Neem oil is a light or dark brown-colored, vegetable oil derived from the seeds of neem or Azadirachta indica tree, which is native to the regions of Southeast Asia and Indian subcontinent. People of these regions have been using neem leaves, and the various parts of the neem tree from thousands of years. Neem has been a part of both Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine for its amazing medicinal properties. Neem oil uses are numerous. But some studies have indicated a few side effects of this oil, which are discussed below, along with its benefits.
Neem Oil Benefits
The benefits of neem oil can be mainly attributed to the active compound, 'azadirachtin'. This bitter oil is nowadays widely used as a safe and effective natural pesticide in organic farming. As an insecticide, it can protect plants from insects and pests like mealy bugs, beet armyworm, aphids, cabbage worm, whiteflies, mites, fungus gnats, thrips, beetles, moth larvae, mushroom flies, leafminers, and caterpillars, without adversely affecting the beneficial insects like honey bees, butterflies, and lady bugs.
This oil can be immensely beneficial for a number of skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, and eczema. By using neem oil for hair care, one can get rid of head lice, dandruff, itchy scalp, scalp psoriasis, excessive hair loss, and premature graying. This oil is renowned for its antibacterial and antifungal properties. It can be used for preventing some common gum and tooth problems like gingivitis and cavities. It is also used in certain spermicidal products, basically for its ability to inhibit the flagellation of sperm cells, which in turn can prevent them from reaching the egg.
Neem Oil Dangers
Despite having several benefits, neem oil is not free from side effects. The external application of the oil is generally considered safe. When taken internally, it can prevent conception by inhibiting the flagellation of sperm cells. So, women trying to conceive are advised to avoid this product. This product may cause miscarriage, which has been observed in an animal study. Internal use of neem oil is not recommended for children.
This oil can be toxic when taken in large doses. In small children and infants, it can produce symptoms similar to Reye's syndrome. Seizures, loss of consciousness, and coma are some other side effects that children can experience after ingesting neem oil. Neem oil may damage the brain and the liver, when taken internally. Even the kidneys can get adversely affected by the prolonged and excessive use of this oil. Other possible side effects include, vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, brain swelling, and hepatic encephalopathy.
In diabetic patients, neem and its various extracts can reduce the level of blood sugar to a very low level. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are usually advised to stay away from neem oil. Neem oil and the bark of the neem tree can cause miscarriage, if taken during pregnancy. This oil has been observed to stimulate the immune system, which can prove harmful for individuals having autoimmune diseases.
To summarize, neem oil is generally considered safe for adults, when used for a brief period of time and in the appropriate dosage. However, children, as well as pregnant and nursing women should not use this oil, in order to avoid its serious side effects. People with an underlying medical condition and those taking any kind of medications should better confirm with their physicians before considering to use this oil for therapeutic purposes.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.