Neem oil has been used for healing since antiquity. In the Indian subcontinent, all parts of the neem tree including the leaves, fruit, seed, oil, and bark are used to treat a variety of ailments and offer a wealth of benefits to the skin, nails, scalp, teeth, and gums.
Continue reading to learn about neem oil and some interesting facts.
What is Neem?
Medicinal Uses Of Neem Oil
The Neem Tree, A Botanical Description
Neem Oil General Description
Purification Of Neem Oil
Sanskrit Synonyms For Neem With Meaning
Ayurvedic Properties Of Neem
Neem Oil Uses And Benefits
Oil Extraction Methods
Neem Oil Benefits
Chemistry Of Neem Oil
Neem Research Studies
Due to a plethora of benefits, healing and medicinal properties, neem is known as the 'village dispensary' in some parts of the world.
One of the most used part of the tree is neem oil. It extracted from the fruits and seeds of the neem tree, also known as the Margosa tree.
The botanical name of neem is Azadirachta indica. It is a member of the Meliaceae family.
The history of medicinal usage of neem oil is as old as the Ayurvedic system of medicine.
The many benefits of neem oil and other parts of the tree are described in the ancient Ayurvedic texts.
In Asia, neem and neem oil has been in use for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. In recent times however, it was introduced as a useful cure for various ailments to other areas like tropical America and Africa.
Due to its various properties, neem oil and other parts of the neem tree has aroused interest in the cosmetics industry. A natural medicine, pesticide, and fertilizer, neem has anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and antioxidant properties.
This is the reason why neem is popularly used in cosmetics products such as face masks, lotions, sunscreens, soaps, shampoos, hair tonics, body creams, hand creams, mouth washes, toothpastes, emulsions, ointments, poultices and liniments.
It's benefits are not just limited to skin and health in general, but neem is useful in agriculture too. Products derived from neem can contribute to sustainable development and the resolution of pest control problems in farming and agriculture.
Neem is a fast-growing tree and it can reach a height of 15 to 20 meters with a life span of 150-200 years. It is typically grown in tropical and semi-tropical regions of South Asia.
Neem is a small-to-medium sized evergreen tree, with wide and spreading branches. It can tolerate high temperatures as well as poor or degraded soil conditions.
The young leaves are reddish to purple, while the mature leaves are bright green in color. It has opposite and pinnate leaves.
They consist of a petiole, lamina, and the base that attaches the leaf to the stem. They may bear two small lateral leaf-like structures known as stipules.
Neem flowers are white and have fragrance. They are arranged in drooping axillary pannicles.
Neem fruits are smooth and oval or nearly round in shape. They generally enclose one seed. Sometimes they may contain two or three seeds but this is very rare.
The neem tree is sometimes confused with the similar looking bakain tree. The bakain tree is also known as Melia azedarach.
The distinction between neem leaves and bakain leaves are that neem leaves are one pinnate while bakain leaves are two and three pinnate. Fruits of the bakain tree are shaped like miniature apples.
Neem oil has commercial importance for many reasons. It is used widely to make cosmetic products in Ayurvedic and Siddha medicine products.
Neem oil is very much like other vegetable oils in composition. It is composed of triglycerides of oleic, stearic, linoleic, and palmitic acids. This is the fatty acid content of neem oil.
Neem oil is obtained from seeds. The seeds are first broken and the kernels separated. The kernels are then pressed in either industrial expellers or by hand or bullock-operated wooden presses, also called ghanis. The oil yield is sometimes as high as 50 percent of the weight of the kernel.
This cold-pressed oil is mainly used in lamps, soaps, and other non-edible products. It is generally dark, bitter, and has a strong smell. Unlike most vegetable oils, it contains sulfur compounds.
The pungent odor is reminiscent of garlic.
A large oil industry in India extracts the oil remaining in the seed cake using hexane. This solvent-extracted oil is not as high quality as the cold-pressed oil. It is used in certain soaps and consumer products.1
Purifying neem oil is an elaborate and costly process at present.
In one method, the smelly sulfur compounds are distilled off. This frees the oil from both odor and susceptibility to rancidity because it also removes the free fatty acids.
This process has long been used industrially.
As an alternative to pressing out the oil, the kernels can be extracted first with alcohol and then with hexane.
Alcohol removes the bitter and odoriferous compounds and hexane recovers the oil. This stepwise extraction upgrades both the meal and the oil. On the other hand, it requires costly solvents and complex facilities. That is why this method is not preferred mostly.1
Nimba: This means, it is that which increases one’s general well being.
Pichu marda: It is helpful in curing leprosy.
Arishta: It does not cause any kind of harm to the body.
Hingu niryasa: It releases latex or gum resin like hingu or asafoetida.
Rasa or taste: Tikta (bitter), kashaya (astringent)
Guna or qualities: Laghu (light)
Virya or potency: Sheeta (cold)
Vipaka or taste conversion after digestion: Katu (pungent)
Amount: 5 to 10 drops4
These are the uses and benefits of neem oil according to the Ayurvedic text books.
According to The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia Of Herbs, neem oil has the following uses and benefits.3
Vrana ropana: It is useful in healing wounds.
Kushta ghana: It is useful in treating leprosy.
Vedana sthapana: It acts as a pain killer.
Kandu ghana: It is helps in relieving itching.
Apachi: It is useful in reducing the effects of cervical lymphadenitis.
Nadi vrana: It is helpful in treating pilonidal sinus.
Palitya: It is useful to reduce hair loss.
Khalitya: It is useful in delaying premature greying of hair.
Madhu meha: It is useful in treating diabetes.
According to the Sushruta Samhita, neem oil has the following uses and benefits.5
According to Aadrash Nighantu, neem oil has the following uses and benefits.6
If there is any infection which is deep seated in skin then this oil should be rubbed very gently and slowly over skin for ten minutes.
Five to ten drops are given orally to people suffering with chronic malaria, syphilis, galit kushta (sloughing stage in leprosy) and in other diseases in which emaciation is prevalent. It is useful in curing these problems.
Oil can be extracted by two methods.
The first method is similar to the method used in extracting badam rogan or almond oil. Crush the neem seeds properly and keep them in sunlight to obtain the neem seed oil.
The second method is to extract neem seed oil using a kolhu machine. A kolhu machine is an oil extraction machine used to extract oil from mustard seeds and sesame seeds.
These are the benefits of neem seed oil.
Therapeutic oil application to the nostrils with neem seed oil can be performed for many years. This process is called nasya.
While taking nasya, avoid salt completely. Have rice and chapati or flatbread along with milk only taking this nasya. This nasya is beneficial for people who suffer from akal palita or premature greying of the hair.
Neem oil contains at least 100 biologically active compounds.
Among them, the major constituents are triterpenes known as limonoids, the most important being azadirachtin. This compound has a melting point of 160°C and molecular weight of 720 g/mol.
Other components include meliantriol, nimbin, nimbidin, nimbinin, nimbolides, fatty acids (oleic, stearic, and palmitic), and salannin.8
The following are some clinical studies which demonstrate the benefits of neem oil.
Neem seed oil has anti-oxidant properties.
Free radical or reactive oxygen species are one of the main culprits in the commencement of various diseases. However, neutralization of free radical activity is one of the important steps in diseases prevention.
Antioxidants stabilize or deactivate free radicals, often before they attack targets in biological cells. They also play a role in the activation of anti-oxidative enzymes.
These help control damage caused by free radicals or reactive oxygen species.
Neem oil and other parts of the neem tree have been reported to have antioxidant activity. They play an important role in disease prevention because of their antioxidant property.9
Neem oil has anti-cancerous activity.
Cancer is a multifactorial disease and major health problem worldwide. The alteration of molecular or genetic pathways plays a role in the development and progression of cancer.
The treatment module based on allopathy is effective in one way. It also shows adverse effects on the normal cells.
Earlier studies reported that many plants and their constituents demonstrated inhibitory effects on the growth of malignant cells. Modulation of cellular proliferation, apoptosis, tumor suppressor gene, and various other molecular pathways were some of the ways.
Neem contains flavanoids and various other ingredients that play an important role in the inhibition of cancer development.
Large numbers of epidemiological studies propose that high flavonoid intake may be correlated with a decreased risk of cancer.
Neem oil holds various neem limonoids which prevent mutagenic effects of 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene.
Nimbolide, a tetranortriterpenoid limonoid, is one of the important contributors to the cytotoxicity
of neem extracts.
Isolated compound and chief constituents from neem show a range of activities affecting multiple targets. They also play a role in the induction of apoptotic cell death in cancer.9
Neem oil has anti bacterial activity. In clinical trials, neem oil suppressed several species of pathogenic bacteria, including the following.
Use neem oil under supervision because some studies reported that in children neem oil poisoning can cause vomiting, acidosis and more.9
1. National Research Council (US) Panel on Neem. “Industrial Products.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan, 1992,
2. Dravyaguna Vijnana by Aacharya Priyavrat Sharma, Volume 2, page no.149, Chaukhamba Bharati Academy, 2017.
3. Dravyaguna Vijnana by Aacharya Priyavrat Sharma, Volume 2, page no.150, Chaukhamba Bharati Academy, 2017.
4. Dravyaguna Vijnana by Aacharya Priyavrat Sharma, Volume 2, page no.151, Chaukhamba Bharati Academy, 2017.
5. Sushruta Samhita with Hindi commentary, sutra sthana 45/115, page no.230 by Kaviraj Ambika Datta Shastri, Chaukhambha Sanskrit Sansthana, Varanasi, 2001.
6. Aadrash Nighantu,vol. 1, page no.278, by Shri Bapalal Vaidya, Chaukhmbha Bharti Academy, 2016.
7. Sharangadhara Samhita with Hindi commentary, Madhyam Khanda, 9/154 page no. 240, by Dr. Brahmanand Tripathi, Chaukhamba Surbharti Prakashan, Varanasi, 2010.
8. Campos, Estefânia V. R., et al. Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5061770/.
9. Alzohairy, Mohammad A. Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4791507/.
10. National Research Council (US) Panel on Neem. “Medicinals.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan, 1992,
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