Is Neem Oil Good For Eczema?

Uses, research, and application

Neem oil is an oil extracted from the fruits and seeds of the neem plant (Azadirachta indica). It is a rich source of antioxidants that is used in alternative medicine practices like Ayurveda for treating and preventing various conditions. When applied topically to the skin, neem oil may help reduce the symptoms of eczema.  

Neem oil in bottle and neem leaf on wooden background.

Ninetechno / Getty Images

Does Neem Oil Help With Eczema?

Neem trees, which belong to the Meliaceae, or mahogany family, are found in tropical regions such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal. Neem trees grow to a height of 20 to 23 meters and a width of 4 to 5 feet with branches that contain leaflet groupings. Neem trees produce small, green stone fruits that turn yellow when ripe. Neem oil is derived from these fruits and their seeds.

What Is Ayurvedic Medicine?

Ayurveda is a holistic form of medicine based out of India that focuses on the balance between mind, body, and spirit to promote good health by balancing life energies, called doshas. Ayurveda utilizes alternative therapies like massage, oils, including neem oil, and herbs to maintain optimal health.

While more standardized clinical trials are needed to determine the efficacy of treatment with neem oil, preliminary studies suggest that neem oil has several benefits in treating symptoms of eczema.

As a rich antioxidant source of azadirachtin and nimbolide,  neem oil plays a role in the destruction of harmful free radicals. Free radicals, also called reactive oxygen species, underlie the development of many inflammatory diseases and conditions. Destroying or stabilizing free radicals can help decrease oxidative stress throughout the body, which plays a role in several inflammatory conditions, including eczema.

Neem oil also helps regulate activity of cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase, enzymes involved in inflammatory pathways, which can also help decrease inflammation throughout the body.

It has also been hypothesized that nimbidin, one of the antioxidant compounds of neem oil, suppresses the activity of macrophages and neutrophils, which are white blood cells involved in inflammatory reactions. Decreasing inflammation can also help promote wound healing to improve the appearance of skin affected by eczema.

Lastly, research supports that neem oil has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties to help prevent infection.

Eczema Symptoms 

Eczema causes inflamed, red, dry, itchy skin patches that often appear on areas where the skin creases, such as the inside of the elbows, behind the knees, and on the front of the neck. The skin condition also occurs in infants, most commonly on the cheeks, hands, and feet.

Eczema can also cause other skin symptoms, including:

  • Bumps
  • Scaly, leathery patches
  • Crusting
  • Swelling

Possible Side Effects 

Before the application of a substance can be safely used for health purposes, it is important to examine its level of toxicity to determine if it is a safe compound for human use.

The toxicity level of a substance is measured by its LD50 value, or lethal dose value that causes death in 50% of test animals when administered all at once as a large dose. It is most often measured in grams of substance per kilogram of test animal, mostly typically rats or mice. These data can then be extrapolated to determine an approximate toxic level for human use.

While the toxicity of neem oil has not been studied in depth, a preliminary study reported that neem oil's LD50 value is 31.95 gram per kilogram, placing neem oil in the toxicity category of “relatively harmless.” It would take more than a quart of neem oil to produce any kind of toxic effect on a human.

There is insufficient evidence at this time to suggest that topical application of neem oil to the skin has any adverse effects. However, you may be allergic to neem oil if you develop hives, skin redness, swelling, or have difficulty breathing. Immediately stop using neem oil and call your doctor to address your symptoms.

What to Look For

You should purchase organic, cold-pressed neem oil. Organic means that the neem trees were grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides, while cold pressed refers to neem oil that was processed without an external heat source, which can damage the quality of the oil. 

Because there is not enough research about the oil's therapeutic capabilities, you should avoid purchasing neem oil from brands that make bold health claims about the efficacy of the product to cure conditions. Neem oil should be used in conjunction with and should not replace other prescribed treatments for eczema.

Neem oil should be a cloudy yellow color and have a garlic-like odor. Make sure to store neem oil in a cool, dark place to prevent the oil from losing its potency. 

Preparing and Applying Neem Oil

When you first begin using neem oil on your skin, it is best to test the substance on a small patch of skin on your arm. If no redness or swelling develops after 24 hours, you should be able to tolerate topical application of neem oil.

Don’t use neem oil on your skin without first diluting it, and never consume neem oil since it can be very toxic if ingested.

Neem oil is derived from the fruits and seeds of the neem plant, and it can potentially help with eczema symptoms. Research has shown that it may destroy free radicals and reduce oxidative stress, both of which drive the inflammatory process in conditions like eczema. It's important to choose a neem oil that's organic and cold pressed, which ensures the best quality. Be sure to dilute neem oil with coconut or grapeseed oil before use. You can apply it to skin affected by eczema directly.

Summary

Because neem oil can be very potent, it is best to dilute the product with coconut or grapeseed oil, especially when applying it to sensitive areas of the skin, like your face. To apply neem oil to your eczema patches, use a cotton ball to soak up some of the neem oil mixed with equal parts coconut oil or grapeseed oil, and dab it onto your skin. You can apply the diluted neem oil to your skin daily.

 A Word From Verywell

The severity of eczema varies from person to person, so there is no guarantee that neem oil will be effective for treating your symptoms. Because of its low associated risks and potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, neem oil may be worth trying as a complementary therapy alongside prescribed eczema treatment and lifestyle modifications to help you manage your symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is neem oil safe to use on skin?

    While more research is needed, there is insufficient evidence at this time to suggest that topical application of neem oil to the skin has any adverse effects or that it's unsafe to use. However, because it can be very potent, it is best to dilute it with a carrier oil such as coconut oil or grapeseed oil.

  • Is olive oil good for eczema?

    Other oils, such as coconut, grapeseed, and olive oil are safe to apply topically to moisturize your skin. Applying these oils topically to eczema patches may help decrease skin dryness.

  • How do you apply neem oil for eczema?

    To apply neem oil, dilute a small amount of it with equal parts coconut oil or grapeseed oil. Dip a cotton ball into the mixture and dab it onto your affected skin areas.

  • What are other benefits of neem oil?

    Because neem oil is an antioxidant source that can decrease skin inflammation and irritation, it may be effective in treating symptoms of anti-aging by reducing the formation of wrinkles, and it may help reduce the appearance of scars by promoting wound healing. 

Was this page helpful?
3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Alzohairy MA. Therapeutics role of azadirachta indica (neem) and their active constituents in diseases prevention and treatment. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016;2016:e7382506. doi:10.1155/2016/7382506

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Eczema. Updated October 28, 2020.

  3. Chishti MA, Mohi-Ud-Din E, Zakki SA, et al. Antibacterial and toxicity evaluation of eastern medicine formulation eczegone for the management of eczema. Dose Response. 2020;18(3):1559325820956798. doi:10.1177/1559325820956798