Many people who have been diagnosed with psoriasis, a chronic skin condition that causes dry, red, itchy, and scaly patches, take medication prescribed by their doctor to treat it. Some people choose to pair their prescribed treatments with natural remedies. Neem oil is one such remedy that the members of MyPsoriasisTeam have incorporated into their skin care regimens.
Here’s what to know about neem oil and its potential effectiveness as a natural remedy for managing the symptoms of psoriasis. Consult your doctor or dermatologist before trying new treatment methods for psoriasis (even those that are natural like neem oil). Although the benefits of neem oil have been studied for the treatment of certain diseases, psoriasis is not one of them.
Neem (Azadirachta indica) is a large evergreen tree. This tree is indigenous to India but currently grows in the tropical regions of various countries. The neem tree is renowned for its medicinal value and healing properties and has been widely used in the Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine for thousands of years.
Every part of the tree — roots, bark, twigs, leaves, flowers, seeds — is used for various medicinal purposes. The different parts of the tree contain chemical compounds with extensive therapeutic qualities. Parts of the neem tree and products made with it are used daily in India, Africa, and the Middle East, and have been for centuries. Today, neem oil is commonly used in skin care products.
Neem oil (or neem seed oil) is extracted from neem leaves and seeds of the neem tree fruit. Neem oil is very thick, typically yellow or brown, and has a strong, unpleasant smell. The oil is especially beneficial when used for skin conditions. Neem oil has antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. The oil is also made up of omega-9 and omega-6 fatty acids. Some researchers believe that the high fatty acid content is the reason it is so effective in treating skin disorders.
Neem oil has several properties that can benefit those with psoriatic skin. Researchers have found that organic, high-quality neem oil has even helped clear psoriasis symptoms.
Although neem oil may help manage the symptoms of a psoriasis flare-up, like dryness and irritation, the oil cannot treat the underlying cause of psoriasis.
When used as an emollient (a moisturizing cream that softens skin), neem oil can eliminate irritation and itchiness, as well as moisturize, protect, and heal lesions or scaling. It can form a barrier on top of the skin to keep in moisture. The vitamin E and fatty acids that are naturally present in neem oil help soften the typically dry skin caused by psoriasis.
Neem oil contains an abundance of fatty acids, including oleic acid, linoleic acid, and palmitic acid. Linoleic acid, in particular, has been found to help maintain the skin’s protective barrier, repair cracks in the skin, and prevent water loss through the skin. These effects could help improve psoriasis symptoms, as psoriasis appears to be correlated with defective genes that impair the skin barrier.
Neem oil has antibacterial properties. When used as an ointment, lotion, shampoo, or soap, the antibacterial properties of the neem oil can help fight a bacterial or fungal infection caused by scratching dry and broken skin. Both its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce inflammation and soothe the skin, as well.
Studies from 2010 and 2013 found that neem oil offered better wound-healing properties than Vaseline (petroleum jelly) and saline, respectively. As with neem oil’s antibacterial properties, wound-healing properties may be helpful if scratching itchy psoriasis plaques has led to skin injury.
Psoriasis can appear on many parts of the body, including the knees, scalp, elbows, and abdomen. Application of the neem oil depends on where the psoriasis flare-up is located.
For many members of MyPsoriasisTeam, scalp psoriasis is an ongoing issue. “I have psoriasis of the scalp,” wrote one member. “I have suffered with it for four years. It has a considerable effect on my life.” Another member responded with advice on managing scalp psoriasis. They wrote, “Using more natural products, like aloe vera gel and neem oil, has helped me stay as clear as I can.”
The combination of aloe vera gel and neem oil is often brought up in conversation with MyPsoriasisTeam members. One member recommends making a hair gel that consists of aloe vera gel, neem oil, castor oil, rosemary, and lavender. This hair gel, used alongside their prescription medications and organic shampoo, has significantly improved this member’s psoriasis symptoms.
Other ways you can apply neem oil to your psoriasis include making it a regular addition to your skin care routine. Consider adding a few drops of neem oil to coconut oil and then rubbing it into the affected area, adding a few drops of neem oil to your shampoo, conditioner, lotion, or bathwater, and adding neem oil to any face or hair masks that you use or make.
Neem oil can be applied in different ways to different areas of the body, but there are some potential risks and precautions that should be taken when applying it for the first time.
Although neem oil has been used for medicinal purposes in India for centuries, it is also used as spermicide and birth control. There are properties within neem oil that attack sperm, prevent implantation, and have an abortion-like effect. If you are pregnant or are trying to conceive, talk to your doctor about natural remedies that may be safer for you than neem oil.
If you have sensitive skin and know that topical applications are a trigger for your psoriasis flare-ups, try a patch test. To test if the neem oil will irritate your skin, put a small amount on the back of your hand and wait 24 to 48 hours before using it anywhere else on your body. If your skin shows irritation, you should avoid putting neem oil directly onto your skin.
As with any medication or treatment option, there is a possibility that it simply won’t work for some like it does for others. As one member wrote, “I have used many oils. They are messy and provide me with little relief.”
If you are interested in trying neem oil for your psoriasis, first consult your doctor or dermatologist. Applying too much of the neem oil or ingesting it in large doses can be toxic. Getting the dosage correct is important for both prescription medications and natural remedies, and your doctor can help guide you.
MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Here, more than 103,000 members come together to ask questions, share advice, and connect with others who understand life with psoriasis.
Have you tried neem oil or a product made with neem oil as a complementary remedy for psoriasis? Share your experience with others in the comments below or by posting on MyPsoriasisTeam.