Neem: benefits, side effects and medications

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Neem ( Azadirachta indica ) is a variety of tree that is used in alternative medicine to treat or prevent certain health problems. Some people believed that it could reduce pain , preserve vision, strengthen the immune system , and protect against heart or liver disease .

Neem is available in capsules, powder, oil, tincture, cream, or mouthwash. Neem oil can be applied to the skin to treat conditions like dandruff and acne , and neem leaf extract can be taken orally to treat stomach ulcers and dental problems. Some medications are made from the bark, flowers, or fruit of the neem tree.

Also know as

  • Arishta
  • Account tree
  • Sacred tree
  • Indian lilac
  • Persian lilac
  • Pride of China

What is this used for?

Neem is used in an ancient form of healing called Ayurveda to treat asthma , constipation , cough , diabetes , stomach ulcers , indigestion , gum disease , urinary tract infections, and other ailments.

While Neem has not been widely studied, several small studies suggest that it may have some potential health benefits.

Dental health

Several studies show that it can help fight plaque buildup on teeth and prevent gum disease called gingivitis .

A 2017 study published in the Journal of Contemporary Dental Practices reported that neem mouthwash is as effective as commercial mouthwashes that contain chlorhexidine gluconate, a substance commonly used to prevent gum disease. However, the study was small, only 40 people participated in it for a week.

A more detailed review of the research published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene did not lead to the same conclusions. The researchers could find no evidence that neem mouthwash was a reasonable alternative to chlorhexidine mouthwash.

Dandruff

Neem oil is sometimes used to treat dandruff , although no one knows exactly how it works. The oil is believed to reduce inflammation that causes redness, itching, and peeling. Neem can also help fight fungus, which is another possible cause of dandruff.

There is some evidence to support these claims. Laboratory studies have shown that it contains an anti-inflammatory substance called nimbin . Other studies have isolated a plant-based chemical called quercetin , which has powerful antifungal and antibacterial effects.

Acne

Neem oil can also help treat acne and other skin conditions due to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

A study published in the Journal of Acute Diseases in 2013 reported that neem oil is capable of killing many types of acne-causing bacteria. This happened without the irritation or dry skin that other acne medications can cause. This suggests that neem oil may be an option for the long-term treatment of mild acne.

Stomach ulcer

Neem shows promise in treating peptic ulcers , according to a 2009 herbal medicine research study. Peptic ulcers, also known as stomach ulcers, can cause stomach pain and other symptoms due to the production of too much stomach acid. Research suggests that neem bark extract may partially block the secretion of this acid and help relieve symptoms.

Another study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2019 showed that neem oil can kill Helicobacter pylori ( H. pylori ) in vitro. Helicobacter pylori is a type of bacteria that is the main cause of peptic ulcer disease.

Security warning

While there is evidence that neem oil can kill H. pylori in vitro, drinking neem oil is not recommended. This can lead to neem oil poisoning and cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and seizures.

Possible side effects.

Neem supplements are generally safe for adults when taken by mouth for a short period of time. Doses of up to 60 milligrams (mg) per day for 10 weeks have been used safely in clinical trials.

Little is known about the long-term safety of neem supplements. There is some concern that neem could cause kidney and liver damage, especially if used in excess. Some studies show that it can lower your sperm count.

Neem supplements should not be used in children, pregnant or nursing children due to the lack of safety studies in these groups. Some preliminary research has shown that taking extracts in high concentrations during pregnancy can induce labor, although this has not been proven. However, it's best to avoid neem just in case.

Neem creams are considered safe for the skin. Neem oil can also be used, but it must be diluted with a neutral carrier oil like almond oil to avoid irritation. Neem oil should not be taken internally.

Neem supplements are for short-term use only. Before you start taking supplements, talk to your doctor to make sure they are safe for you and do not interact with any medications you may be taking.

Drug interactions

There are several potential drug interactions to watch out for if you are considering taking a neem supplement. Taking neem with certain medications can decrease the effectiveness of other medications or increase the risk of side effects.

Possible interactions include:

Get Drug Information / Anastasia Tretyak

Selection, preparation and storage

It can be found online, at many health food and supplement stores. It comes in many forms, including capsules, tinctures, powders, oils, creams, shampoos, and mouthwashes.

There are no guidelines for the proper use of neem in any form. For safety, follow the directions on the product label.

Food additives like neem are not strictly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Because of this, the purity and safety of the supplement may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.

How to choose supplements

To ensure safety, select additives that are submitted for evaluation by an independent certification body, such as the United States Pharmacopeia (USF), NSF International, or ConsumerLab. Certification confirms that a product is pure and contains the ingredients indicated on the product label.

Summary

Neem has traditionally been used to treat a wide variety of conditions, from skin problems to stomach ulcers, but most of the claims are not backed by rigorous science. If you decide to use it for any reason, talk to your doctor.

This is especially true if you have a chronic medical condition such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Herbal supplements are not strictly regulated in the United States, and the long-term safety of products like it is unknown. Neither should be used in children.

Frequently asked questions

  • Neem oil works in a similar way to citronella . A 2015 study in the Malaria Journal found that a 20% neem formula was more than 70% effective against mosquitoes in three hours. However, it is not as effective as DEET in repelling mosquitoes.

  • Yes. There are several lice shampoos on the market that contain neem oil. A study published in 2011 found that a 10-minute treatment with a neem-based product effectively killed the lice and their eggs.

  • Yes. Because neem can lower blood sugar levels, it is best to stop taking neem supplements at least two weeks before your scheduled surgery.

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