Neem Oil – Natural Tick Repellent

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In nature, plants serve as the basis of the food chain. Since plants cannot run away, they have developed other mechanisms to protect themselves from predators. They naturally produce substances that have a deterrent or toxic effect on predators. The seeds of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica) provide neem oil, which has been used as a natural repellent and insecticide for many centuries.

What is neem oil?

Neem oil is a vegetable oil that is extracted from the seeds of the Neem Tree (Azadirachta indica). Neem is an evergreen tree. It is endemic to the Indian sub-continent but is commercially grown in many other parts of the tropics. Its bark, leaves, and seeds are used.

Especially the Neem oil which is extracted from the seeds is of great commercial importance. It is used in many products from cosmetics, in Ayurveda, and in organic agriculture and horticulture for its insecticidal and fungicidal properties.

neem oil and fruit
(c) Can Stock Photo

Extraction and active ingredient

Neem oil acts as a naturally occurring pesticide. It is yellow to brown in color. It has a bitter taste and a garlic-like smell. Neem oil is a combination of many components. The most active component for repelling and killing pests is Azadirachtin. It can be obtained from neem oil.

Neem oil is extracted from the fruits, seeds or seed kernels by different methods. Some of the methods include cold-pressing, solvent extraction or high-pressure extraction.

The highest quality of neem oil is produced by cold pressing, this is also the oldest method to extract neem oil.

  • The very first step is to remove the pulp from the seeds. Then the seeds are air-dried in a cool room with low humidity. Afterward, the husks of the seeds are removed before extraction.
  • The fresh and light green kernels are crushed and pressed to release the oil, which is then collected.
  • Cold-pressing method yields high-quality virgin oil which contains all the active ingredients.

Secondary pressing or using solvent extraction methods produce an inferior oil, which is obviously cheaper but still of good quality that is good for manufacturing soaps and insect repellents or for use in organic agriculture.

High-pressure steam extraction produces the lowest quality. The resultant oil is dark in color and emits an unpleasant odor. The disadvantage of this method is that the oil’s valuable properties are potentially destroyed by the application of heat.

The highest quality neem oil is extracted during the first cold pressing, which is best for personal topical application.

How does neem oil work as an insecticide?

Neem oil is composed of many components. Azadirachtin is the most active ingredient in the oil and affects the metabolism of the bug by disrupting the synthesis of chitin.  This prevents the larvae from successfully skinning and pupating, the insect cannot proceed to the next step in the growth cycle.

It also interferes with the insects’ eating behavior and has a repelling effect.

Side effects and dangers

Neem oil, creams, and shampoo are safe when applied externally to the skin and body.

But Neem oil MUST NOT be taken by mouth. Fortunately, it tastes horrible. It can cause miscarriage when taken by the mouth during pregnancy. It can also cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, brain disorders and coma in children when taken by mouth. In pets such as cats, neem oil can cause excessive salivation, impaired movement, twitching, and convulsions.

Benefits of neem oil

Neem oil is rich in fatty acids (e.g. palmitic and oleic acid), so it keeps the skin healthy and fresh. It also has anti-aging properties. It promotes wound healing. It is effective as an insecticide and is used to repel and control insect pests. It is non-toxic to birds, bees, earthworms, plants, and mammals. Azadirachtin can be slightly toxic to fish, aquatic organisms, children and pregnant women. It is biodegradable and not harmful to the environment.

Uses of neem oil

  • In cosmetics, Neem oil is available in many forms including gels, lotions, soaps, creams, and shampoo. Diluted in creams and lotions it is applied to the skin as a cleanser. Used to eliminate head lice and to get rid of dandruff. Applied to the areas of skin that are affected by scabies infestations. It will reduce itching and inflammation. Soothes skin diseases such as cold sores and fungal skin conditions.
  • Household, as lamp oil or as a lubricant.
  • Agriculture, the seeds and oil are used as fertilizers and for the control and prevention of insect, nematode, mite, and fungal infestations.
  • Insecticide and repellent, helps to control many parasites including mites, ticks, fleas, and lice.

Neem oil as a repellent in humans

In humans, topically applied, it can be used as a mosquito and tick repellent. Because of its insecticidal effects, it is often used as an ingredient in organic insect repellents. It is also used to eliminate head lice and to treat scabies in humans.

Neem oil in its pure form is very potent, uses sparingly, few drops only.

Best is to dilute it with a carrier such as coconut-,  almond-, olive- or jojoba oil in a ratio of about 1 to 10, that’s about half a teaspoon Neem to an ounce carrier oil.

How to use it?

To eliminate lice, neem extract shampoo is applied to dry hair for 10 minutes. Then rinse with warm water. The process can be repeated for good results.
As insect or tick repellent use is diluted in a carrier oil, or buy a finished product that contains neem and topically spray or rub to skin and clothing.

Neem oil as a repellent in pets

In dogs and cats, it can be used as an effective pesticide against external parasites. It works against mites, ticks, and fleas. It is also effective against infections and microbes that cause itching in pets. Neem oil has antibacterial, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties.

How to use it?

Neem oil is diluted with another carrier such as coconut-, almond- or olive oil and then it is applied directly to the animal’s skin and hair. It can also be applied in the form of shampoo or spray. Massage the oil with your fingers. It will stop itching. Apply the oil twice a day at first, then once a day when the healing has begun.

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Last update on 2020-09-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Neem oil for the Yard as a pesticide

Neem oil is used as an organic pesticide to control pests in the yard and around the house. It is used to control fleas, mites, and ticks. It is not harmful to beneficial insects and livestock. It is an excellent way to control insect pests.

How to use it?

Neem oil is mixed at the rate of two tablespoons per gallon of water. After mixing it thoroughly, spray over all plant surfaces until they are wet completely. As a preventive measure spray it on a 7 to 14-day schedule. To control the pests or diseases that are already present, a 7-day schedule is recommended.

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Last update on 2020-09-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Conclusion:

Neem oil is a natural substance that is used for many purposes. It has a lot of benefits. It is available in the form of gels, soaps, shampoo, creams, and lotions. It has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Besides this, it acts as an effective insecticide to kill and control insect pests. It also helps to repel ticks, mosquitoes, and other parasites.

 

Sources and more to read:

Fact Sheet
http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/neemgen.html

US National Library
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4791507/