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WTF is… Neem?!

Sometimes the best things stink. No, literally. Neem oil reeks. It’s aroma is a diabolical trifecta of raw sewage, fresh garlic and espresso. But it’s also a really amazing oil for skin! Neem is native to the Indian continent, and has been used for time out of mind in Ayurveda practices. The claims for neem benefits are pretty extensive, so extensive that it’s been called “the miracle tree”1 and the “village Pharmacy”1. And every part of the tree has found a use, from the oil pressed from the seeds, to the leaves, and even the wood! Today we’ll be focusing mainly on the oil and leaves, but there is an absolute wealth of information out there about neem. We suggest starting HERE if you are interested!

While most seed oils are mainly composed of various and sundry fatty acids, the oil pressed from the seed of Azdirachta indica boasts a host of phytochemicals, including:

  1. glutamic acid- increases skins ability to retain moisture, so that skin appears smoother. 2,3

  2. polyphenol- a category of antioxidants, these phytochemicals help to minimize the spread of free radicals through your skin. 2,4

  3. beta-sitosterol- helps to soothe and moisturize the skin, to keep it feeling fabulous. 2,5

  4. tocopherol- an antioxidant with excellent moisturization properties to keep skin glowing and happy.2

Stinky yet awesome! Photo via

That’s in addition to the usual suspects of linoleic, palmatic, and oleic acids (or oils)!2 The list of uses for neem oil is exhaustive. There is a wealth of research that backs up neem oil’s anti-inflammatory properties, like this study from 20116, and this one from 2012 7. Additionally, there has been some solid research to show that it’s awesome for calming acne 8. Pinterest claims that neem oil is also fantastic for compromised skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis… but try as we might, we couldn’t find any research to support those claims.

The leaves are no less awesome (though significantly less stinky), and are packed with phytochemicals including:

  1. Quercitin- a potent antioxidant that helps to deeply soothe irritation and inflammation.9,10

  2. Beta-sitosterol- helps to soothe and moisturize the skin, to keep it feeling fabulous. 9,5

  3. Nimbin- helps to soothe and calm inflammation and irritation.9,11

The leaves of neem are a common feature in beauty products from India, praised for their ability to reduce signs of aging, and to smooth the skin.

Here at The Raw Spa, we are huge fans of neem oil, which is easier to get a hold of than the leaves. Pungent though it is, we bravely pour it into our Hatshepsut soaps and Skin Tonics, and use it in our Hex Break Drops of Jupiter, Shower Potion and Conjure Bar soap! We’re pretty nuts about it’s soothing and calming properties, and especially like how much it helps to calm acne break out, and to reduce irritation from shaving. Guy in particular is head over heels in love with the Hatshepsut Skin Tonic as an after shave and evening serum to keep his skin clear and smooth.

Wondering where we got our information? Behold our sources! 1.Kumar VS, Navaratnam V. Neem (Azadirachta indica): Prehistory to contemporary medicinal uses to humankind. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2013 Jul; 3(7): 505–514. Available at: Accessed December 20, 2019. 2. Djibril D, Mamadou F, Gerard V, et al. Physical characteristics, Chemical composition and Distribution of constituents of the Neem seed (Adiriachta indica A. Juss) collected in Senegal. Res J Chem Sci. 2015 Jul; 5(7): 52-58. Available at: Accessed December 19, 2018. 3. Available at: Accessed December 20,2018. 4.Nichols JA, Katiyar SA. Skin photoprotection by natural polyphenols: Anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and DNA repair mechanisms. Arch Dermatol Res. 2010 Mar; 302(2): 71. Available at: Accessed December 20, 2018. 5. Han NR, Kim HM, Jeong HJ. The β-sitosterol attenuates atopic dermatitis-like skin lesions through down-regulation of TSLP. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2014 Apr;239(4):454-64. 6. Thoh M, Babajan B, Raghavendra PG, et al. Azadirachtin Interacts with Retinoic Acid Receptors and Inhibits Retinoic Acid-mediated Biological Responses. J Biol Chem. 2011 Feb 11; 286(6): 4690–4702. Available at: Accessed December 18,2019. (Retracted by authors, 2013) 7. Alam A, Haldar S, Thulasiram HV, et al. Novel Anti-inflammatory Activity of Epoxyazadiradione against Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor. J Biol Chem. 2012 Jul 13; 287(29): 24844–24861. Available at: Accessed December 18, 2018. 8.Vijayan V, Aafreen S, Sakthival S, et al. Formulation and characterization of solid lipid nanoparticles loaded Neem oil for topical treatment of acne.Journal of Acute Diseas. 2013; 2(4):282-86. Available at: Accessed December 20, 2018. 9. Available at: Accessed December 19, 2018. 10. Valerio DA, Georgetti SR, Magro DA, et al. Quercetin reduces inflammatory pain: inhibition of oxidative stress and cytokine production. J Nat Prod. 2009 Nov;72(11):1975-9. 11. Alzohairy MA. Therapeutics Role of Azadirachta indica (Neem) and Their Active Constituents in Diseases Prevention and Treatment. Evid Based Alternat Med. 2016; 2016: 7382506. Available at: Accessed Dec 20, 2018. 12.

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