Neem oil is extracted from the whole fruit and seeds of the tropical tree Azadirachta indica, also known as the Indian Lilac. As the name indicates, this tree is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent where it enjoys the status as a sacred tree and cure-all. This medium-sized evergreen tree now has a worldwide distribution, growing wild in almost any kind of soil and terrain in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world.
In India, it is commonly cultivated in many home gardens. In the earlier days when it was quite common for every family to have a dozen or more children, a neem tree in the backyard could meet most of their medical needs.
Even the wind blowing through the foliage is thought to have healing properties. Neem tree was the proverbial medicine chest that provided effective cures for anything from intestinal worms to skin ailments and fevers. Despite their bitter taste, neem twigs crushed at one end served as toothbrushes, and the flowers would be used in cooking.
Neem oil is a brownish yellow liquid with a strong garlicky smell and extremely bitter taste. The biochemical compounds contributing to the antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antipyretic properties of neem oil belong to a group of triterpenoid compounds known as limonoids, which are also found in the citrus family. Azadirachtin, nimbin, nimbolide, meliantriol and salannin are some of the limonoids found in neem, the most potent among them being azadirachtin.
1. Condition Dry Skin
Neem oil is an excellent skin conditioner, particularly for dry skin which is most commonly found on the face, hands and the feet because they are the most exposed and most frequently washed parts of the body. Being hydrophobic in nature, neem oil does not mix with water, so it locks in moisture when applied in a thin layer over the skin. Neem oil also resists getting washed off when we wash our hands and face to get rid of dust and grime.
Because of its potency, application of neem oil at full strength can irritate skin and may also be quite offensive due to its pungent odor. Instead, try diluting neem with coconut oil and mix in a few drops of lemon or lavender essential oil to make it more tolerable on the skin as well as the olfactory sense.
2. Control Acne
Acne may be an outcome of the overproduction of sebum by the skin glands under the influence of reproductive hormones, but it usually becomes a bigger problem with bacterial proliferation inside the hair follicles. Even at very low concentrations, regular use of neem oil can effectively inhibit bacterial growth and is a much safer alternative to antibacterial face washes, lotions and creams which often contain toxic chemicals.
Neem oil is anti-inflammatory and can help to reduce the redness, pain and itching associated with acne. The high fatty acid content of the oil also helps to heal skin damaged by acne and reduce the potential for scarring or pitting.
To use neem oil for acne control, warm a teaspoonful of coconut oil or olive oil and mix in 10 drops of organic cold-pressed neem oil. Apply on the face and wash it off after an hour, or leave it overnight, depending on your tolerance level.
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