Neem oil
Overview
Neem oil is a vegetable oil pressed from the fruits and seeds of the neem (Azadirachta indica), an evergreen
Evergreen
In botany, an evergreen plant is a plant that has leaves in all seasons. This contrasts with deciduous plants, which completely lose their foliage during the winter or dry season.There are many different kinds of evergreen plants, both trees and shrubs...

 tree which is endemic
Endemic (ecology)
Endemism is the ecological state of being unique to a defined geographic location, such as an island, nation or other defined zone, or habitat type; organisms that are indigenous to a place are not endemic to it if they are also found elsewhere. For example, all species of lemur are endemic to the...

 to the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

 and has been introduced to many other areas in the tropics. It is, perhaps, the most important of the commercially available products of neem for organic farming and medicines.

Neem oil is generally red as blood, and has a rather strong odour that is said to combine the odours of peanut and garlic.
Encyclopedia
Neem oil is a vegetable oil pressed from the fruits and seeds of the neem (Azadirachta indica), an evergreen
Evergreen
In botany, an evergreen plant is a plant that has leaves in all seasons. This contrasts with deciduous plants, which completely lose their foliage during the winter or dry season.There are many different kinds of evergreen plants, both trees and shrubs...

 tree which is endemic
Endemic (ecology)
Endemism is the ecological state of being unique to a defined geographic location, such as an island, nation or other defined zone, or habitat type; organisms that are indigenous to a place are not endemic to it if they are also found elsewhere. For example, all species of lemur are endemic to the...

 to the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

 and has been introduced to many other areas in the tropics. It is, perhaps, the most important of the commercially available products of neem for organic farming and medicines.

Neem oil is generally red as blood, and has a rather strong odour that is said to combine the odours of peanut and garlic. It comprises mainly triglyceride
Triglyceride
A triglyceride is an ester derived from glycerol and three fatty acids. There are many triglycerides, depending on the oil source, some are highly unsaturated, some less so....

s and large amounts of triterpenoid
Triterpenoid
Triterpenoids are terpenoid derviatives of triterpene molecules.They may have useful anti-cancer properties.Notable examples*Betulinic acid, possible anti-cancer drug*Bardoxolone methyl, inflammation modulator*Triterpenoid saponins...

 compounds, which are responsible for the bitter taste. It is hydrophobic in nature and in order to emulsify it in water for application purposes, it must be formulated with appropriate surfactants.

Neem oil also contains steroids (campesterol
Campesterol
Campesterol is a phytosterol whose chemical structure similar to that of cholesterol. Many vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds contain campesterol, but in low concentrations. Banana, pomegranate, pepper, coffee, grapefruit, cucumber, onion, oat, potato and lemon grass are few examples of common...

, beta-sitosterol
Beta-sitosterol
β-Sitosterol is one of several phytosterols with chemical structures similar to that of cholesterol. Sitosterols are white, waxy powders with a characteristic odor...

, stigmasterol
Stigmasterol
Stigmasterol is one of a group of plant sterols, or phytosterols, that include beta-sitosterol, campesterol, ergosterol , brassicasterol, delta-7-stigmasterol and delta-7-avenasterol, that are chemically similar to animal cholesterol...

) and many triterpenoid
Triterpenoid
Triterpenoids are terpenoid derviatives of triterpene molecules.They may have useful anti-cancer properties.Notable examples*Betulinic acid, possible anti-cancer drug*Bardoxolone methyl, inflammation modulator*Triterpenoid saponins...

s of which azadirachtin
Azadirachtin
Azadirachtin, a chemical compound belonging to the limonoid group, is a secondary metabolite present in neem seeds. It is a highly oxidized tetranortriterpenoid which boasts a plethora of oxygen functionality, comprising an enol ether, acetal, hemiacetal, and tetra-substituted oxirane as well as a...

 is the most well known and studied. The azadirachtin content of neem oil varies from 300ppm to over 2500ppm depending on the extraction technology and quality of the neem seeds crushed.
Average composition of neem oil fatty acid
Fatty acid
In chemistry, especially biochemistry, a fatty acid is a carboxylic acid with a long unbranched aliphatic tail , which is either saturated or unsaturated. Most naturally occurring fatty acids have a chain of an even number of carbon atoms, from 4 to 28. Fatty acids are usually derived from...

s
Common Name Acid Name Composition range
Omega-6
Omega-6 fatty acid
n−6 fatty acids are a family of unsaturated fatty acids that have in common a final carbon–carbon double bond in the n−6 position, that is, the sixth bond, counting from the methyl end.The biological effects of the n−6 fatty acids are largely mediated by their conversion to n-6 eicosanoids...

 
Linoleic acid
Linoleic acid
Linoleic acid is an unsaturated n-6 fatty acid. It is a colorless liquid at room temperature. In physiological literature, it has a lipid number of 18:2...

 
 6-16%
Omega-9
Omega-9 fatty acid
n−9 fatty acids are a family of unsaturated fatty acids which have in common a final carbon–carbon double bond in the n−9 position; that is, the ninth bond from the end of the fatty acid.-Background:Some n−9s are common components of animal fat and vegetable oil...

 
Oleic acid
Oleic acid
Oleic acid is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid found in various animal and vegetable fats. It has the formula CH37CH=CH7COOH. It is an odorless, colourless oil, although commercial samples may be yellowish. The trans isomer of oleic acid is called elaidic acid...

 
25-54%
Palmitic acid
Palmitic acid
Palmitic acid, or hexadecanoic acid in IUPAC nomenclature, is one of the most common saturated fatty acids found in animals and plants. Its molecular formula is CH314CO2H. As its name indicates, it is a major component of the oil from palm trees . Palmitate is a term for the salts and esters of...

 
Hexadecanoic acid 16-33%
Stearic acid
Stearic acid
Stearic acid is the saturated fatty acid with an 18 carbon chain and has the IUPAC name octadecanoic acid. It is a waxy solid, and its chemical formula is CH316CO2H. Its name comes from the Greek word στέαρ "stéatos", which means tallow. The salts and esters of stearic acid are called stearates...

 
Octadecanoic acid  9-24%
Omega-3
Omega-3 fatty acid
N−3 fatty acids are essential unsaturated fatty acids with a double bond starting after the third carbon atom from the end of the carbon chain....

 
Alpha-linolenic acid
Alpha-linolenic acid
α-Linolenic acid is an organic compound found in many common vegetable oils. In terms of its structure, it is named all-cis-9,12,15-octadecatrienoic acid. In physiological literature, it is given the name 18:3 ....

?%
Palmitoleic acid
Palmitoleic acid
Palmitoleic acid, or -9-hexadecenoic acid, is an omega-7 monounsaturated fatty acid with the formula CH35CH=CH7COOH that is a common constituent of the glycerides of human adipose tissue. It is present in all tissues, but generally found in higher concentrations in the liver...

 
9-Hexadecenoic acid ?%

Methods of extraction

The method of processing is likely to affect the composition of the oil, since the methods used,
such as pressing (expelling) or solvent extraction are unlikely to remove exactly the same
mix of components in the same proportions. The neem oil yield that can be obtained from neem seed kernels also varies widely in literature from 25% to 45%.

The oil can be obtained through pressing (crushing) of the seed kernel both through cold pressing or through a process incorporating temperature controls.

Neem seed oil can also be obtained by solvent extraction of the neem seed, fruit, oil, cake or kernel. A large industry in India extracts the oil remaining in the seed cake using hexane. This solvent-extracted oil is of a lower quality as compared to the cold pressed oil and is mostly used for soap manufacturing.
Neem cake
Neem cake
Neem cake organic manure is the by-product obtained in the process of cold pressing of Neem tree fruits and kernels, and the solvent extraction process for neem oil cake....

is a by-product obtained in the solvent extraction process for neem oil.

Uses

Neem oil is not used for cooking purposes. In India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, it is used for preparing cosmetics
Cosmetics
Cosmetics are substances used to enhance the appearance or odor of the human body. Cosmetics include skin-care creams, lotions, powders, perfumes, lipsticks, fingernail and toe nail polish, eye and facial makeup, towelettes, permanent waves, colored contact lenses, hair colors, hair sprays and...

 (soap, hair products, body hygiene creams, hand creams) and in Ayurvedic, Unani
Unani
Unani-tibb or Unani Medicine also spelled Yunani Medicine means "Greek Medicine", and is a form of traditional medicine widely practiced in South Asia...

 and folklore traditional medicine, in the treatment of a wide range of afflictions. The most frequently reported indications in ancient Ayurvedic writings are skin diseases, inflammations and fevers, and more recently rheumatic disorders, insect repellent
Insect repellent
An insect repellent is a substance applied to skin, clothing, or other surfaces which discourages insects from landing or climbing on that surface. There are also insect repellent products available based on sound production, particularly ultrasound...

 and insecticide
Insecticide
An insecticide is a pesticide used against insects. They include ovicides and larvicides used against the eggs and larvae of insects respectively. Insecticides are used in agriculture, medicine, industry and the household. The use of insecticides is believed to be one of the major factors behind...

 effects.

Traditional Ayurvedic uses of neem include the treatment of acne, fever, leprosy
Leprosy
Leprosy or Hansen's disease is a chronic disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium lepromatosis. Named after physician Gerhard Armauer Hansen, leprosy is primarily a granulomatous disease of the peripheral nerves and mucosa of the upper respiratory tract; skin lesions...

, malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

, ophthalmia and tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

. Various folk remedies for neem include use as an anthelmintic
Anthelmintic
Anthelmintics or antihelminthics are drugs that expel parasitic worms from the body, by either stunning or killing them. They may also be called vermifuges or vermicides .-Pharmaceutical classes:...

, antifeedant, antiseptic
Antiseptic
Antiseptics are antimicrobial substances that are applied to living tissue/skin to reduce the possibility of infection, sepsis, or putrefaction...

, diuretic
Diuretic
A diuretic provides a means of forced diuresis which elevates the rate of urination. There are several categories of diuretics. All diuretics increase the excretion of water from bodies, although each class does so in a distinct way.- Medical uses :...

, emmenagogue
Emmenagogue
Emmenagogues are herbs which stimulate blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus; some stimulate menstruation. Women have used plants such as mugwort, parsley and ginger to prevent or terminate early pregnancy...

, contraceptive, febrifuge, parasiticide, pediculocide
Pediculosis
Pediculosis is an infestation of lice — blood-feeding ectoparasitic insects of the order Phthiraptera. The condition can occur in almost any species of warm-blooded animal , including humans...

 and insecticide
Insecticide
An insecticide is a pesticide used against insects. They include ovicides and larvicides used against the eggs and larvae of insects respectively. Insecticides are used in agriculture, medicine, industry and the household. The use of insecticides is believed to be one of the major factors behind...

. It has been used in traditional medicine for the treatment of tetanus
Tetanus
Tetanus is a medical condition characterized by a prolonged contraction of skeletal muscle fibers. The primary symptoms are caused by tetanospasmin, a neurotoxin produced by the Gram-positive, rod-shaped, obligate anaerobic bacterium Clostridium tetani...

, urticaria
Urticaria
Urticaria is a kind of skin rash notable for pale red, raised, itchy bumps. Hives is frequently caused by allergic reactions; however, there are many non-allergic causes...

, eczema
Eczema
Eczema is a form of dermatitis, or inflammation of the epidermis . In England, an estimated 5.7 million or about one in every nine people have been diagnosed with the disease by a clinician at some point in their lives.The term eczema is broadly applied to a range of persistent skin conditions...

, scrofula
Scrofula
Tuberculous cervical lymphadenitis refers to a lymphadenitis of the cervical lymph nodes associated with tuberculosis. It was previously known as "scrofula".-The disease:...

 and erysipelas
Erysipelas
Erysipelas is an acute streptococcus bacterial infection of the deep epidermis with lymphatic spread.-Risk factors:...

. Traditional routes of administration of neem extracts included oral, vaginal and topical use. Neem oil has an extensive history of human use in India and surrounding regions for a variety of therapeutic purposes. Puri (1999) has given an account of traditional uses and therapeutic indications and pharmacological studies of this oil, in his book on neem.

Formulations made of neem oil also find wide usage as a bio-pesticide for organic farming, as it repels a wide variety of pests including the mealy bug, beet armyworm
Beet armyworm
The Beet Armyworm or Small Mottled Willow Moth is one of the best-known agricultural pest insects. It is also known as the asparagus fern caterpillar, and the adult moth is known in the UK as the small mottled willow...

, aphids, the cabbage worm
Cabbage worm
The term cabbage worm is primarily used for any of four kinds of lepidopteran whose larvae feed on cabbages and other cole crops. Host plants include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, radishes, turnips, rutabagas and kohlrabi...

, thrips, whiteflies, mites, fungus gnats, beetles, moth larvae, mushroom flies, leafminers, caterpillars, locust, nematodes and the Japanese beetle
Japanese beetle
The beetle species Popillia japonica is commonly known as the Japanese beetle. It is about long and wide, with iridescent copper-colored elytra and green thorax and head...

. Neem oil is not known to be harmful to mammals, birds, earthworms or some beneficial insects such as butterflies, honeybees and ladybugs if it is not concentrated directly into their area of habitat or on their food source. It can be used as a household pesticide for ant
Ant
Ants are social insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversified after the rise of flowering plants. More than...

, bedbug
Bedbug
Cimicidae are small parasitic insects. The most common type is Cimex lectularius. The term usually refers to species that prefer to feed on human blood...

, cockroach
Cockroach
Cockroaches are insects of the order Blattaria or Blattodea, of which about 30 species out of 4,500 total are associated with human habitations...

, housefly
Housefly
The housefly , Musca domestica, is a fly of the suborder Cyclorrhapha...

, sand fly, snail
Snail
Snail is a common name applied to most of the members of the molluscan class Gastropoda that have coiled shells in the adult stage. When the word is used in its most general sense, it includes sea snails, land snails and freshwater snails. The word snail without any qualifier is however more often...

, termite
Termite
Termites are a group of eusocial insects that, until recently, were classified at the taxonomic rank of order Isoptera , but are now accepted as the epifamily Termitoidae, of the cockroach order Blattodea...

 and mosquitoes both as repellent and larvicide (Puri 1999). Neem oil also controls black spot, powdery mildew
Powdery mildew
Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that affects a wide range of plants. Powdery mildew diseases are caused by many different species of fungi in the order Erysiphales. It is one of the easier diseases to spot, as its symptoms are quite distinctive. Infected plants display white powdery spots on the...

, anthracnose and rust (fungus)
Rust (fungus)
Rusts are plant diseases caused by pathogenic fungi of the order Pucciniales. About 7800 species are known. Rusts can affect a variety of plants; leaves, stems, fruits and seeds. Rust is most commonly seen as coloured powder, composed off tiny aeciospores which land on vegetation producing...

.

Neem seed oil has also been found to prevent implantation and may even have an abortifacient effect similar to pennyroyal
Pennyroyal
Pennyroyal refers to two plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae. For the American species, see American pennyroyal. The European pennyroyal, Mentha pulegium, , is a plant in the mint genus, within the family Lamiaceae. Crushed Pennyroyal leaves exhibit a very strong fragrance similar to spearmint...

, juniper berries, wild ginger
Wild ginger
Wild ginger may refer to any of a variety of plants, often with a similar appearance, odour or taste to cultivated ginger. Species involved include:*Any of the Alpinia species, especially A. caerulea....

, myrrh
Myrrh
Myrrh is the aromatic oleoresin of a number of small, thorny tree species of the genus Commiphora, which grow in dry, stony soil. An oleoresin is a natural blend of an essential oil and a resin. Myrrh resin is a natural gum....

 and angelica
Angelica
Angelica is a genus of about 60 species of tall biennial and perennial herbs in the family Apiaceae, native to temperate and subarctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere, reaching as far North as Iceland and Lapland...

. The effects were seen as many as ten days after fertilization in rats though it was most effective at no more than three days. (Sinha, et al., 1984); (Lal et al., 1985). In a study on rats, neem oil was given orally eight to ten days after implantation of the fetus
Fetus
A fetus is a developing mammal or other viviparous vertebrate after the embryonic stage and before birth.In humans, the fetal stage of prenatal development starts at the beginning of the 11th week in gestational age, which is the 9th week after fertilization.-Etymology and spelling variations:The...

 on the uterine wall. In all cases, by day 15, the embryos were all completely resorbed by the body. The animals regained fertility on the next cycle showing no physical problems. Detailed study of the rats revealed increased levels of gamma interferon in the uterus. The neem oil enhanced the local immune response in the uterus.(Mukherjee, 1996) Post coital use of neem oil as birth control
Birth control
Birth control is an umbrella term for several techniques and methods used to prevent fertilization or to interrupt pregnancy at various stages. Birth control techniques and methods include contraception , contragestion and abortion...

 does not appear to work by hormonal changes but produces changes in the organs that make pregnancy
Pregnancy
Pregnancy refers to the fertilization and development of one or more offspring, known as a fetus or embryo, in a woman's uterus. In a pregnancy, there can be multiple gestations, as in the case of twins or triplets...

 no longer viable (Tewari, 1989) (Bardham, 1991).

Toxicity

Studies done when Azadirachtin (the primary active pesticidal ingredient in neem oil) was approved as a pesticide showed that when neem leaves were fed to male albino rats for 11 weeks, 100% (reversible) infertility
Infertility
Infertility primarily refers to the biological inability of a person to contribute to conception. Infertility may also refer to the state of a woman who is unable to carry a pregnancy to full term...

resulted.

Neem oil and other neem products such as neem leaves and neem tea should not be consumed by pregnant women, women trying to conceive, or children.

There is some evidence that heavy use may be associated with liver damage in children.
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