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Neem is a natural herb that comes from the neem tree, other names for which include Azadirachta indica and Indian lilac.
The extract comes from the seeds of the tree and has many different traditional uses. Neem is known for its pesticidal and insecticidal properties, but people also use it in hair and dental products.
In this article, learn about the benefits of neem, as well as whether it is safe to use.
Neem oil is a common pest repellant, effective against sand fleas and mosquitoes. Other forms of neem can help control termites and repel moths.
Some manufacturers add neem to animal shampoos to repel ticks and fleas. They may also add it to cattle feed or grain to repel pests and parasites.
Neem is a strong antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals that may influence the development of some conditions. It is also a strong anti-inflammatory agent.
Neem has antimicrobial effects and may be effective against several types of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
As neem is effective against mosquitoes, it may also have anti-malarial properties. Malaria is a parasite that some mosquitoes carry. It causes around 219 million illnesses and 435,000 deaths worldwide each year.
People most frequently use neem in hair and skin care products. Some people take neem extract capsules, but there is not currently enough research to say whether they have any medical benefits.
The oil is yellow or brown and smells of garlic or sulfur. If ingested, it has a strong bitter taste.
Little research is available on neem’s effect on hair health, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it may be helpful for:
- Dandruff: Neem is a popular ingredient in several anti-dandruff shampoos. Although there has been no research to support its use, neem is an anti-inflammatory and an anti-microbial, which may help reduce the symptoms associated with dandruff.
- Lice: The results of a small study indicated that neem is an effective anti-lice and anti-nit agent. The study only tested 12 children with lice, but all were completely lice- and nit-free after treatment with a neem-based shampoo. No lice were present for 7–10 days after treatment, and there were no side effects.
Dental products, including mouthwashes, toothpastes, and tooth powders, can also contain neem. Neem can reduce pain from toothache and improve dental health by cleaning the teeth and gums and alleviating gingivitis.
Manufacturers sometimes add neem to hair products, such as shampoos and styling gels. Some people also make their own hair care products by adding neem oil directly into their regular shampoo.
It is also possible to apply a neem oil directly to the hair to help control frizz.
For dental health, people can chew on neem twigs to help clean the teeth or relieve tooth pain.
Although experts generally consider neem safe for use, it is possible for someone to have an allergy or sensitivity to it.
Before using neem for the first time, consider doing a patch test. To do a patch test, rub a few drops of neem onto a patch of skin on the inner forearm.
Wait 24 hours, then look at the site to see whether a reaction has occurred. Any signs of discoloration, swelling, itching, or discomfort indicate that a person may be sensitive to the oil and should avoid using it again.
In general, children are more sensitive to pesticides such as neem oil, though there is no research directly on the effects of neem in children.
It is best to speak to a doctor before using any alternative medication on a child or during pregnancy.
Neem products come from all parts of the Indian lilac tree. In the past, people have used neem as a natural remedy for a variety of illnesses.
Now, many people use neem as a natural pesticide. Some use it to support their hair and dental health.
Neem is usually safe to use as a cosmetic product, but people should do a test patch first and speak to a doctor before using neem products on a child.
Neem products are available in some natural health stores and online.