HISTORY OF NEEM OIL
The name “Neem” has its roots in the Sanskrit word “Nimba,” meaning “bestower of good health.” It has also been called “Ravisambha,” meaning “sunray-like effects in providing health.” In Hindu texts, namely the Vedas, Neem is referred to as “Sarva Roga Nivarini,” meaning “one that cures all ailments and ills.”
Nicknamed the “Indian Lilac” and the “Margosa Tree,” and believed to have divine origins, the Neem tree is said to have been a safe haven for the Sun when, according to Indian mythology, it had to escape from the malicious powers of demons. Another Indian legend tells the tale of how a few drops of Amrita, meaning “ambrosia” or “the elixir of immortality,” fell onto the Neem tree while it was being carried to Heaven, thus further establishing its encounter with divinity. It was believed that a person who planted at least three Neem trees in his or her life would be guaranteed a place in Heaven.
Considered by the people of India to be sacred, the legendary Neem tree has come to symbolize good health and protection. As such, it was used to protect food and grains and acted as a natural pesticide and fertilizer. The venerated Neem tree has provided physical comfort in the form of shade against the harsh sun and it has naturally repelled bugs and insects for those sitting under its canopy. Used in medicine, its remedial properties have strengthened health and boosted immunity. Its vast range of benefits, which far outweighs the usefulness of other trees, has made the Neem tree an integral aspect of Indian life and has come to be closely associated with the history of the Indian civilization.
The Azadirachta indica botanical, better known as the Neem Tree, is believed to have originated in either India or Burma. When it was discovered that the tree can thrive in any warm, dry regions, migrating Indians introduced it to other lands including Africa, Fiji, Mauritius, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Cambodia. Its resistance to droughts and its tolerance to heat are factors that contribute to its long lifespan of up to 200 years.
Throughout history, several elements of the diverse Neem tree were used to make herbal beauty treatments, insecticides, and first aid treatments for numerous skin ailments. Unless exposed to severe droughts or frost, this evergreen tree’s leaves are available throughout the year. Although its seeds, or “nuts,” are largely known for yielding the beneficial carrier oil, the tree’s bark, leaves, roots, flowers, and fruits are also used to make medicine that was applied topically. Sometimes these parts were ingested in the form of tea infusions, as suggested in the ancient Ayurvedic tradition, which is said to be comprised largely of formulations that involve the use of Neem in one form or another. The tree’s twigs were used to maintain oral hygiene and the leaves were used in salads or were cooked along with vegetables. Neem gum was produced for dry throat lozenges, and Neem fruits were eaten for their sweet pulp.
When the wind blew through the Neem trees and into the surrounding homes, it was believed that the winds carried with them the anti-bacterial properties of the tree, keeping the homes free of bacteria while providing residents with a cool breeze in the summer months. Livestock and cattle were fed Neem leaves for medical relief from ailments and soil were fertilized with seeds, leaves, and bark which all doubled as pesticides. Traditionally, the Neem tree’s derivatives were used topically to address such ailments as fevers, respiratory issues, tetanus infections, rheumatism, arthritis, jaundice, malaria, ringworm, lice, fungal and bacterial infections of the skin, scabies, hives, eczema, psoriasis, and gastrointestinal diseases. Historically, Neem Oil was even used as a topical contraceptive.
Of all the commercially available Neem products, Neem Carrier Oil is said to be the most important for organic farming and medicines. The countless uses of Neem Carrier Oil led to the Neem tree receiving the nickname of “village pharmacy” from the Indians, who traditionally used the oil and the tree’s other parts for its natural insect repellant properties as well as to eliminate head lice and dandruff. It could also prevent baldness, slow the graying of hair, soothe skin, remove bacteria, and create skincare products. Many of these uses remain relevant today, making Neem Carrier Oil one of the most popular choices for use in the manufacturing of soaps, cosmetics, and massage oils.
NEEM OIL BENEFITS
The main chemical constituents of Neem Carrier Oil are Oleic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Stearic Acid, Linoleic Acid, Vitamin C, and Carotenoids.
OLEIC ACIDS (OMEGA 9) are known to:
- Maintain the softness, suppleness, and radiance of skin and hair
- Stimulate the growth of thicker, longer, and stronger hair
- Reduce the appearance of aging, such as premature wrinkles and fine lines
- Eliminate dandruff and thereby support hair growth
- Boost immunity
- Exhibit anti-oxidant properties
- Prevent joint inflammation, stiffness, and pain
STEARIC ACID is known to:
- Have cleansing properties that purge dirt, sweat and excess sebum from hair and skin
- Be an ideal emulsifying agent that binds water and oil
- Help products remain potent when stored for long periods of time
- Condition and protect hair from damage without diminishing luster or making it feel heavy
- Have exceptional cleansing properties
- Soften skin
PALMITIC ACID is known to:
- Have emollient properties
- Soften hair without leaving a greasy or sticky residue
- Be the most common saturated fatty acid
LINOLEIC ACIDS (OMEGA 6) are known to:
- Moisturize hair and promote its growth
- Facilitate wound healing
- Be an effective emulsifier in the formulation of soaps and quick-drying oils
- Exhibit anti-inflammatory properties
- Soothe acne and reduce chances of future outbreaks
- Promote moisture retention in skin and hair
- Make oils feel thinner in consistency when used in an oil blend, thus being beneficial for use on acne-prone skin
ALPHA-LINOLENIC ACID (OMEGA-3) is known to:
- Lessen inflammation
- Control blood clotting on the skin
- Soothe joint pain and ease stiffness to improve flexibility
VITAMIN E is known to:
- Exhibit anti-oxidant activity
- Delay the appearance of aging
- Repair and improve the appearance of damaged tissue such as scars, acne, and wrinkles
- Protect skin and hair against environmental toxins such as those found in air pollution
CAROTENOIDS are known to:
- Exhibit anti-oxidant properties
- Prevent cellular damage
- Protect skin and hair against environmental toxins
- Repair skin damage and signs of aging caused by UV radiation, hormones, or acne
- Reduce hyperpigmentation caused by UV radiation, hormones, or acne
- Make skin appear exceptionally younger
- Stimulate the regeneration of skin
- Boost skin’s collagen and elastin production to increase thickness, elasticity, firmness, softness, and smoothness
- Hydrate skin by reducing water loss
NIMBIN is known to:
- Have antiseptic, antifungal, antipyretic and antihistamine properties
- Relieve redness and swelling
AZADIRACHTIN is known to:
- Be one of the two main active constituents derived from Neem seed kernels
- Protect the Neem tree with its insecticidal and fungicidal compounds
- Determine the quality of the Neem Carrier Oil, depending on its percentage
Used topically, Neem Carrier Oil can soothe red, itchy, inflamed skin associated with ailments like acne, burns, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, and rashes among others. Neem Oil works as a natural substitute for anti-aging products and as a protective agent against skin damage caused by UV rays. It deeply penetrates the skin to restore moisture, enhance elasticity, smooth wrinkles, stimulate collagen production, and heal cracks caused by dryness. It reduces skin redness and brings out a healthy glow. Its ability to unclog pores and follicles while soothing irritated skin without leaving a greasy residue makes Neem Carrier Oil an effective agent for acne-prone skin; it prevents future breakouts by eliminating acne-causing bacteria, purging impurities, tightening the pores, and evening out skin tone. By softening the skin to make it supple, it facilitates the healing of scars and reduces their look and feel.
Used in hair, Neem Oil naturally removes dandruff and balances hair’s natural pH level, preventing future dandruff. It not only detangles hair, but it prevents hair thinning caused by pollution, stress or medication by promoting the growth of stronger, tamer hair. Regular application of Neem Oil to the scalp moisturizes hair from root to tip, maintains the health of the scalp, and repairs split ends, which can arrest the development of hair growth and create frizz. Neem Carrier Oil can rejuvenate and fortify dull, frizzy hair by conditioning it to restore its luster and strength.
Used medicinally, Neem Carrier Oil contains components that prevent and eliminate fungal infections. By soothing the irritation and eradicating the bacteria that causes them, Neem Carrier Oil can calm skin ailments such as ringworm, Athlete’s Foot, nail fungus, and cold sores. By suffocating parasites that live on the skin, it effectively eradicates ailments such as scabies and head lice. When applied to minor wounds, Neem Oil reduces inflammation and facilitates faster healing by increasing blood flow to the area and helping to create collagen fibers, which strengthen firm and shape skin.
Neem Carrier Oil is reputed to have many therapeutic properties. The following highlights its many benefits and the kinds of activity it is believed to show:
- COSMETIC: Anti-inflammatory, Anti-oxidant, Astringent, Regulating, Pediculicidal, Moisturizing
- MEDICINAL: Antibacterial, Antiviral, Anti-inflammatory, Anti-fungal, Antiseptic, Antipyretic Antihistamine, Analgesic, Astringent, Anthelmintic, Diuretic, Emmenagogue, Febrifuge, Parasiticidal, Pediculicidal
CULTIVATING AND HARVESTING QUALITY NEEM OIL
The hardy, evergreen Neem tree is botanically related to the Mahogany tree and is found in the sunlit, dry regions of Southeast Asia as well as other tropical and sub-tropical regions. It does not survive in extended periods of cold weather, in freezing temperatures, or in soils with inadequate water drainage. The tree can grow in any type of soil, including types that are rocky, acidic, saline, alkaline, shallow, or hardpan near the soil’s surface, as well as on soils with pH levels up to 8.5. The Neem tree is known to benefit the environment by increasing soil fertility, emanating a higher amount of oxygen than other trees, and by neutralizing soil acidity. The Neem tree is known to sometimes live longer than two centuries.
The Neem tree has a deep taproot system that can sometimes grow to be twice the height of the tree, especially in young Neem trees, and it can thrive on meager amounts of water, making it drought-resistant. Its branches are widespread and bear white flowers from which smooth green fruits, or “drupes,” grow and ripen to a golden yellow color. The trees begin to bloom after reaching an age of 2-3 years and the drupes begin to develop after 3-5 years. After 10 years, trees can produce up to 50 kg of fruits per year. The fruits are oval, or “ellipsoidal,” in shape and enclose a sweet pulp that further encloses a white seed/nut, which has an outer shell and holds up to three brown kernels. Neem tree fruits are usually produced once a year, but some regions with more moisture can see growth twice a year.
The ripened Neem fruits either fall from the trees on their own, or they are shaken, picked, or stripped off the trees. The pulp must be removed as soon as possible within 45 hours after the fruits are harvested, and this can be done by rubbing pulp against an abrasive surface while they are still wet. After the pulp is removed and the fruit stones have been washed with water to remove any remaining fruit flesh, the cleaned white seeds/nuts are obtained. In some regions, producers leave the cleaning of the seeds to fruit bats and birds, as they feed on the fruit pulp and spit out the cleaned seeds afterward. Because the seeds are distributed far and wide by these and other creatures such as baboons, Neem trees become “weed-like” in their far-reaching dissemination and are rarely affected by the growth of real weeds.
HOW IS NEEM OIL EXTRACTED?
Neem Carrier Oil is obtained from the fruits, seeds, seed kernels, or seed cake by cold-pressing, steam, and high-pressure extraction, or solvent extraction.
The first step of any method is to remove the pulp from the seeds and then to air dry the seeds in a cool room with low humidity. Next, the seeds have their husks removed before proceeding to the method of extraction.
In the cold-pressing method, which is the oldest method, fresh, light green kernels are crushed and pressed to release their oils, which are then collected. Seeds that are fresh will produce oils that are light in color and that emit light, more tolerable scents. Kernels that are old or rancid will yield an oil that is dark and that emits a strong, unpleasant odor similar to that of sulfur. Of all the Neem Carrier Oil extraction methods, cold-pressing yields the highest quality virgin oil consisting of all the active constituents. A second pressing yields an oil quality that is best suited for manufacturing soaps and insect repellents.
In the steam and high-pressure extraction method, the kernels are steamed to boost the flow of oils for the next step, which is subjecting them to high pressure to squeeze out their oils. In this method, the resultant oil is dark and emits an unpleasant odor and the oil’s valuable properties can potentially be destroyed by the application of heat.
In the solvent extraction method, the kernels are finely crushed and placed in a container in which they are soaked with an organic solvent, usually Hexane, which draws out the Neem Oil. Once the solvent has been recovered, the remaining oil is comparatively clear. In this method, many of the oil’s pungent constituents, which are not soluble in Hexane, will remain behind, thus making the finished product suitable for use in the health products and cosmetic applications. Alternatively, the kernels can be pressed first, which would result in a seed cake, which could then have any remaining oil extracted with the use of Hexane.
There are various colors of Neem Carrier Oil ranging between golden yellow, yellowish brown, reddish brown, dark brown, greenish brown, and bright red. It is known to have a strong odor that can be likened to a mixture of peanut and garlic aromas. The highest quality of Neem Oil is derived from Neem fruits that are picked from the tree rather than those that are collected after falling to the ground.
USES OF NEEM OIL
The uses of Neem Carrier Oil are abundant, ranging from medicinal to cosmetic. Its many forms include oils, gels, lotions, creams, soaps, and shampoos.
Used topically, Neem Oil can soothe skin ailments such as inflammation, and it can reduce feverish body temperatures while eliminating joint and muscle pain caused by rheumatic disorders. Neem Oil can be applied to the skin as a toner that restores moisture to the face while eliminating pathogens beneath the skin’s surface to leave skin looking and feeling healthier and younger. To condition dry skin, Neem Carrier Oil can be blended with Coconut Oil before being applied. Additionally, a few drops of Lemon or Lavender Essential Oil can be added to this blend for a more pleasant scent. To control acne, Neem Carrier Oil can be mixed with Olive Oil before it is applied to the face and left on for one hour. It can either be washed off after this time, or it can be left on the face overnight, depending on personal preference. To lighten areas of skin that are affected by hyperpigmentation and to regulate melanin production, a few drops of Neem Oil can be applied to these areas with a cotton bud.
To eliminate head lice, 2 tablespoons of Neem Carrier Oil can be heated and applied to the hair, which can then be wrapped with a scarf or a towel to allow the oil to soak into the scalp overnight. The following morning, dead lice may appear on the scarf or towel. The oil can be washed out of the hair with an herbal shampoo. This process may be repeated if itching persists. To soothe a dry scalp and get rid of dandruff, a teaspoon of Neem Oil can be heated, massaged into the scalp, and left on for half an hour before being washed out. Alternatively, for a combination of benefits from other oils, it can be mixed with Coconut Oil for deeper conditioning. Regularly applying Neem Carrier Oil to the scalp will strengthen hair’s defenses against infections and other skin conditions while promoting the growth of healthy, moisturized hair that is shiny, smooth, and free of frizz. An alternative to massaging the oil into the scalp is to add a few drops of Neem Oil to a shampoo of personal preference before each wash.
Soaking nails in 1-2 drops of Neem Carrier Oil can naturally treat any infections, especially when this method of application is repeated 2-3 times daily until the infection is completely eliminated. Similarly, soaking in bath water that is mixed with Neem Oil will remove skin parasites such as scabies. If a bath is not the preferred method of eradication, Neem Oil can also be dabbed directly onto areas of skin affected by scabies infestations and can be left on the skin for 15 minutes. This method of application will reduce itching and inflammation. For an antibacterial hand wash, a few drops of Neem Oil can be added to liquid hand soap before lathering.
Used medicinally, Neem Oil can soothe areas of skin affected by cuts, wounds, and mosquito bites by mixing it with Vaseline or with another carrier oil before applying it. This method makes an effective insect repellant as well. To eliminate the Athlete’s Foot fungus, Neem Oil can be added to a tub of warm water for a foot soak. To remove warts, Neem Oil can be applied directly to the affected areas once daily until warts have disappeared. This application method is effective for soothing other skin conditions such as cold sores, eczema, psoriasis, and other fungal skin conditions.
A GUIDE TO NEEM OIL VARIETIES & THEIR BENEFITS
|NEEM VARIETY & BOTANICAL NAME||COUNTRY OF ORIGIN||BENEFITS OF OIL|
|Neem Carrier Oil
CONTRAINDICATIONS FOR NEEM OIL
Neem Carrier Oil should not be ingested, and it should not be used on or near children, in case of accidental ingestion. As with all other oils, a patch test should be conducted on the inner arm using a dime size amount of Neem Oil to check for sensitivities.
Due to its potential abortifacient properties, which can possibly weaken fertility or induce spontaneous miscarriages, it is highly recommended that the use of Neem Carrier Oil – a traditional Ayurvedic contraceptive – be avoided by women who are pregnant or trying to conceive, until there are conclusive studies establishing that there is no risk of injury or loss. Those with nut allergies should avoid using Neem Carrier Oil, as Neem seeds are essentially Neem “nuts.”
For those with Auto-Immune Diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Lupus, and Rheumatoid Arthritis, it is best to avoid using Neem Oil, as it can boost the symptoms of these diseases. Neem Carrier Oil can also diminish the effectiveness of medications that are taken to prevent organ rejection by the body, thus it should not be used by those who have recently undergone organ transplant surgery. Generally, Neem Oil should not be used at least 2 weeks before a surgery, as it may lower blood sugar levels during or after surgery. For this reason, individuals with diabetes are advised to monitor blood sugar levels carefully, if using Neem Oil. It may be necessary to change diabetes medication dosage.
- For thousands of years, parts of the Neem tree have been used for its medicinal and insecticidal properties.
- Considered by the people of India to be sacred, the legendary Neem tree has come to symbolize good health and protection, leading the Indians to refer to it as the “village pharmacy.”
- The ancient Ayurvedic tradition is said to be comprised largely of formulations that involve the use of Neem in one form or another.
- Used in medicine, the remedial properties of Neem Oil improve health and boost immunity.
- Traditionally, Neem Oil was used to create skin and hair care products that soothed dryness, repaired damage, removed bacteria, eliminated head and body lice, prevented baldness, and slowed the graying of hair.