Posted on by Beckworth & Co

Widely known for its array of benefits, Neem oil has been a household name for numerous years. It's been associated with skin healing and moisturization, but it's best recognized for its advantages for gardening. Commonly dubbed as a cheap and natural alternative to chemical-abundant synthetic substances, it instantly becomes a no-brainer choice for home growers who always want to keep things as organic as possible. However, Neem oil isn't all sunshine and roses. In fact, it has a number of drawbacks that make using alternative substances, such as jojoba oil, a better option.

Here are some of the things you should be aware of when purchasing neem oil for your next buy.

The fact that Neem oil is low in toxicity when compared to other pesticides is another reason for its growing popularity. Although this is true, consumers should be informed that there is still a level of toxicity to be mindful of.

As mentioned in research, one of its toxic effects is on the reproduction of both male and female mammals with subacute or chronic exposure to the substance. A case of a 73-year old male was also reported to have suffered from toxic encephalopathy as well as cases of child death due to Neem oil poisoning. Experiences of eye and skin irritation when in contact with the substance were also reported.
Azadirachtin is an active ingredient which is the main component of neem oil, making it an effective pesticide. It is the reason for the antifeedant activity of Neem oil as well as its ability to repel and kill insects. This may sound desirable if you wish to eliminate unwanted and growth-deterring insects in your garden. However, this is in exchange for the effects  of the  potent component of Neem oil, which makes it toxic. People can be exposed to this substance through inhalation, ingestion, or direct skin contact. Azadirachtin can be very irritating to the skin as well as the stomach. It is also mentioned to be the major causative agent that causes Neem oil poisoning which has neurologic side effects. Moreover, there are also other components, besides Azadirachtin, in neem oil that could be toxic, such as nimbin, nimbinin, nimbidin, nimbidol, picrin, and sialin.
Neem oil kills and prevents infestations from a variety of insects, which is also the reason why it’s famous to gardeners. It is able to kill pests in all stages- whether it is still an egg, a larvae, or a full-grown adult. It will cause hormonal imbalance as well as prevention of egg and larvae production. Because of its oil properties, it suffocates insects by covering breathing holes, eventually killing them. This may be the effect you are aiming for, but unknowingly you may also be harming beneficial insects that would allow your plants to grow and thrive. Important pollinators in the environment such as bees, butterflies, and ladybugs can be harmed especially when applying concentrated amounts of Neem oil during the day, when they are most active.
A lot of articles would speak highly of neem oil. Although the said benefits hold true, countries like the UK and Canada have reasons as to why it is banned from their countries. In addition to the bad effects mentioned beforehand, exposure to Neem oil has been considered a health hazard by the UK government, which may cause infertility in women and may also lead to abortion. For Canada, the misuse of this product is considered to have potential negative effects. Although the regulations concerning Neem oil in these two countries are still ambiguous, they do provide a valid basis for its restriction and people will surely not be allowed to or have a hard time acquiring the product.

  • Why is Neem oil toxic?
  • Components of Neem oil such as Azadirachtin are only slightly toxic but can cause Neem oil poisoning, especially in concentrated doses. It is considered a health hazard in other countries that can potentially cause infertility, abortion, metabolic acidosis, seizures, kidney failure, and neurotoxicity.

    It can also be toxic and pose a threat to important pollinators of our ecosystem when it is applied in higher doses.

  • What’s the difference between neem oil and Azadirachtin?
  • Azadirachtin is a component of neem oil which causes the pesticidal effect of neem oils. Neem oil and Azadirachtin are both derived from the neem tree, Azadirachta indica.

    Azadirachtin is the active compound in neem oil and is mainly extracted from neem seed kernels. This is the main component which acts on pests to kill and prevent them from reproducing or developing.

    On the other hand, you can process your neem product to a clarified hydrophobic extract of neem oil, which is without the Azadirachtin. This becomes your oil substance which allows the suffocation of insects by covering their breathing holes.

  • How does neem oil affect beneficial insects?
  • Neem oil can be toxic and pose a threat to important pollinators of the ecosystem, such as bees, when it is applied in higher doses. Due to its oil composition, it can cause the suffocation of beneficial insects by blockage of their breathing holes, eventually killing them.

  • What is a great substitute to Neem oil?
  • There are numerous organic and natural substitutes for neem oil; may it be a combination of natural pesticides and fungicides. Jojoba oil is a recommended substitute as a pesticide. It functions as an insect repellant and can also be used together with anti-mildew solutions. Not only do you get to steer clear of pests and mildew, but you can also get its antibacterial and antifungal properties that will help your plants thrive in your garden healthily.

    There is no doubt that neem oil is a potent "organic" pesticide that can help growers combat powdery mildew. It is able to repel and kill pests that may damage your plants and hinder their growth. The issue arises when it is applied incorrectly and in high concentrations, posing a health risk to humans, animals, and other beneficial insects. Having said that, in the hands of knowledgeable plant cultivators who understand how and when to use the product, neem oil should not pose such problems. For those who have just entered the arena of plant cultivation, sticking to other homemade and natural pesticides such as jojoba oil is the best option. Jojoba oil is already creating waves in the cosmetic business, and its horticulture benefits, particularly its pesticidal, antibacterial, and antifungal qualities, are slowly being recognized.