21 Ways Neem Oil Can Save Your Garden, Clean Your Home, And Boost Your Health

There’s almost nothing this natural ingredient can’t do.

May 4, 2017
neem oil
mukesh-kumar/ Getty

If you’re into natural pest management or eco home cleaning and personal care, then you need to be using neem—this versatile oil has a place in your garden, home, and even bathroom, as it combats insects and plant diseases, chases away household pests, and promotes healthy skin and hair.

What exactly is it? Neem oil comes from the neem tree (Azadirachta indica), an evergreen tree native to India. Its seeds contain the highest concentration of the tree’s natural bioactive compounds: azadirachin and nimbin, so neem oil is usually made from the seeds, which have been used in wax, soap, cosmetic, and medicinal preparations for centuries.

Unlike many of the debatable man-made compounds used in personal care products or for pest control, neem oil is biodegradable. It breaks down quickly into harmless compounds, with a half-life of just 1 to 2½ days in plant tissues, less than an hour to four days in water, and three to 44 days in soil. And, when used properly, neem oil is non-toxic and safe for humans, pets, birds, fish, animals, earthworms, and most beneficial insects—it’s only toxic to insects that chew or suck on plant tissues. (However, neem is not recommended for women who are pregnant or trying to conceive, as it may impair fertility when taken internally or in large amounts.) Neem also has one additional advantage over most synthetic pesticides: insects have not shown any success in becoming immune to it, so neem oil remains effective even after repeated applications.

Neem oil comes in a variety of formulas and concentrations. For use on your skin or hair you want a 100% pure, cold-pressed neem oil, or a product made with it, as that is the highest quality oil. Several companies, including Mountain Rose Herbs and Amazon, sell organic cold-pressed neem oil, which is the very best choice. For other uses you can use non-cold-pressed pure neem oil, or a product containing it. 

Be aware that neem oil smells like rancid peanuts or garlic, so blending with a more pleasant smelling essential oil may be a good idea for some applications. 

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using neem in garden
1/4 Okapics/ Getty
Garden uses

Neem oil is invaluable in the garden as it is both a pesticide and a fungicide and can be used throughout the year, even right up to the day of harvest for edibles. Neem oil makes plants less tasty to chewing and sucking insects, prevents young insects from developing into adults, disrupts mating and egg laying in adults, and even kills soft-skinned insects outright. It can also prevent the germination of fungal spores, stopping fungal diseases before they start, and kill bacteria that cause plant diseases. 

Diluted neem oil can be sprayed on the leaves or applied to the soil. When applied to the soil, neem oil helps control root knot nematodes, soil-borne diseases, and can even be absorbed by a plant’s roots and distributed throughout the stems and leaves, so insects can detect it if they take a bite (while you and I couldn’t).

To make a neem oil spray, mix 2 teaspoons of neem oil and a few drops of dishwashing liquid with a gallon of water. Neem can be combined with insecticidal soap, superior horticultural oil, or Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) in a spray or on the plant at the same time without reducing the efficacy of any of the control measures.

Spray diluted neem oil on a cloudy day or in the evening if possible to help avoid possible foliage damage and to reduce the chances of exposing bees and other pollinators to high concentrations. Spray both the tops and undersides of leaves, until the surface is wet and the liquid starts to run off. Apply as needed, up to once a week to help control or prevent pests and fungal diseases
 

Insects

Diluted neem oil spray is very effective at repelling, disrupting, or killing dozens of kinds plant-chewing and -sucking insects in the garden (as well as on houseplants or in greenhouses and cold frames), including: mites, aphids, whiteflies, slugs and snails, root-knot nematodes, Japanese beetles and beetle grubs, mealybugs, cabbage worms, scale, tent caterpillars, and more. 
 

Plant Diseases

Diluted neem oil spray applied once every week or two can prevent or even kill a wide range of fungal and bacterial plant diseases, including: powdery mildew, black spot, scab, rust, wilt, leaf spot, fire blight, and more. 

neem oil for skin
2/4 Photograph courtesy of Mountain Rose Herbs
Skin, hair & nail uses

Most people can use pure neem oil directly on their skin, but some may be sensitive, so it is a good idea to test a single drop on the area and wait at least a few hours to make sure no redness or irritation occurs. If it does, mix neem oil half and half with a light natural cold-pressed oil such as coconut or almond, and use that instead. 

To apply neem oil put a few drops of 100% (or diluted) neem oil in your palms, rub them together, and then apply the oil very lightly to the target area. A little neem oil goes a long way. 
 

Acne

Neem oil is anti-inflammatory and can help reduce the redness, pain, and of acne; plus it helps heal skin damaged by acne, reducing the chances of scarring.
 

Anti-frizz hair conditioner

Neem oil can help prevent hair from becoming frizzy, especially in high-humidity, as it forms a thin, water-resistant shield. 
 

Dandruff

Neem oil is a common ingredient in many natural shampoos as it is quite effective for banishing those embarrassing itchy flakes. For a concentrated dandruff-busting treatment, massage a teaspoon of neem oil gently into the scalp, let it work for half an hour, then wash your hair. 
 

Dry scalp

Regular application to the scalp with the fingertips can help keep it moisturized and reduce problems associated with dry skin.
 

Fungal nail infections

Place one or two drops of neem oil on the affected nail and allow it to soak in. Repeat the application 2-3 times a day until the infection is completely resolved, usually within a week. (Here are 6 more natural ways to deal with toenail fungus.)
 

Fungal skin infections

Neem oil is very effective against athlete’s foot, ringworm, and fungal infections. 
 

Hand sanitizer

Neem oil kills germs. Put a dropper full of neem oil in a small spray bottle and top it off with grain alcohol or vodka. Spray hands liberally, rub it all over, and let them air dry. (You can also try out this homemade 3-ingredient hand sanitizer.)
 

Head lice

Warm 2 tablespoons of neem oil and rub it into the hair thoroughly. Cover hair with a shower cap or winter hat, leave on overnight, and wash out in the morning.


Hyper pigmentation

Over time, neem oil can help lighten dark areas by moderating melanin production.
 

Mosquitoes, ticks, and other biting pests

Neem oil is an effective insect repellant. Rub a few drops on skin or clothing with your hands, or combine with alcohol in a spray bottle and spritz it all over.


Rashes

Neem oil can calm irritated skin and help it heal.
 

Skin conditioner

Neem oil is an excellent skin conditioner, particularly for dry or oft-washed skin, as it locks in moisture. 
 

Psoriasis

Although neem oil cannot cure this autoimmune condition, it can help calm the inflammation, soften the flaky areas, and help prevent infections.
 

Sunburn

Neem oil’s anti-inflammatory activity helps cut pain and redness and can help reduce long term skin damage. 

Related: 8 Cool Ways To Use Tea Tree Oil

neem in spray bottle
3/4 Hero Images/ Getty
Home uses

So, you already have a cleaning product cabinet devoted to natural grime and germ fighters like white vinegar, baking soda, essential oils, and castile soap? Consider adding neem to the collection. 
 

Surface cleaner

A few drops of neem oil can help add extra germ-killing power to homemade spray cleaners. (Check out these 3 DIY home cleaners just like grandma used to make.)
 

Mold and mildew

Spray diluted neem oil on areas prone to mold and mildew. 
 

Household pests

Dip cotton balls in neem oil and put them in kitchen cabinets, cupboards, and drawers to repel pests. Apply neem oil around doors and windows to discourage pests from entering.

neem shampoo for dogs
4/4 JanuarySkyePhotography/ Getty
Pet care uses

Neem oil can be used to help prevent or treat ticks, fleas, ear mites, and mange on dogs. (Too much neem oil can have toxic effects on cats, so neem-based products aren't recommended for the furry felines in your life.)  

Your best bet is to either wash your dog with a neem oil shampoo (like this one with neem and argan oils), spritz with neem oil diluted in alcohol, or mix 1 part neem oil with 10 parts olive oil and rub onto the effected area.

Related: 5 Ways To Keep Ticks Out Of Your Yard

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