Neem oil: a natural acne cure?

Meredith muses: Can you give me the scientist’s perspective on Neem? It’s a plant that has been called the “corner pharmacy” in India for ages. I’ve found a lot of information about it from Ayurvedic and naturopathic stores, and I’m not seeing a ton of hard science behind the claims. I’m looking specifically for info regarding its healing properties for acne and eczema.

The Left Brain‘s not sure about Neem:

Like you, I’m always VERY skeptical of naturopathic remedies unless there is clinical data to back up their claims. Sometimes, these remedies do contain active, effective ingredients. Other times they do not. Interestingly, the effectiveness of Neem, or Azadirachta indica, as it is technically known, is pretty well documented.

Neem, the wonder drug

A search of Pubmed reveals over 400 different studies on Neem oil most of which deal with its antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory effects. The data indicates that Neem does live up to its reputation as a wonder drug, at least in many respects.

There are studies showing that it gets rid of camel ticks, it’s a spermicide, stops hamsters from getting cheek cancer, it’s good for sheeps’ digestive systems, kills head lice, helps against some types of diabetes, repels mosquitoes, and stops mange. It’s also effective against plaque and cavities, can interrupt the breeding cycle of the diamondback moth, and guards against some forms of gastic cancer. To name a few.

Not for acne?

However, in all these studies (and I reviewed all 448 of them!) I couldn’t find a single reference to any testing on acne or eczema. Now, that doesn’t mean necessarily mean that Neem DOESN’T work. It is a plausible theory since it does have antibacterial properties. But there maybe other effects to consider. For example, it could kill the bacteria that cause acne (P. acnes) but it could also contribute to acne by clogging pores. Without some kind of test data it’s all speculation and hearsay.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Unless someone out there can direct me to further studies showing Neem works on acne, this Beauty Brain remains skeptical. But if you want to buy some Neem oil and give it a try there’s probably little risk. But then again, why not use some acne medications that are proven to work?

What do YOU think? Do you trust the over the counter acne medications or do you prefer natural remedies? Leave a comment and tell us what you think about neem or any other natural cures you’ve tried.