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December 3, 2013

Neem Oil: An Ayurvedic Specialty For A Glowing Complexion.

Essential oils.

They sure are popular lately.

Sure, we’ve all sampled the usual suspects: lavender, peppermint, jasmine, ylang ylang, tea tree and patchtouli.

Has anybody ever tried neem oil?

This weekend, I bought some neem oil. It came in a small glass bottle with an eyedropper and was solid at room temperature, so I had to heat it up a bit.

What should we know about neem oil?

Neem, also known as azadirachta indica, is an evergreen tree native to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Neem trees have white flowers and are remarkably drought-resistant.

Neem leaves have been used for millennia in the Ayurvedic tradition as a sort of miracle cure-all.

When I spent time in South India, I noted neem’s popularity as an ingredient in facial masks and lotions. I also noted how people in search of physical, emotional or spiritual healing spent hours basking in the shade of the various neem trees around town.

According to Kulreet Chaudhary, MD, who posted on the Dr. Oz Blog, “Neem leaves have been used traditionally as a blood cleanser due to their antiviral, antifungal, anti-parasitic, and antiseptic qualities.”

Chaudhary notes the neem leaf has been used to treat a variety of afflictions such as eye disorders, ulcers, diabetes, gum disease, arthritis and to promote a healthy heart. It has been used in cancer research. It can also be used as a natural pesticide in home gardens.

Neem has been improving in popularity in Europe and the United States. It is sold in supplement, powdered and oil form in health food stores and online.

I am trying to incorporate neem into my skincare routine. Research suggests neem can be a value-added ingredient in the quest for a healthy complexion. Neem can:

1) Moisturize dry, itchy skin—Neem oil can alleviate the cold, dry effects of winter by acting as a moisturizer (without becoming greasy).

2) Treat acne and reduce breakouts—Neem oil reduces the amount of bacteria on the skin. Over time, this improves the appearance of acne-prone skin—and without drugs or antibiotics! A boon for holiday-related breakouts!

3) Keep skin smooth and useful—Neem oil contains antioxidants, carotenoids and essential fatty acids (like Omega-3s and Omega-9s), which can diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

What else should we know about neem?

1) Warning: Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or who plan to become pregnant, should absolutely NOT use neem, as it may harm the fetus. Consult your physician.

2) Neem smells really bad—Imagine a cross between garlic, rotten cheese and old, old gym clothes. It ain’t pretty! Ylang ylang and jasmine neem is not—but the purported beneficial properties outweigh any olfactory discomfort!

This is my concoction (Neem can be quite potent, so direct application is not recommended—mix it with something!):

1 oz. almond oil
a few drops of neem oil
a few drops of a more pleasant-smelling oil. Experiment!

Apply to the face in the morning and evening.

Has anybody else used neem cosmetically, or have neem-related resources to share? I would love to hear your experiences!

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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

{Photo: Flickr}

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