Neem oil is the oil from the fruits of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica), one of the two plants from the Azadirachta family. The plant is originally native to India and Burma, where it grows in tropical to sub-tropical regions. It is still a relatively unknown substance in many regions of the world.
The Neem is a fast growing evergreen tree which generally can reach a height of 15 to 20 metres. They thrive in dry, warm spots, a reason why in Mecca 50,000 neem trees were planted to offer some cool and shade to the amassed pilgrims.
The plant has countless medical applications, ranging from stomach complaints to helping counter high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and many other ailments and diseases.
Since time immemorial in parts of India and Pakistan the locals have used small neem twigs to clean their teeth with, which is probably the oldest form of dental hygiene that we know of. All parts of the tree are used for the production of al kinds of preparations and medicines.
The plant and the oil contain certain terpenoids that have a pesticide effect, and they also help against all sorts of biting and sucking insects, from mosquitoes bugging humans to leaf lice on plants. The product appears to have no harmful effect on beneficial insects, which is certainly a plus point for its use, since ladybirds, earwigs, and so on appear to have no trouble from it. Nor do butterflies, bees, etc.
The plant, the oil and infusions of plant parts also seem to be effective against acne and spots, all kinds of skin and hair problems, athlete’s foot and other fungal infections, dandruff, lice, ticks, flees, mites, and so forth.
The young shoots of the tree are eaten as a vegetable in India. Even though after cooking the plant still has a bitter taste to it that’s not to everyone’s taste, it’s still eaten so as to benefit from the many good properties and effects on health. In some areas in India a neem tree is planted in the middle of the village, to serve as a chemist or apothecary for the whole community.
The best neem oil is that obtained from cold pressing of the fruit; this is the most biologically active oil.
It is diluted in water for use on plants, and there is a need for a surfactant in order to make the oil soluble in water. For those who want to work exclusively organically then an extract of yucca plant is recommended for this. Otherwise, many use a mild sort of detergent. The recommended dose is approximately 2 to 5 % neem oil in water and enough yucca extract to act as a surfactant.