Friday, August 14, 2009

Holy Neem, Batman!

I was introduced to neem oil as an organic insecticide for my plants some time ago after I did some personal research having seen it at my local mom and pop garden store an OMRI safe insecticide. (This stuff is never at Home Depot or Lowes, phbbt!)

So, after finding it to be relatively effective on my plants, I started noticing its presence at the local Indian grocery store in all things beauty and hygiene like soap and toothpaste. Cautious of quality, and no offence (<-- Brit spelling!) to India, but contamination issues have occurred before and I was a bit nervous to purchase any neem oil stuff that I might leave for long periods on my body, as it felt weird put what I use to rid myself of plant bugs on my actual person. AND... the fact that the expiration dates on some of the beauty products were off by a year or more sometimes. Hmm.

(I'd like to note too that I do not buy anything made in China too that involves ingesting or stays on my body... THAT quality control feels nearly non-existent)

All this background info finally brings me to my actual point that I walked into Whole Foods today in search of some sort of relief for my bug bites. I get terrible reactions to mosquito, spider and tick bites, but mosquitoes are the majority of these bites and in my case the itchiness and redness and SWELLING (the size of grapefruits I tell you) can last for a week or longer. Aggravating it further is when I get bites behind my knees and I wear pants. Ooooh, rubbage.

After speaking with the holistic-essential oils-extracts-supplements lady (who cooed about the hotness and coldness of things, and how mosquitos are repelled by "cold," which I ignored) she mentioned neem oil and I decided to give it a try as I had heard so many positive things on it earlier. I felt as a commercial store, and having many different brands of neem oil made me more comfortable with the idea of putting it on my body.

(What I got: Alaffia brand neem oil, $8 for 8 ounces. Ouch, but if my jojoba/tea tree oil is proof, this stuff lasts. This was initially oddly difficult to find their website too, more shea butter than neem)

http://www.alaffia.com/index.php/balms-creams/alaffia-basics-unrefined-neem-oil-0-8-oz
(interestingly enough too, shipping is more expensive on the site than the actual neem product I got!)

Later when I got home I decided to make Indian food with my husband and I needed to harvest some malabar spinach. This is where I never learn and usually get the majority of my bites. I think to myself/am lazy, "I'll just be out for a couple of minutes, I won't get bit... no need to change completely into long sleeves, socks and pants..." but invariably do get bit, literally 8 bites in the 5 minutes I'm out there. *face slap* Everytime...

When I get inside, within seconds I am itching like crazy and the bumps are getting all welty and spreading fast. I take the neem oil and dab and rub it on everywhere bumpy.

There is no instant relief and I start cooking to remind myself of the bites and keep my hands busy from wanting to scratch.

The smell, warning, is an odd mixture of strongly peanut with some garlic undertones. If you like thai/indian/asian food then you're good?

Later, I TOTALLY forgot about my bites until hours after dinner and think, "I wonder how my bites are faring?" Looking around at my legs and arms there's a "waitaminute?!?!" moment.

I CAN'T FIND THE BITES. I don't ITCH.

WHOA. This is a total breakthrough for me as I've tried tea tree oil, baking soda, benadryl, soap, toothpaste, laundry detergent, and anti-histamines in all my prior years. Everytime I use these things and get any relief at all either it's brief and the itchiness comes back with a mere brush against the bite, or the redness/swollen-ness is present for a long time.

I am currently running my hands on the areas where the bites were and I can't find them. It's so weird and relieving that it's mystical.

So, HERE's the apparent SCIENCE: (all taken from memory after some further research)

Neem has been used for centuries in India as a medicinal and insect repellent and is considered to be a near panacea for ailments from hair loss/graying to acne to potential aid in cancer treatment. (While I am not in total agreement with all those claims, bug bites get my A+)

The major chemical in neem is azadirachtin, which impairs many insect pests from breeding, eating or changing into their next phase of metamorphosis. Neem also has many beneficial chemicals and acids that aid in skin disorders such as eczema and also traces of sulfur-like chemicals which help its anti-bacterial properties. It is also anti-fungal and anti-viral to an extent.

And it's been shown to be safe for humans/larger creatures, like your pets, though warnings to wait to allow children to use it until they are 12 or older is due to the potency of neem and also that women who are trying to become pregnant or are pregnant should avoid it as it can be an abortificant like pennyroyal and juniper berries.

I am most curious about the claims of skin effectiveness and will be diluting it in my jojoba oil for my face. More excitement if it clears all blemishes up, gives me minor plastic surgery to my flat nose, and increases my IQ to 200.

Just kidding :) But hey, more updates when they come!

LINKS:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neem
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neem_oil
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azadirachtin

1 comment:

A Home Made said...

I think that I have to make a trip to Whole Foods now. I honestly haven't been searching for a way to get rid of the bites more than the mosquitos as I have a similar problem to you in that I go outside for 5 minutes and have more bites than I can count. I don't think my bites bother me quite as much as you except for the ones in the inopportune places (the knuckles, under the watch, near the bra-strap, etc.)

But I think I'm definitely going to include Neem into my arsenel.

Thanks!