first two trimesters, use of this oil can be unsafe, as it may stimulate menstruation or a miscarriage.
- Fertility – In rare cases, this oil can affect sperm levels in men, resulting in lowered levels of fertility. If you are trying to conceive or have low sperm count or motility, it is best to avoid the use of this oil.