Neem is a popular and traditional remedy for skin conditions and hair loss in South Asia. It has been used therapeutically for thousands of years to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and ringworm and as an insect repellent. Its antimicrobial and immune-boosting properties help to treat the scalp and stimulate hair growth.
The Neem Tree
Neem is an herbal remedy that comes from the neem tree, a species that is native to South Asia. Every part of the tree is used for medicinal purposes including the leaves, fruit, seeds, bark, gum and oils. All the parts of the neem tree contain similar therapeutic components, though in varying amounts. According to a study published in the "Archives of Insect Biochemistry and Physiology," the oil has the highest amount of a substance called azadirachtin, which gives the tree its anti-fungal and pesticide properties.
Medical research from Pakistan published in the "Journal of Ethnopharmacology" showed that the neem tree has natural anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Neem products also help to stimulate blood circulation and the immune system. This helps to treat the scalp and to promote healthy hair growth. The soothing and healing properties of neem on the scalp may also be attributed to its high fatty-acid content.
Healthy hair requires a healthy scalp, and many of the conditions that affect the skin also affect the scalp. Conditions of the scalp that can cause hair loss include a dry and scaly scalp, dandruff, psoriasis and eczema. Excess sebum (oil) production can also cause thinning hair and hair loss by clogging the pores of the scalp. These conditions can cause inflammation on the scalp, damaging the hair roots. Neem helps to treat these conditions and cleanse the scalp for healthy hair growth. It also stimulates blood flow to the skin and nourishes the scalp and hair roots.
According to Plantcultures.com, pure neem products for hair are available as dried leaves, powders, pastes, extracts and neem oil. Neem is also used in herbal shampoos, conditioners and hair masks to naturally cleanse and treat the scalp topically. Therapeutic hair oil formulas that are popular in South Asian communities also contain neem oil.
How to Use
Dry neem powder can be mixed with water to make a thick paste to massage onto the scalp. This grainy paste helps to exfoliate, cleanse and nourish the scalp. Leave the paste on the scalp and hair for about 30 minutes before shampooing and rinsing out. You can also add neem powder to your regular shampoo or conditioner for a quick treatment every time you wash your hair.
Dry leaves are harder to find, but can be steeped in water to make a tea that is used to rinse the hair and scalp to prevent hair loss. Raw neem oil can also be added to shampoos and conditioners to make a therapeutic treatment. Or add neem oil to a light carrier oil such as olive, almond or coconut oil to make your own hair and scalp oil. For an intensive scalp and deep hair conditioning treatment, massage the oil in the your hair and scalp, cover with a towel and leave on for 30 minutes or more before washing out.