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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