If you have psoriasis, you may have heard that you can alleviate your symptoms with neem oil. But does it really work?
The neem tree, or Azadirachta indica, is a large evergreen tree mainly found in South Asia. Almost every part of the tree — the flowers, stem, leaves, and bark — is used to help relieve fevers, infections, pain, and other health issues for people around the world. Some health conditions that people have self-treated with neem oil include:
- gastrointestinal ailments, ulcers
- oral hygiene issues
- acne, eczema, ringworm, and warts
- parasitic diseases
What Is Neem Oil?
Neem oil is found in the seeds of the neem tree. The seeds have been described as smelling like garlic or sulfur, and they taste bitter. The color ranges from yellow to brown.
Neem oil has been used to self-treat diseases and pests for hundreds of years. Today, neem oil is found in many products including soaps, pet shampoos, cosmetics, and toothpaste, says the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC). It’s also found in more than 100 pesticide products, applied to plants and crops to help control insects.
Neem Oil and Psoriasis
Neem oil has been used to help treat chronic skin conditions such as acne, warts, ringworm, and eczema. Another skin condition neem oil helps treat is psoriasis. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes scaly, red, and raised patches to appear on your skin, typically on the knees, scalp, or outside of the elbows.
Since there is no cure for psoriasis, neem oil won’t make it go away. However, some researchers have said that neem oil can help clear up psoriasis when you use an organic, high-quality variety.
Are There Concerns?
Neem can have side effects, including causing allergic contact dermatitis (a red, itchy rash) and acute contact dermatitis on the scalp and face. It can also cause drowsiness, seizures with coma, vomiting, and diarrhea when taken by mouth, says the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The side effects are often most severe in children who consume it.
Additionally, neem might be harmful to a developing fetus; one study found that when rats were fed neem oil, their pregnancies ended. So if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, speak with your doctor before you try using neem oil to help your psoriasis, or consider other treatment options.
As shown, a scant amount of research supports the theory that neem oil helps with psoriasis. And it does hold its share of warnings about its potential adverse reactions and side effects. The evidence that it relieves the skin condition is minimal at best.
Other Alternative Therapies for Psoriasis
People with psoriasis have other alternative therapies beyond neem oil at their disposal. It’s important to note that much of the evidence supporting alternative and complementary therapies is anecdotal. Researchers have been looking at how these therapies impact diet and interact with drugs, finding most to be safe. However, keep in mind that some alternative therapies can interfere with your psoriasis medications. The National Psoriasis Foundation suggests that you always speak with your healthcare provider before trying a new alternative treatment.