Neem: A Centuries-Old Remedy for Problem Skin & Hair
A tree native to Southeast Asia, Neem (Azadirachta indica) is known as “the village pharmacy” in tropical regions where it is grown. It is a cornerstone of Ayurveda, one of the world’s oldest medical systems, and has been used as a medicinal herb for nearly 5,000 years. Neem oil, leaf and bark are used externally for skin, scalp and hair; only the leaf and bark are used for internal supplementation.
With more than 180 separate compounds, neem has multiple properties that help rejuvenate hair and scalp while protecting them from ongoing damage. With extraordinarily high levels of antioxidants – up to hundreds of times more concentrated than those found in blueberries or broccoli – neem helps protect the skin from environmental damage.
- Neem oil is rich in essential fatty acids, like those found in sea buckthorn oil, that nourish and balance problem skin. The natural oils and glycerides quickly and easily penetrate outer layers of skin to soothe even chronically dry, itchy or flaking areas like psoriasis and eczema. Neem oil is the next big “it” in skin care and for preventing the signs of aging. Many consumers are aware of the importance of essential fatty acids and anti-oxidants for the health benefits internally and externally. Neem oil contains both potent anti-oxidants and is rich in essential fatty acids; Neem is the perfect skin cocktail for soothing wrinkles and fine lines while helping to prevent the signs of aging when used regularly. It has been traditionally used to even out skin tone irregularities, helping to balance and restore proper skin pigmentation for issues such as vitiligo or age spots.
- Neem is an ideal herb for acne-prone skin because it can help to soothe irritation and inflammation, clear up pimples and remove un-desired levels of bacteria on the skin that can cause more break-outs.
- Neem is the ideal plant for mature skin, oily skin, dry or acne-prone conditions. Few plants are considered to be as important a panacea or “cure all” for many skin conditions. Neem is fondly referred to as the village pharmacy for this reason.
Finally, neem leaf, bark and oil are packed with anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties. Neem leaf is rich in naturally occurring Quercetin, which is well known as a compound that supports the body’s ability to respond to inflammation. Neem leaf and bark are also well documented for their immune-boosting compounds that protect against noncystic acne without drying skin – a particularly important consideration for all skin types.
In Ayurveda, Neem is considered cooling, soothing and astringent: Cooling because it helps to cool and calm the skin, scalp, gums or wherever it is applied; Soothing because it has been used for thousands of years to support healthy skin and is traditionally used to normalize irritated, rough or exceptionally dry skin or scalp; Astringent because it helps to tighten skin or scalp tissue normalize, balance and promote youthful and healthy skin. One might consider Neem in the common three-step skin system of cleanse, tone and moisturize -- Neem is all three in one!
Some of the constituents in Neem that are important to healthy skin, scalp and hair include:
- Catechin: anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory
- Cyclic tetrasulfide: anti-fungal
- Epicatechin: anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory
- Gallic acid: anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory
- Gedunin: anti-fungal
- Margolone: anti-bacterial
- Mahmoodin: anti-bacterial
- Nimbin: anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-histamine
- Nimbidin: anti-fungal, analgesic
- Polysaccharides: anti-inflammatory
- Quercetin: exerts strong anti-inflammatory activity by inhibiting both the manufacture and release of histamine and other allergic/inflammatory mediators.
- Sodium nimbinate: anti-inflammatory
While neem is often used for problematic skin and scalp, it also has potent anti-aging properties that help revitalize skin, restore a youthful glow to dry or rough skin, reduce fine lines and balance skin tone. Neem cream and lotion also are great for sunburns, after-snow treatments and for general skin and facial care.
What is Neem like?
Certified-organic and ethically wild-crafted Neem oil and Neem leaf extracts are commonly likened to tea tree essential oil for their broad-spectrum actions. However Neem oil is cold-pressed and not distilled, so it is not as drying or irritating as tea tree oil can be. All forms of Neem are soothing and nourishing to the skin and scalp. Neem leaf has a mild aroma and can be taken internally as a dietary supplement or applied topically. Neem bark has even more antioxidants than the leaf and oil. It also is an excellent exfoiliant that can be used in a masque to pull out the impurities and tighten pores. Neem oil has a rich, nutty, garlic-like aroma that smells like food but it is the most concentrated of the three neem products and is only used for external applications.
Depending upon the issue, using Neem leaf or bark internally can boost the efficacy of lotions, creams, shampoo and soap. Supplementing internally helps improve the appearance of skin by boosting overall immune system activity, enhancing liver function, strengthening a healthy digestive system and supporting the body’s ability to respond to minor inflammation.
By Autumn Blum, cosmetic chemist and founder of Organix-South
About Autumn Blum
Autumn Blum, founder and CEO of Organix-South, is a cosmetic chemist with a passion for natural organic products. As a member of the American Chemical Society who earned a B.S. in chemistry from Eckerd College, she specializes in developing therapeutic products that use Neem and other natural ingredients. Her company has grown to be the world’s leading manufacturer of certified-organic Neem products and she has a patent pending on a unique manufacturing process that combines highly concentrated supercritical extracts with the whole herb in a series of condition-specific Ayurvedic formulations.